Categories
Barack Obama Criticism Health care Politics The Opinionsphere

Obama: You’re Calling Me a ‘Bolshevik’ for Using Republican Ideas for Democratic Ends

[digg-reddit-me]I wrote a post a few months ago listing some similarities of the Dole-Chafee bill presented as an alternative to Bill Clinton’s 1994 reform effort to the health care reform effort today which has recently started to get some attention thanks to Obama’s referencing exactly this fact in response to questioning by the House Republicans on Friday:

[I]f you were to listen to the debate, and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot…

[But] if you look at the facts of this bill, most independent observers would say this is actually what many Republicans — it — it’s similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care.

So all I’m saying is we’ve got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.

I’m not suggesting that we’re going to agree on everything, whether it’s on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me.

Obama adopted this Republican framework to meet some Democratic goals. (Though I shouldn’t give all the credit to him, as his general framework was created by a number of liberal thinkers including Jacob Hacker, Peter Orszag, &tc, and was adopted by John Edwards and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary.) Obama’s approach represents a synthesis of the core conservative critique of Reagan, Hayek, &tc with an empirical approach towards government generally favored by liberals. In other words, Obama saw the limits of centralized planning and the power of markets that lay at the core of Reagan. But he did not adopt Reagan’s visceral hatred for government. Instead, he believed government could be useful. Rather than seeing government as something that needed to be attacked, he adopted Hayek’s view that “we needed to think of the world more as gardeners tending a garden and less as architects trying to build some system.”

While I described this as evidence of Obama’s attempt to seriously grapple with Republican ideas while pursuing Democratic ends, a number of commentators – specifically pm317 on Hillaryis44 and Ann Althouse’s blog, seemingly a PUMA – used the post as proof that Obama is a sell-out, encouraging people to:

Tell your bluest of blue friends who are still supporting Obama to read this little piece…

My piece was actually positive in its description of how Obama was grappling with Republican ideas – but pm317 read it to mean the opposite, seeing it as yet another proof of Obama’s awfulness. pm317 wants Obama supporters to reject ideas because they are labeled “Republican” or once were supported by Republicans – and while this may happen,  she presumes these Obama supporters are driven by the same politics of ressentiment and identity that seemingly motivate him/her. Confronted with the fact that I am an Obama supporter, and that I wasn’t condemning Obama for using Republican ideas, pm317 responded:

Obama’s base supporters cheerleading his GoP stunt ARE highly partisan and they want single payer system or at least a public option and don’t want any of the republican ideas. They must see how Obama is sneaking in republican ideas into his plan.

Which is just an odd response. Do he/she presume that “Obama’s base supporters cheerleading his GoP stunt” didn’t notice that he explicitly said in that same event they are “cheerleading” that his health care plan is “similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care” – which is what started this whole conversation in the first place? How is that “sneaking”?

It seems likely to me, given the evidence available to me, that the accuser is describing themself – describing someone motivated by the politics of ressentiment and someone who is extremely partisan and rejects the ideas of Republicans and Obama supporters out of hand.

I only bring this particular example up to illustrate the seemingly visceral reaction against Obama and his health care plan – and how in this instance at least – it seems motivated primarily by ressentiment rather than any attempt to grapple with the issue.

The problem, in other words, is about politics rather than policy.

[This image is not subject to copyright.]

Categories
Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

Yet Another Blatant Power Grab By the Obamas

According to the Rocky Mountain News:

“I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules and suspend the future conduct of the roll-call vote,” Clinton said. “All votes cast by the delegates will be counted. and I move Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the nominee of the Democratic Party as the president of the United States.”

The motion was met with a rousing ovation. It was quickly seconded and approved by the thousands of people in attendance.

Pelosi did not wait for any “no” votes before slamming down the gavel.

Why do I suspect that some PUMAs out there are going to make a big deal about that last event?

Categories
Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics The Clintons

Larry Johnson’s Hit Job on Hillary Clinton

In a recent post that is supposed to detail how Barack Obama is an empty suit, Charles Lemos of NoQuarterUSA attacks Barack Obama’s policies and character in such a way that makes it hard to see how he ever supported Hillary Clinton in the first place. Lemos’s argument is confused and incoherent. The fact that this piece is headed with a picture of Barack Obama in an oversized suit, and entitled “Empty Suit” strikes just the right note of incoherent blathering that the article itself indulges in.

Along the way, Lemos manages to indulge in such right-wing agitprop as attacking war hero John Kerry as an “out-of-touch effete liberal”, while mentioning John Edwards’s “$400 dollar haircuts”, and to paint the Democratic nominee as a student of Lenin. There are few right-wing smears that the No Quarter blog does not indulge in.

Except those about the Clintons. No Quarter blog doesn’t traffic in these, as they would offend his PUMA audience. They also ignore the right-wing smears against McCain, Larry Johnson’s new best friend.

One of the arguments Lemos makes uses the existence of every smear against Obama and other prominent Demcrats as proof-positive that they cannot win a national election. Yet oddly, the same reasoning does not apply to the woman who has been the victim of more smears than any other: Hillary Clinton.

Lemos demonstrates the willful blindness of partisans that is destroying our politics – as he focuses on irrelevancies to make his confused case against Barack Obama. He smears Obama as a friend to “an unapologetic terrorist” – William Ayers. He doesn’t mention Hillary Clinton’s work defending radicals like Ayers in law school; or Bill Clinton’s pardoning of Puerto Rican terrorists and members of Ayers’ own organization. Lemos attacks Obama’s comments about Jersusalem – saying they would have set off riots in the Middle East if he were president. Yet he ignores the real diplomatic fallout from Clinton’s promise to “obliterate Iran”. He touts Clinton’s endorsements by members of the military – as if Obama did not have more endorsements from the military.

A mental gymnast, a skilled mental contortionist, No Quarter blog attacks Barack Obama’s health care plan as entirely inadequate – a mere sop to the insurance industry. Yet Lemos fails to mention that Hillary Clinton’s plan would have to be described in the same way. He attacks Obama for his connections to lobbyists, yet Hillary Clinton’s were far greater and more pervasive. Most of the rest of Lemos’s piece is a compendium of attacks that directly and explicitly parallel those that stuck to Hillary Clinton:

  • He has no conviction other than his own political welfare.
  • He is the candidate of corporate interests…
  • [H]e is one of those clown punch bags. He may come back up but he just gets walloped down again.
  • He is unelectable even before the 527s get started.
  • But Obama is such a panderer…

Within the entire piece, Lemos keeps making the same incoherent argument holding the PUMAs together:

  • Barack Obama cannot win.
  • We need to stop him before he wins!

But the key passage is this one:

But how can I trust that shiftless soulless hypocrite who with each passing day changes yet another of his positions? It’s backtracking with Barack. So far he’s trampled on the Fourth Amendment, a women’s right to choose, the health care of all Americans and now the cornerstone of what brung him to the dance in the first place, that magical speech in 2002 that had to be re-recorded so it could be replayed again and again and use your opposition to a fruitless war as his springboard to power.

It is the fact that comments like this get traction outside of the PUMA movement that gets me frustrated with generally astute bloggers like Kate Stone who should – and in fact do – know better than to equate John McCain’s policies with Barack Obama’s. But when bloggers like Kate Stone post about the extreme changes Obama is making to his policies rather than portraying them as the out-of-context remarks, minor changes, and the one reversal that they are – they help create the atmosphere that PUMAs like Larry Johnson are trying to exploit to elect John McCain president. I remember when Maureen Dowd kept attacking Al Gore as a serial exaggerator in 2000 – misrepresenting his mis-statements and awkward comments for humorous effect. But her portrayal of him stuck – even though it was inaccurate. Such is the power of the media.

I’ve often found it is easy to get caught up in the moment and react (and overreact) to the news spin of the day (generally as set by The Drudge Report). That’s how I see the reactions to Obama’s supposed move to the center. I don’t doubt that Obama is trying to move to the center – but aside from the FISA turnaround and the adjustments to his view on timetables for Iraq withdrawl – I don’t see any policy changes. Instead, what seems to be outraging some progressive critics, is that Obama is reaching out culturally to different groups of conservatives – and demonstrating that he respects their concerns even if he disagrees with their policy prescriptions. That’s what I see.

Of course, Lemos, subtle and nuanced thinker that he is sees it differently:

Anyone who supported Obama after March 2008 is clearly either a delusional Obama cultist or a head in the sand idiot…

Ah, if only this were comedy. I hope that Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert can get Larry Johnson on one of their shows soon. What better way to discredit someone than to let them make a fool of themselves while they try to be serious.

Categories
Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics The Clintons

The Last Hillary 2008 Supporters: A Journey Into the Surreal World of the PUMAs

[digg-reddit-me]A puma, like the PUMAs
[Photo by victor+.]
Every once in a while, I try to check out that hidden corner of the blogosphere where Hillary Clinton supporters still live.

Over the course of the Democratic nomination, most of the online energy went to Barack Obama, Ron Paul, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel. The conservative opinionsphere jumped from Giuliani to Romney to, finally, reluctactly, McCain. The liberal opionsphere seemed to weigh the pros and cons of Edwards and Obama for some time, finally coming down decisively with Obama after Iowa. Hillary Clinton, in all of this, had few web proxies.

There were some – like MyDD and Taylor Marsh – but eventually, after the stalemate of February 5th and the string of twelve consecutive wins by Obama, a new mini-opinionsphere grew out of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mainly, they were women who had taken every slight against Hillary as a personal insult; some just had a deep and abiding distrust of Barack Obama, for whatever reason. What was most perplexing to me is that this movement finally bloomed the moment Obama had taken an insurmountable lead. Despite the win in Ohio and half of the Texas two-step, and the win later in Pennsylvania, Obama never fell behind after his string of victories in February, and never even came close. And any clear-eyed analyst could see from that point that the nomination was Obama’s to lose.

But a certain segment of Hillary supporters found strength and popularity in denying the inevitable, in railing against reality.

Given the way this movement was born, it is unsurprising that small things – like Barack Obama’s mathematical clinching of the nomination or Hillary Clinton’s concession endorsement of Obama (a commentor pointed out that Hillary has yet to use the word “concede”) – would stop it. These PUMAs ( Party Unity, My Ass) – as the acronym-prone, former Hillary supporter, and now die-hard anti-Obama activists now call themselves – continue to this day. Some of them, like Larry Johnson, play on fears, racial stereotypes and resentments and do their best Sean Hannity impressions. Others seem to be working full-time creating new acronyms, groups, and catchphrases. The newest and coolest catchphrase is “NObama, NOvember.”

Oddly, the arguments that are made tend to go like this:

  • Obama cannot win in November, which is why we need Hillary to be the nominee;
  • Let’s work hard to make sure Obama doesn’t win in November.

I have yet to see any acknowledgment from the PUMAs that Obama has won the Democratic nomination – and Hillary conceded it – unless you count the continuous references to stolen elections and the end of democracy as we know it. The closest I saw to an acknowledgment of Obama’s historic victory was at HillBuzz where – after suggesting that “we” would have to vote for Newt Gingrich over Obama – she wrote:

So, in the fall, barring a surprise Clinton re-entry into the race, it’s McCain over Obama for us.

In this world, there still is a chance for a surprise Hillary re-entry! Befitting the surreal world in which these blogs exist, many are still convinced that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, if only she is given a chance.

A group called The Denver Group has been formed to take action regarding the Democratic Convention in Denver with two of it’s primary goals listed as:

  • Speeches allowed by supporters of Senator Clinton on behalf of her candidacy.
  • A genuine roll call vote with Senator Clinton as a legitimate candidate. [Emphasis aded.]

In her personal blog, Heidi Li, one of the founders of The Denver Group writes, speculates on recent news:

As Senator Obama looses support, he may well be more and more afraid that if Senator Clinton’s name is put in nomination at the Democratic Party’s convention, then Senator Clinton might actually win the nomination.

It is unclear what Ms. Li means by Obama’s loss of support – as most recent polls show him leading John McCain by significant margins. But items like these aren’t acknowledged in PUMA-land.

HillBuzz tries to explain how her fellow Hillary devotees are feeling, and what is motivating them to oppose Obama so strongly:

Our loyalty is to Hillary Clinton, personally, because we believe in her and her goals. We are no longer to the Democratic Party, because we stopped believing in it on May 31st. Whoever came up with the idea to steal 4 of Clinton’s delegates in Michigan and give them to Obama is responsible for this – you can thank that person in November…

We’re hard pressed to think of anyone Obama could run against that would force us to choose him over the opponent. At this point, after the way Obama’s campaign has treated us, and continues to treat us, we’d vote for Gingrich over Obama. And he divorced his wife while she was dying of cancer. But, we trust Gingrich to protect this country and respect its values and traditions…

So, in the fall, barring a surprise Clinton re-entry into the race, it’s McCain over Obama for us. [My emphasis added.]

It’s worth pointing out that the writer of this piece only refers to two non-self-referencing facts: Newt Gingrich’s tawdry personal life and the May 31 compromise that split the Michigan vote. There is no talk of policy; there is no discussion of what an Obama or McCain administration would look like. Instead, the writer is trying to make two points:

  • Obama didn’t treat “us” well – a highly dubious point on it’s own;
  • And “we” will vote for anyone except Obama to punish him.

An ancillary reason to trust Gingrich and to not trust Obama is that we need a president who will “protect this country and respect its values and traditions.” I’m sure elsewhere in the PUMA opinionsphere someone has listed the reasons why Obama doesn’t want to protect his country and doesn’t respect it’s values and traditions.

Balancing out this vision of Hillary as messiah is a visceral hatred of Barack Obama, as demonstrated in this oft-repeated phrase:

Obama simply cannot be trusted. Obama cannot be trusted on any issue. Obama cannot be trusted by his friends. Obama cannot be trusted by his enemies. Obama cannot be trusted.

This Hillaryis44 post repeats this same phrase three times and Larry Johnson and many other PUMAs have taken it us as a slogan to go alongside NObama, NOvember.

PUMAs and Projections

The John Birch Society so feared the efficacy of Communist subversives, that they created a secret society that mimicked the imagined Communist subversive threat. Republicans believed that CNN was a far left organization pushing the Democratic agenda under the guise of objectivity – so they created Fox News to take on the same role for the Republican party. American history is replete with examples of groups who deliberately mimic their enemy’s imagined tactics.

The movement that grew out of Hillary Clinton’s losses proves to be yet another example of this trend in American history. The PUMAs (Party Unity, My Ass) seem to have embraced the (real and imagined) aspects of the Obama campaign that led them to reject Obama’s candidacy:

  • They explicitly see Hillary Clinton as a messianic figure, the only one who can save the Democratic party. (See above.)
  • They deliberately disrespect and attack those demographic groups that did not support Hillary in the primaries. (Remember when Hillary was introduced by a man attacking “the latte-drinking, Prius- driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear [Obama] speak!”)
  • They have adopted the right wing talking points used to attack Obama. (This might be unfair, as it could have been Hillary surrogates themselves who gave the right wingers like Sean Hannity these talking points – so while Obama supporters did adopt certain right-wing talking points about Hillary to use against her, Hillary supporters may have invented the talking points against Obama and given them to the right-wing.)
  • Although they started out defending the role of superdelegates as those people who have the best interests of the Democratic party at heart, they now attack them for being un-democratic (and un-Democratic) – which is something Obama surrogates never came close to doing, but Clinton supporters constantly accused them of doing.
  • Many – though not all PUMAs – have resorted to race-baiting and gender-card-playing, at least on occasion. (The constant rumors of a Michelle Obama ‘Whitey’ video come from one of the founding PUMAs.)
  • They take umbrage at the smallest slight and impute near evil motives on every move that Barack Obama takes. (Which to be fair, is something some of Obama’s supporters did do – Andrew Sullivan for example.)

The key lesson I take away from this journey into the alternate reality that the PUMAs live in is this: they are a force to be reckoned with and a force that will remain in politics for some years – at least as long as Barack Obama is in the national political arena. To paraphrase Michelle Goldberg’s excellent piece in The New Republic exploring the crisis in the women’s movement that Hillary’s campaign created, the psychic wound irritated in this hard-fought primary is not Obama’s fault, but it is his problem.

Obama has already taken steps to woo Hillary Clinton’s supporters – and he will win most of the 18 million over to his side. Within those big Democratic states that Hillary Clinton won in the primary, Obama now has a sizeable lead over McCain (and in many, he also had a large lead over Hillary before the primaries ended). But there are some – and they are organized, they are angry, and they are wealthy – who will continue to fight until past the end. And there are many others who will be sympathetic – remembering how Hillary’s campaign made them feel.

If Barack Obama is elected in 2008, expect to see a PUMA or two sneak into Congress. And expect a few Congresswomen and Senators to ally with them. Hillary herself will keep her distance.

Unless Obama is able to somehow heal this particular psychic wound, the PUMAs will continue to cause him problems. It’s hard to say what impact these PUMAs will have. But if it is true that all it takes to change the world is a small group of dedicated people, then the PUMAs will be able to have an impact – as they are small in number and large in dedication.