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Confessions of an Obama Skeptic, Part I

vastleft's picture

I know this will come as a shock to longtime readers, but I've secretly been a bit of a skeptic about Barack Obama.

With omnipresent calls for Hillary and her “shrinking band of paranoid holdouts" to "let it go," "move on," etc., I wanted to reaffirm why some of us are stickin’ to our Annie Oakley accessories... even as Sen. Clinton embarrasses herself with primary victories in podunk states like California, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania, is that even a state? Sounds like Shrillary pulled a Keyser Söze with the names of her former campaign manager and the dim bulb that lights her clingy, low-wattage supporters. And what's up with this "Michigan" and "Florida" of which she speaks? You ever heard of them? Me neither. Man, that chick is crazy!

* * *

In Barack Obama, I see a lot to like.

He really is smart. He really is charismatic (even if he's wearing on me more and more as the campaign goes on). And he really does offer a healthy opportunity to re-imagine what a President of the United States looks like.

Hillary Clinton, too, is smart. She really is charismatic (she's impressing me more and more as the campaign goes on). And she really does offer a healthy opportunity to re-imagine what a President of the United States looks like.

Oops. I left out one huge differentiator: unlike Hillary, Obama voted against the war.

I know he did, because a Google search on "Obama voted against the war" turns up thousands of citations.

Oh, wait a minute. He didn't get elected to the Senate until 2004, and the AUMF vote was on October 11, 2002. Hmm....

But it was still brave for him to speak out against the pending vote in the thick of his U.S. Senate campaign. He said as much in a February debate, and his website states: "As a candidate for the United States Senate in 2002, Obama put his political career on the line to oppose going to war in Iraq, and warned of 'an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences.'"

Oh dear, he didn't start his U.S. Senate campaign until January of 2003. But who are you going to believe, Barack Obama or your lyin' calendar?

But it surely was gutsy to make such a controversial speech in front of the unblinking eye and unflappable ears of the video cameras and tape recorders.

Unfortunately, it seems there's no audio or video of his historic speech available. Or, perhaps, it was recorded on a phonautograph. So, Obama had to "re-enact" part of the speech, complete with echo effects, to include it in a campaign ad.

OK, no A/V. But Chicago is a great newspaper town, whose intrepid, fedora-decked reporters wrote reams of....

Dang. As best I can tell from extensive online searching, there are no contemporaneous articles about the speech anywhere.

But he definitely delivered it on 10/2/02, before the AUMF vote. Or on 10/26/02, after the AUMF vote. On that much, the record (if there were one) is clear.

And in the event that someone had recorded or written about the speech, it was a perilous one to deliver a quarter-year before he declared for a hotly contested U.S. Senate run. Definitely "putting his political career on the line."

Except that The Audacity of Hope describes his U.S. Senate run as a cakewalk against weak and wounded opposition, such a breeze that it didn't make a proper test for his self-styled new approach to politics — you know, that post-partisan approach that's completely different from Bill Clinton's "third way" because....

Whatever. He has stood steadfastly behind those original words. Like in 2004, when he said "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage" ($). Um...

In any case, he's certain that if he had been in the Senate that he would have voted against the war. No one can take that away from him.

You know, I think very highly of Hillary. The more I get to know her, the more I admire her. I think she's the most disciplined — one of the most disciplined people —I've ever met. She's one of the toughest. She's got an extraordinary intelligence. And she is, she’s somebody who' s in this stuff for the right reasons. She's passionate about moving the country forward on issues like health care and children.

So it's not clear to me what differences we've had since I've been in the Senate. I think what people might point to is our different assessments of the war in Iraq, although I'm always careful to say that I was not in the Senate, so perhaps the reason I thought it was such a bad idea was that I didn’t have the benefit of U.S. intelligence. And, for those who did, it might have led to a different set of choices. So that might be something that sort of is obvious. But, again, we were in different circumstances at that time: I was running for the U.S. Senate [sic], she had to take a vote, and casting votes is always a difficult test.

Barack Obama, The New Yorker, November 7, 2006

Alright, alright. We can't be certain of how he would have voted. But at least we're certain that the U.N. did not want the United States to engage in the brinksmanship that Hillary and others engaged in by authorizing the war powers.

Hans Blix:

Without a military buildup by the U.S. in the summer of 2002, Iraq would probably have not accepted a resumption of inspections....

I did not see that increasing military pressure and readiness for armed action necessarily excluded a desire for a peaceful solution.

Well, sure, there's that. But when Obama did get to the Senate, he differentiated himself from Hillary by...

What? Their voting records are "virtually identical"!? Still, when Obama made those votes he was being an awesome, young, transformative progressive. When Hillary made them, she was old, machine-like, and totally Republican about it. How could anyone fail to see the difference?

The cynics among us might speculate that Obama's not-in-the-Senate, not-during-his-campaign, unrecorded, and not-backed-up-by-his-future-votes speech was in part a smart gamble on setting himself apart from the pack, as he considered a run for national office.

But Obama wouldn't stake out a position just for future political "optics," would he?

It was the fall of 2005, and the celebrated young senator -- still new to Capitol Hill but aware of his prospects for higher office -- was thinking about voting to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice. Talking with his aides, the Illinois Democrat expressed admiration for Roberts's intellect. Besides, Obama said, if he were president he wouldn't want his judicial nominees opposed simply on ideological grounds.

And then Rouse, his chief of staff, spoke up. This was no Harvard moot-court exercise, he said. If Obama voted for Roberts, Rouse told him, people would remind him of that every time the Supreme Court issued another conservative ruling, something that could cripple a future presidential run. Obama took it in. And when the roll was called, he voted no.

Maybe. But how was that unrecorded, unreported, re-enacted speech of Obama's about a potential Iraq War?

It was great.

This speech had it all. It was bold. It showed 20/20 foresight. And it was partisan:

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

So, why now — with the mics, the cameras, and the reporters in place, and the country resoundingly agreeing that the Bush years have been a long national nightmare — does Obama persist in equivalating, on selling us the myth so accurately termed by fellow-blogger shystee as "the absolute fabrication that the problem with Washington is excessive partisanship"?

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myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

me neither.

------------------------------------------------
Real Democrats aren't afraid of democracy

48 + 2 = legitimacy

x

------------------------------------------------
“I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a Democrat.” - Will Rogers

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Link for his "no difference between me & George Bush" remark, if you want it, VL.

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.
- Sir William Drummond

wasabi's picture
Submitted by wasabi on

The only way Obama was going to knock off the frontrunner was to tear the Clinton legacy apart. The only way to do that was to convince everyone that Dems and Repubs are all alike, and it's time for a transformation.

What a shame that he had to pick this time in history, when the country finally caught on to the destructive policies of the Republicans to push the meme that it's not really the fault of the Republicans after all, but that darn partisanship.

I am sick of the thought of the lost advantage we once had.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

Jesus! I thought he just brazenly lied during the debate. Does he not realize that the GOP will crucify him for such an audacious lie? Forget Gore "inventing" the web; I shudder to think what the GOP will do when they also have truth to work with (Nightmare scenario: the media exposes the race card ruthlessly employed by Obama, which provides cover for the GOP to launch the most heinous race-baiting election in modern history).

Great, detailed summary, by the way.

tedraicer's picture
Submitted by tedraicer on

Wasabi, that is exactly why I'm quite unforgiving of both Obama and his fan base. They turned what should have been a real transformation into (at best) a fake transformation (if Obama wins) and more likely, outright defeat.

Tdraicer

MOBlue's picture
Submitted by MOBlue on

But I'm taking this a little further. Not only has Obama lost the opportunity to capitalize and highlight the destructive policies of the Republicans, he more than anyone else has helped rehabilitate the Republicans and damage the Democratic brand. I can't think of one negative talking point the Republicans use against the Democratic Party that Obama's campaign hasn't helped reinforce.

Bluegrass Poet's picture
Submitted by Bluegrass Poet on

That pulls it all together, VL. Thanks.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

or at least of the end of the Democratic Party in favor of the newly established Obama Party.

Wonderful post, btw. Although Obama didn't get start in the Senate until 2005 ;).

Only tyrants rig elections.

Gidget Commando's picture
Submitted by Gidget Commando on

Gee, all this time I wondered if I had some strange genetic abnormality that made me immune to Obamamania.

You're my hero of the week. I'm going to write songs about you, hoist pitchers of mead in your honor, and send this link to my pals on another blog with similar Obamamania-immunity.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

he always goes back to 1 speech he gave years ago, instead of a law he shepherded thru Congress or something actually tangible that helped people.

Submitted by lambert on

... we have to beat it out of you with a zucchini.

This post has screen dumps of both Obama's Senate run press release (from the Wayback machine) and his campaign site.

Bill Clinton was exactly right in his use of the word "fairy tale." Incredibly, the Obama campaign cried "racism" on that, and even more incredibly, or not, our famously free press bought it.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

is racist!

Shame on you Lambert!

To make amends you must buy the house a round.

------------------------------------------------
Real Democrats aren't afraid of democracy

48 + 2 = legitimacy

x

------------------------------------------------
“I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a Democrat.” - Will Rogers

jeqal's picture
Submitted by jeqal on

I too have been immune from the fur-tail obamakin syndrome. I often wondered if it was because I don't watch TV, have lived in racially integrated neighborhoods, or have been given a common sense gene that only my grandma could have passed on.

vastleft is my new hero for the day, this was an excellent post. The link by Aeryl was excellent, and very well written.
The link to REM was fun, I used to live in Athens, GA so brought back fond memories. I was initially worried that they had supported him, but was relieved to find out otherwise.

I still think they should do a Radio Free America.
I missed the screen shots Lambert, was there a specific poster with them? Regardless that was an interesting link to another great correntewire poster.

As far as McCain, he is not a typical Republican, he is moderate.
I too looked at Obama's voting record and did not see any dissent with Iraq in his voting. From his lips to naive ears. Helps fluff out the tail prolly.

When the end of the day comes, the beginning of the week is thought back on, and I was for Hillary from day 1. I only got into the fray with Obama's grandma comment. I find that alone to be telling enough for me to never consider voting for the guy. If you can't have loyalty to your family, if you can't protect your family. How does anyone expect that person to be loyal or to protect us? He won't. BTW Obama has never won a contested election. He has forced candidates off the ballot, and he forced Palmer off of her state Senate race, a singularly Machiavellian and disloyal act. I personally do not live my life believing "every man for himself".

Just for the heck of it, here is the links to archived and current pages of Obama's church.
This is an archived page as a person would have seen it on February 27, 2007:

http://web.archive.org/web/200702272.......

# Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting Black Institutions
# Pledge allegiance to all Black leadership who espouse and embrace the Black Value System

Compare July 2, 2007:

http://web.archive.org/web/200707022.......

It has been on that site up since October 15, 2003:

October 15, 2003 version:
http://web.archive.org/web/200310051.......

Evangelicals may not be aware of this but in more intensive fundamental churches, the creed or the tenets are pledged by members, sometimes in writing. This affirms the parishioners belief in the church's philosophy. My point is. If one of the tenets is to pledge African interests before American interests, isn't that a conflict of interest for a President of the US?

Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other,they'd be Republicans -- Will Rogers