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Two simple litmus tests for Obama

[Since I can't seem to get an answer on this, at least one that's on point, I'll elevate it. Welcome Bubbleheads.]

I propose:

1. Social Security. With "crisis," Obama put Social Security privatization back in play.

It should be very easy for Obama to take it back out of play by saying he doesn't support Social Security privatization in any way, shape, or form. Right?

Really, really simple and cost-free statement to make, right?

2. FISA. Now that Dodd's no longer a candidate, I'd like to see Obama on the Senate Floor defending the Fourth Amendment, the Constitution, and not incidentally, not giving retroactive immunity to the huge telco corporations. That's an excellent test for showing that he understands, as Edwards does, the overweening nature of corporate power today

The bio says "Constitutional Scholar." So, is Obama an ivory tower kind of guy, or is he willing to step up and take the body?


OK, OK, I'm a dirty hippie and a leftist and an Obama hater and I just don't get it and won't try and and it's my fault and I won't listen and Obama already said these things and he doesn't have to say them anyhow just for you and why should he have to and besides he's a really good speaker and an excellent professor and a good state legislator and actually passed a law at the federal level and did I mention he's a really good speaker?

Humor me.

Pretend I'm a moderate Republican, OK?

Those are my two tests. Sell me.

No votes yet


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on don't GET it. we have to wait until after he's in office, and then he'll take three giant steps left. he has to fool people until then. okay?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Q: Would you raise the cap for Social Security tax above the current level of the first $97,500 worth of income?

A: I think that lifting the cap is probably going to be the best option. Now we've got to have a process [like the one] back in 1983. We need another one. And I think I've said before everything should be on the table. My personal view is that lifting the cap is much preferable to the other options that are available. But what's critical is to recognize that there is a potential problem: young people who don't think Social Security is going to be there for them. We should be willing to do anything that will strengthen the system, to make sure that that we are being true to those who are already retired, as well as young people in the future. And we should reject things that will weaken the system, including privatization, which essentially is going to put people's retirement at the whim of the stock market.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College Sep 6, 2007

Submitted by lambert on

I want to hear, as the post says, "no privatization." "No crisis" would be nice, too.

Period. That's my question. The only cite I've been able to find is from 2005. Your response is hardly on point. No, I don't want to get lost in the weeds on caps.

This looks like pretty standard teabagging from today's WaPo, and it doesn't allay my concerns:

He also sought to explain a recent shift in his message on Social Security, an issue on which he has accused Clinton of not being forthcoming.

On Social Security, Obama had previously said that everything would be on the table for discussion as part of negotiations to secure the system's future solvency, including raising the retirement age and reducing benefits. Now he says he prefers raising the cap on the portion of a worker's wages subject to payroll taxes.

"When I said all things are on the table . . . that doesn't mean I don't have clear opinions about how I think we should best proceed," Obama said.

In contrast to Clinton, Obama said he would offer his own Social Security proposal as president and that he would hope to have gained a mandate for changing the system through the campaign.

Well, that doesn't clear anything up at all. And you're not answering the question. And I don't see how "prefer" means a thing. And you know the old saying about opinions, right?

This should be easy. It should be a no-brainer. Come on, pretend I'm a moderate Republican that you have to persuade, instead of an obstreperous leftie you want to throw under the bus.

Just try.

"No.... privatization...."


See how easy?

You're awsum! You rawk!

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

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I'll excerpt the money quote. If you want to go back and check, it's the last line from what I quoted in my prior post:

"[W]e should reject things that will weaken the system, including privatization, which essentially is going to put people’s retirement at the whim of the stock market."

To me that's a clear statement that he rejects privatization. Please tell me what it means to you. And that is not an old quote. It's from a debate this fall.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

with that one, if he can't say the right thing about SS.

look, the whole "he's keeping his power dry" argument just isn't going to work. *I do not* want to hear anything about "what he's really saying/thinking." i will take his words at face value. they aren't helping his cause, as far as i'm concerned.

i'm too lazy to go find the open left post on why he makes me nervous. it's a long list of sins, tho. from dissing krugman to telling atheists to get to the back of the bus, obama is presenting himself as a centrist, moderate, friendly to the religious right candidate. that's just not what we need right now. ok?

and for the record, i am not going to count edwards out, or stop mentioning him. no matter what people like me do, it's a sure thing the media won't talk about him. as far as npr was concerned today, finishing second was as significant as fininshing dead last. or at least, that's the coverage they gave. third place? worth a long, detailed story and a full voice clip. because, you know, hillary is unstoppable.

Submitted by lambert on

Fuck "unity." In a nice way, of course.

Who remembers this classic?


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

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I feel the Diogenesian quests that Lambert and I have been embarking on serve double duty:

1. Make people think twice before deciding that Obama is The One
2. If he is The One, helping us find the palatable (or better) rationales for hauling in with him, beyond the x-next-to-the-d imperative, which as you know I've been fiercely unwavering about.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... I was thinking about it today, while reading all the "I say Obama's speech last night was inspiring and full of content, so it was" arguments, and many similar paroxysms of truthiness.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

period. oh well, that's a pipe dream if ever there was one.

it won't be obama, but if i'm wrong, my vote will help him to victory because i won't be voting *for* him, i'll be voting *against* hucksterbee or whomever, and the rest of the republican agenda. that's my justification this season.

still, i guess i should start planning the next round of "how to made a centrist more progressive once s/he's in office." sigh. it's hard work, and not often successful.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

lambert, I live among Republicans and not all of them are moderate. Here's an anecdote and an email exchange from behind enemy lines for you.

I posted this diary at Kos back in August:

My dad took me to see "the next president of the United States" when I was 4 years old back in 1960 at a rally in a suburban shopping center parking lot. Seeing as JFK won I always assumed we saw him when I should have known better. My Dad's always been a Republican, and a few years ago he told me it was Nixon I was squinting to see from my perch on his shoulders way back when. This is a guy who listened to Morton Downey Jr. before there was a Rush Limbaugh.

Still red as Texas he admitted he voted for Obama in 2004 against the clearly insane Alan Keyes for senate here in Illinois. The only time I've ever heard him admit he voted for a Dem. I don't doubt it's the only time he ever has. But Keyes was as black as Obama. If he'd been white I doubt it would have mattered. Keyes is just nuts and my Repub congresswoman Judy Biggert admitted to me she vote for Obama. Not much of a test there.

My dad stuck with Nixon til the bitter end. We used to have shouting matches in the early 1970s about the imperial presidency on my part and how the liberal media was just out to get him as his response. He still thinks Nixon got a raw deal.

In the 1980s he went on vacation to CA and came back with a pic of him standing next to one of those cardboard cutouts of Reagan in a cowboy hat, arm draped over St. Ronnie's shoulder, big shit eatin grin on his face.

He's getting up there in years now, had a stroke a few years ago and can't talk. I moved back home after my mom died last year to take care of him. Our days of political screaming matches are long gone. He still reads the Trib and watches the news. I still bitch about Bush on the worst days
and talk up Obama when I get the chance but I'm the only one keeping the conversation going these days. He just shakes his head.

Yesterday he came into my office with the mail. There was a Obama fundraising letter among the various credit card offers and other flotsam. He usually just drops the mail on my desk and shuffles away. But today he was agitated, kept pointing to the letters. I looked thru them, explained there wasn't anything urgent there. Capitol One wants to find out what's in my wallet and take it from me. No big deal.

When I got to the Obama letter he grabbed it, smiled and shook it at me. I told him I'm not sending him anymore money right now, I'm doing enough as it is and I'll send him a few dollars when I can at the end of the quarter. He shook his head and pointed his finger at his chest. Increduously I asked, "YOU want to send money to Obama? A Democrat?" He nodded vigorously, that shit eatin grin as big as it was that day he stood next to the lifesize photo of his hero Reagan.

I'd like to think that after all the years of cajoling, logically breaking down his arguments, trying to force him to see the error of his ways I'd finally won. But it's not me, I didn't do it, it was Obama.

Take my word for it, if he's got my dad this country is ready to elect a black man, Barack Obama. And we may do it in a landslide.

Now that I've warmed the cockles of your cold partisan heart let me show you an email exchange I had this morning with Sully, a retired marine living in AZ. I've known him over the net since our days on a yahoo investment message board back in 2000. A bunch of us keep tabs with each other and exchange mostly cranky political emails via Jean another former marine and Hollywood screenwriter who keeps the list going and has spent the better part of a decade trying to get guys like Sully and his wingnut buddy O'Neill to wise up.

Sully: Jean not to change the subject but ain't it a bitch when the bitch only can finish 3rd after spending millions. What the hell is going on anyway...even the liberals in Iowa didn't fall for her bullshit. And how about that man of God Huck...was he pushed to the top by the Lord?? Hell I don't know but I might think something happened.

Boys remember your ABC's "Anybody but Clinton"
Well at least it give you all something to think about without thinking how we "are losing in Iraq". Oh yes Bush sure fucked up the surge didn't he.
Well sleep tight and pray that Hillary can rebound. We need a new group of Democratic crooks in the White House. You guys are so far out of the
mainstream you don't even realize it.

Good night.
Your buddy Sully and 100's of millions like me.

Me: What happened Sully? O'Neill steal your computer? You'll notice Ron Paul won 10% of the Republican vote among overwhelmingly conservative
Republicans in IA campaigning almost totally against Bush's Iraq war and attacks on the constitution.

In a 50/50 state Dems pulled double the number of caucus goers as Republicans, shattering the old record and turnout predictions. 200,000 vs. 120,000 in 2004, predictions this year went as high as
150,000. In contrast Repubs drew 104,000 last night.

Something else you ought to notice. Last night's winners, Obama and Huckabee both rejected the politics of division. Rove got a piddling $1.5
million (by Washington standards) book advance. His style of politics is over.. My own Republican congresswoman Judy Biggert said she voted for
Obama in 2004. Kirk Dillard my Republican state senator, former DuPage Repub party county chairman and chief of staff for Gov. Jim Edgar appeared
in a campaign ad for him.

Get ready for President Obama. He's going to be the next President of the UNITED States of America. And then as he says quoting the constitution, we'll get back to the business of making a more perfect union.

Sully: Mark this might surprise the living hell out of you but even I (an admitted right winger) might go for Obama. I like what I see from him and to be truthful none of the Reps cut it in my
opinion. But more importantly we need to forget about the blue and red states and start being one Country once again.

Best regards lefty...Sully

Lambert like you say your sig says it all about you. I'm not worried about you. But I can also tell you by this time in the 2000 and 2004 cycles I was getting the kind of vitriol Sully has for Hillary about Gore and Kerry. Not seeing it anymore in my inbox or at front doors when I canvass. There's a whole lot of people who are tired of the culture wars, Republicans and indies who are gonna give peace and the black guy a chance because he's the best qualified for the job and they'd like to be proud of their vote for a change.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

Lambert like you say your sig says it all about you.

don't insult lambert on this blog. just don't. you've been warned, friend. i hope i mistake your meaning in that comment.

Submitted by lambert on

Then, for the first time in 40 years, it's the moderate Republicans who have no place to go.

So tell me again why Obama has to tack right, instead of, you know, being straightforward and making the ask for progressive policy outcomes?

I know that's a rhetorical question, and you don't have to answer it.

But do consider this:

I deliberately set the bar very low on those two litmus tests. Do they seem unfair to you? Likely to scare the moderates? Because I'm not seeing a great groundswell in favor of either privatizing Social Security or the telcos anywhere.

The fact that I can't get the OFB -- or you -- to engage on them really, really concerns me. Like, I don't want to "compromise" on some things. Half a teabag is a lot worse than none, you understand? The OBAMA FAN BASE PROPHYLACTIC summarizes, tendentiously but not inaccurately, the range of their responses. I have to assume they represent, and it's a big Fuck you. So, I guess I'll have to get their attention. Only one way to do that....

NOTE CD, I think markg8 means that in a good way.

And, markg8, I have Republicans to deal with as well. I was asking the OBF -- since they seem unable to interact with anybody in a non-instrumental fashion -- to imagine me, rather than as an Obama-hater, as one of the moderate Republicans they are so anxious to reach out to and sit around the table with.

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

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

That wasn't meant as an insult CD. I know if Obama is the nominee he'll do the right thing is all.

lambert it's not the moderate Repubs who have nowhere to go. My dad and sully consider themselves moderates. The big money cons and neocons are working hard to destroy Huckabee. In the process they'll split their party. Religious and moderate Repubs will vote for Obama or stay home. They'll come out to vote against Hillary and they'll be damned if they'll sign an apology before Edwards allows them to be part of the solution instead of the problem.

Here is part of Obama's email response 10/29/07 to my email telling him not to support immunity for the telcos on FISA:

"I am disappointed that at the last-minute, Congress passed hastily crafted legislation to expand the authority of Attorney General Gonzales and the director of National Intelligence to conduct surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists without a warrant or real oversight, even if the targets are communicating with someone in the United States. As you know, this legislation was signed into law by the President on August 5, 2007, and expires after six months.

Providing any president with the flexibility necessary to fight terrorism without compromising our constitutional rights can be a delicate balance. I agree that technological advances and changes in the nature of the threat we face may require that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), enacted in 1978, be updated to reflect the reality of the post 9/11 world. But that does not absolve the President of the responsibility to fully brief Congress on the new security challenge and to work cooperatively with Congress to address it.

The Senate is currently revisiting this issue, and drafting a bill to be enacted before the expiration of the current FISA bill. I have serious concerns about many provisions in this draft bill in its current form, especially the provision on giving retroactive immunity to the telephone companies. I am hopeful that this bill can be improved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, I would support a filibuster if bill comes to the Senate floor in its current form. I am dedicated to working with my colleagues in the Senate to develop legislation that meets this new security challenge while protecting the rights of Americans.

The American people understand that new threats require flexible responses to keep them safe, and that our intelligence gathering capability needs to be improved. What they do not want is for the President or the Congress to use these imperatives as a pretext for promoting policies that not only go further than necessary to meet a real threat, but also violate some of the most basic tenets of our democracy.

Like most members of Congress, I continue to believe the essential objective of conducting effective domestic surveillance in the war on terror can be achieved without discarding our constitutionally protected civil liberties. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress, and with the President, to meet this uniquely American challenge."

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Don't take my word for it -- the youtube is right here:

Now, tell me again, as a progressive, why the hell should I give two farts in a blue norther for this emaciated compromiser?

Because he has lots of large white teeth?
Because he talks well?
Because he's married to a woman named Michelle?
Because I'd have to be a racist not to?
Because he's going to save the nation?
Because he can sit down with the GOP and make a deal?
Because he's got the $$$$$$$$$$ mojo?
Because Oprah thinks he's cool?

Because none of those, separately, and all of those in the aggregate, don't work for me.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Those angry food fighters? Those nasty under-religious progressives?

It's easy to save the country, anyway. All we have to do is stop that mellow-harshing bitterness and bickering.

And then we play with the ponies!

Submitted by lambert on

This post is not about the past, and especially it is not about quotes.

I'm saying Show me.

1. Obama needs to say say unequivocally that he's against Social Security privatization. I'd expect any progressive to be able to do so. All I get in response is off-point verbiage about caps.

2. Obama needs to go on the Senate Floor and help Dodd filibuster FISA. Email is easy to write. I want a little more investment. This, again, is something any progressive should be able to do, and now that Dodd isn't a candidate, Obama should be able to stand with Dodd, Feingold, Wyden, and all the others who stood up.

Fine words butter no parsnips! How about we use all that eloquence on two issues are progressive, cared about by a lot of Democrats, and give Obama the chance to hit the ball out of the park on policy?

Why is this so hard?

NOTE Hint to OFB commenters: The more compact your quotes, and the better integrated into your comments, the stronger your points. We try not to do a lot of copying and pasting in The Mighty Corrente Building, dig? Also, when everything is bold, nothing is bold. Finally, quotes are worse than useless without links, because they suggest that you just pasted the content in from somewhere, without really checking it, and that detracts from the force of your argument. Further, if there's no link, I have no independent way to confirm the accuracy of what you say. Or, shorter: Quotes without links make you look stupid, and force me to do your work. Got it? Thank you.

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

Submitted by lambert on

Obama will save the nation from nasty, trollish, pony-free progressives harshing the mellow!

You know who I'd like to hear from on Obama? The submariners. Anyone of the Fellows want to go find out?

NOTE Thanks for "harshing the mellow," VL. I probably overuse it, but I can't help it, I love it so much.

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

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

I found out how the open-arms-unity-program works. We need to stop questioning and criticizing everyone. It is time for a new way, a more huggy-lovey way, just trust us.

MJS's picture
Submitted by MJS on

As Obama reaches forward with his open hand, seeking to end "the harsh" why are his boots kicking backwards at Kennedy, Gore et al? Why does his smile say sunshine but his lips say "crisis?" If ten percent of the population were born with two left feet would Obama countenance a preacher who railed against the "left footers?" Would he refuse to condemn the morality of the stone caster? Right now Obama is not a wolf in sheep's clothing, he's a Democrat wrapped in a Coat of Many Colors. Why is he reserving for progressives so many of the bleaker tones?


kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on

Is the OFB actually capable of giving on-point responses?


Why is he reserving for progressives so many of the bleaker tones?

Because he's discovered red cars go faster than blue ones. Or look faster, anyway.

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Can't find a single mention on Obama's issues page about restoring civil liberties and due process. In fact, they don't appear to be a concern of his at all. He does have a 40-minute video telling you all about his "faith" though.

Looks like Democratic voters are once again going to settle for a pro-war, anti-civil liberty, corporatist candidate. The message this Obama win sends to the Democratic Party is that it can continue to stand for nothing and still win, so long as the package is attractive enough. Ugh . . .

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I know if Obama is the nominee he’ll do the right thing is all.

How? Faith based voting?
Obama's rhetoric has been hideous lately. I am not interested in projecting my hopes onto a candidate. I prefer to see them as they are.

Submitted by lambert on

I had a little dustup with the OFB, and nobody mentioned FISA. I fought them to a narrow win on Social Security, but on the Constitution, they have little to say.

Obama is said to have given a good interview with the Globe on executive powers, though. You're 100% certain there's nothing there?

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

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

WTF, all of the OFB quotes are high-minded theoretical bull about how we should.

Read any speech as he is voting to re-approve Partiot Act, FISA capitulation, (MCA?) and it's this "we should" restore civil liberties but for now I'm going to screw you all.

We should reject these bad things that are undermining the Constitution, but now watch me drive (this point home). We should reject privatization, but I can't go so far as to publicly reject it.

How is that clear? I would like a little more clarity then, we should get our troops out of Iraq, but here is another $800B.

"Because he’s going to save the nation.
That in and of itself ought to be enough for anybody."

WTF? Are you serious? This is why I should vote for... Bush? How exactly is he going to save the nation? I missed that. By giving cross aisle reach-arounds?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You honestly think he said that "we should" reject privatization rather than saying "I reject" privatization in order to leave wiggle room? "We should reject privatizaton." Aside: "but I don't tee hee." Why don't you admit that something about the guy just gets under your skin and you can't be fair about him no matter what.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

give us some links, and a large number of quotes, which will reassure us that we've got it all wrong, and obama isn't really open to privitization, continuing occupation, gay bashing, and christian theocracy.

that's what we're asking for: links, proof, and support for the assertion that we can trust him.

you can insult us after that, we won't mind. but with links and proof, we will take you more seriously.

Submitted by lambert on

Where's my pony?

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

Submitted by lambert on

I posted this over at Lance Mannion's place, and it's 3 o'clock in the fucking AM so I'm not going to go back and read all the coments. Hillary's not paying me enough for this. Anyhow, those of you who are still awake, maybe this will be useful. As usual, I summarize the arguments tendentiosly but not, I hope, unfairly.

* * *


Let me comment on your comment on a comment on a post about a post about a post by indicating that my real Obama problem is delineated over here--at perhaps excessive length, but it was so much fun when I got rolling that I just couldn't stop.

Now, I freely admit that the "Obama Problem" post on which you (comment(comment(post(post(post)))))ed wasn't the best post I've ever written -- I've been spending some quality time over at Big Orange with Obama's Fan Base, and if you've ever spent time with the OFB, you know what I'm talking about.

The OFB throw the word "lie" around rather too freely for my taste. Here's the point at issue with this post. Obama says:

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. ... I think this perspective misreads the American people."

So, it's clear that Obama believes that the American people don't believe some or all of what is said about the Republican party ("take-no-prisoners," and so on).

What does Obama believe, or say he believes, about the Republican Party? Well, to me, a storyline is a story; that is, it's contrary to fact by definition. Therefore, Obama can't believe a storyline is true, because storylines can't be true, by definition. Is the plot of Episode 19 of the Honeymooners true? Like the old joke goes, the question isn't even wrong. So, if Obama says the claim that Republicans are a take-no-prisoner party is part of a storyline, he's clearly, though implicitly, saying that it's contrary to fact; that it is not reality-based. QED. Simple enough, if you've spent the last 5 years playing whack-a-mole with Conservative Movement disinformation campaigns, narratives, talking points, memes, and tropes.

So, I make the post--and, as I say, this just a throwaway piece placed beside my real "Obama Problem" piece--and the OFBs descend, in two waves:

1. Obama is talking over the heads of the Party leaders to the party members (which was the current talking point but easily countered by requesting that they actually read the quote, followed by

2. You're lying, where did Obama say that?

To which I respond, as above, "It's a storyline..." to which the response is:

2. You're lying, where did Obama say that?

So, we go round and round for awhile and eventually they give up and go away.

Now, it's obviously wonderful that lots of new people are becoming Democrats. But it isn't always so wonderful on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis dealing with posters who haven't been fighting the Republicans in the trenches for 5 years, don't know the history, imagine things like Reagan being non-partisan, aren't strong on irony or critical thinking skills, and who are passionately loyal to, well, their Leader. Maybe it's the primary season. Maybe shock troops need to be this way and it's all good. Maybe I'm just tired. You kids get offa my lawn!

But I think that the real problem goes back to Obama himself, and to statements that seem clear at first but become Delphic when analyzed. In other words, the OFB isn't the problem; it's the Big O himself. I mean, framing an indictment of a class of Democratic supporters on the basis of a narrative imputed to them that the American people don't believe.... While expressing your own belief only implicitly? I'd say that's a pretty good operational definition of "Delphic." So no wonder the OFB and I are fighting. Let's remember that Obama is a graduate of Harvard Law and the author (it is said) of two books; he surely knew exactly the effect that he was aiming for.

And I think that the seemingly clear yet highly equivocal nature of Obama's language is at the heart of my problem with him. It is not easy to figure out, for example, what Obama's Social Security policy is. I know what the OFB thinks it is, because they have explained it to me at great length, but my litmus test is taking privatization off the table, and, no matter how hard you squint, that's not really there. (And the unforced error of putting the whole issue in play as a cudgel against Hillary -- while simultaneously claiming that Social Security should not be a political football, an incredibly smooth move -- really muddied the waters.)

It is necessary for Obama's language to be equivocal, because he's trying to do two contradictory things at the same time:

1. The Obama organization has gone to great lengths to portray him as a "negotiator," as an "honest broker," as a proponent of the view that people of "good will," when gathered "at the table," can "compromise" to achieve common goals. This is the "unity" schtick, and to make the schtick work, Obama has to present himself as being open to the views of everyone at "the table." [I'm quoting the talking points that the OFB uses.]

2. However, the Obama organization also needs to present Obama as sufficiently progressive to be in the mainstream of the Democratic Party (I won't throw the press into the mix), and the mainstream Democratic Party has constituencies that demand that Obama take principled stands on some issues (for example, Social Security privatization).

3. The "unity schtick" contradicts the "principled stand." For example, the principled stand is to take Social Security privatization off the table; but the unity schtick demands that everything be on the table.

4. Obama's solution is to use equivocal language. On Social Security, for example, you will discover him running the unity schtick ("everything is on the table") and taking a principled stand ("privatization is dangerous," "I will fight privatization") at the same time: But if you look closely at the principled stand, you will see that it does not add up to "off the table." Of course, if you only listen to the soaring music of the rhetoric, and don't pay attention to the words, you won't see equivocation at all. Which is why a tear doesn't come to my eye; I'm too busy listening.

Interesting, eh?

Now, I think this is wrong and dangerous. I think it's wrong because I believe that the way to win a progressive mandate is to ask for one, and if this truly is our time, than make the ask, because equivocation is a policy of weakness. It's dangerous, because I think Obama radically underestimates the strength and tenacity of the Conservative Movement of which the Republican Party has been the front organization. Obama and the OFB believe that winning the election is a lot more important than it is; what's really important is to attack and destroy the apparat of the Conservative Movement if and when the election takes place, and if and when it is won.* There is no way that singing kumbaya is going to do it. And its dangerous for him to burn his bridges to progressives, which he has been systematically doing with his rightward shift -- and ten to one the OFB has been doing on the ground, if they're anything like they are online -- because when push comes to shove we aren't going to be able to figure out whether to trust what he says.

All that said, heck, he could be the next RFK. But if language is the mirror of the mind, I'm guessing no.

NOTE * If Huckabee wins the nomination, the Republicans might become so demoralized that they can't get it together to steal a third national election. It's an ill wind...

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

Submitted by lambert on

Should be a no-brainer for a Constitutional scholar; I really am setting the bar low. But I'm hearing:

*** Crickets ***

Why is that?

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

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

What is it you want with FISA? Obama's got the right position on it. Do you want him to drop out of the Presidential race so he can go read encyclopedia entries on the floor of the Senate? Nice try!

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on


like most pols, it's more complicated and diverse than is suppposed by the mainstream discourse. go look at it closely, and make up your own mind.

my biggest complaint: he's on the campaign trail too much, and has missed key votes. such as those pertianing to homeland security and abu G. but otherwise, his record isn't so bad. that means a lot to me, and i take this record seriously, more seriously than the words of pundits trying to tell me what to think about him.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

So, I think the question on FISA has been made pretty clear. Your answer of "he's got the right position" smacks a little of Faith-based voting.

Is there proof he won't vote for retroactive immunity?

How is he going to defend the Constitution in the face of those who are breaking the law?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You can't talk about Obama in a vacuum anymore. The race has begun. now any smear against Obama is a positive statement in support of Hillary. none of that 'I didn't choose a side' crap, by defeault you have.

You are supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton, a candidate who has just attacked Obama for being too far to the left.

kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on any smear against Obama is a positive statement in support of Hillary.

No, I think they're both about equal corporate tools.

Don't give me any of this "you're with us or against us" crap. It sounds too much like the rantings of Dear Leader's Faithful.

To quote someone much older and wiser and even more fictional than the progressive creds of the two frontrunners, "I am on nobody's side because no one is on my side."

Unfortunately, pretty much the whole planet is saying this these days, although you won't hear it in the main$tream.

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...right now on CSPAN. it's still early in the speech, but color me unelectrified.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Eight years of Bush and the best the Democrats can come up with is Lieberman's Apprentice? Okay . . .

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

that speech was chock full o' nothin'.

notably, he threw in habeus corpus, Guantanamo, and a few other specifics in the last seconds, but without anything resembling context or explanation. the other 95% of the speech was fluff delivered in the key of Hope. (and as someone noted at DKos, hope and faith are close relatives. and I'm kind of allergic to faith, of late, specifically if it's anywhere near my government.)

Submitted by lambert on

Sean burbles:

Do you want him to drop out of the Presidential race so he can go read encyclopedia entries on the floor of the Senate? Nice try!

Yes, Sean, you stupid tool. [Oh, wait. I'm sorry. I forgot that this is really one way -- OFB get to abuse non-OFB, but not the other way round. My bad.]

Simple answers to simple questions for Sean:

You shouldn't dismiss the idea just because it comes from a perceived enemy. That's the kind of thinking characteristic of a close minded cult of personality. Not that I'm saying.

I don't want Obama to fucking read the encyclopedia.

Obama is a professor of Constitutional law, and by all accounts a good one.

The filibuster is a teachable moment, and that's what Dodd used it for.

If Obama seizes that chance:

1. He positions himself as totally different from any other politician ("he left the campaign"!)

2. He teaches his supporters, the press, the importance of the Constitution, and to a huge audience. This would be a huge story.

3. He blows away the Republican Party completely. They are so vulnerable on this issue.

4. People would go absolutely bonkers.

I'm not gaming you, Sean. I set the bar low on the litmus test because I want to believe. But man! Your response isn't helping, and at some point I have to believe that guys like you really do represent your candidate. That's bad.

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

Submitted by lambert on

That there are only two candidates in the race, eh?

And you're also trying to make this post into a negative from a positive. Tell me again what's so wrong about a voter saying to a candidate, Here's what you should do to win my vote?

Or is it only moderate Republicans who get to do that, and not progressives?

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

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I'm glad to see there are others that have the same reservations about OB. He does give a good speech, but I keep coming back to leadership. He may have it, but why is he missing in action on FISA? The filibuster would last how long? All he has to do is show up and while others debate or talk, he could give interviews of why this issue is important to the lives of Americans.

My problem with OB is simply "Trust Me" requires faith in someone I do not know well enough to trust. Why bring Social Security up without saying no privatization? Sure things need to be done, I would like a savings account similar to Australia (this would be separate from Social Security), will I get it? I don't believe so, in fact health care will not happen without a fight, not thru compromise, because this affects corporate profits and that is not something that any corporation takes lightly.

My basic request is give me something more than a nice speech, I need some action.

Also do not count Edwards out. He has forced the dialogue to the left.

hobson's picture
Submitted by hobson on

A couple of things make me suspicious. The positive reference to 1983 is one. All I see from 1983 is a stealth income tax by raising SS by 40% and then spending the money that was supposed to pay for the retirement of the boomers.

Anti SS people have never stopped telling us that SS is on the verge of bankruptcy since the 1983 bill was supposed to have saved it.

The other thing is how conservatives seem to be embracing Obama. It's bad enough to hear David Brooks talking positively about him. But when Monica Crowley says he represents something real and different, I have to pause.

These people are like the flu virus. They are deadly. And they seem to be trying to mutate to cross species. They have been practicing the same politics for at least a generation and I don't see them changing for Obama. Possibly, they see him as the Hillary killer.

If he does become the candidate, it will be interesting to see if the madrassa stories ooze out of the woodwork yet again.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I campaigned for Doug Wilder for Lt Gov in 1985 and again for Gov in 1989

Obviously racially tinged attacks can backfire when made against black candidates. They can work, they certainly worked on Harold Ford, but often they backfire, as they did on Doug Wilder.

Whoever we nominate will be on the receiving end of the GOP/Corporate Media noise machine.

The reason I think Obama could lose is that he has internalized so many Republican talking points. Recently his rhetoric has been worse than HRC.

I am supporting Edwards in the primary and the Dem nominee in the general.

Submitted by lambert on

What's wrong with investigating it?

And isn't not investigating being dismissive?

(Genuine question. I don't want to go off on this if the facts don't warrant.)

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

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...she's saying that she thinks further investigation of Ohio voting irregularities should take take on him saying "you want to keep gnawing that bone" at that point (especially given that RR takes no audible offense) is that he's probably smiling, and saying that she's tenacious, that she wants to stay on it. (that bone-gnawing is usually associated with dogs, however, doesn't escape me, although there too, I've seen many a human gnawing a bone to get every last scrap of meaty goodness off.)

listen and judge for yourself.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Obama and Randi are discussing the recent election (show aired November 22, 2004):


BO: "Hopefully, though, everybody's getting over their mourning period, I..."

RR: "Mm mm. (ie., negative, no.) Not me."

BO: "I tell folks, we gotta dust yourself off and, and, you know, get up, and get movin'. We got, we got work to do."

RR: "But I have this pet peeve that's called counting votes..."

BO: "Yeah, yeah..."

RR: "It's a little pet peeve, it's like some women knit, and some people, ya know.."

BO: "Oh, I understand..."

RR: "...raise poodles, I count votes, it's just, it's a hobby I have."

BO: "I understand. But the, you know, my...look, the--the fact of the matter is that Bush is the president and, uh, we've got a republican congress, and it's gonna be important I think for the democrats to think about, uh, what are our core principles, what are our core values, how do we communicate them, effectively, and it's a good exercise in some self-criticism, and some reworking of our agenda."

RR: "Well, ya know--twelve million, uh, American families who work continue to be in poverty..."

BO: "Right."

RR: "...and these are our values; another one of my values is counting votes. I just don't think we can move on until we actually have Ohio, uh, re--"

BO (interrupting): " You just just're gonna gnaw on this bone a little bit longer."

RR: "You know what it is? You know what it is, Senator...oh, I love calling you know what it is? I have this problem with people waiting eight hours online for anything in America...?"

BO: "Right."

RR: "...and when I saw it, I recognized it 'cuz I did vote in Florida the last time..."

BO: "Right."

RR: "...and I did vote in 2000 in Florida, and I lived there..."

BO: "Right."

RR: "...and I know my vote didn't count, the Supreme Court said 'stop counting the votes'..."

BO: "Right."

RR: ", so there's a situation there, and I can't pretend that there's no situation there, when you see people waiting eight hours in line, when you see provisional ballots being given, people being challenged like crazy..."

BO: "Right."

RR: " know, it sort of reminds you to stop, take a breath, count the votes. So I'm still in--in vote-counting mode, but..."

BO: (laughs, gently)

RR: "...once we get done, and we can figure this out..."

BO: "Right."

RR: "...I certainly hope that somebody will be, you know, able to stop this president from putting very strange things into bills in the middle of the night..."

BO: "Yeah."

RR "...stop the republi--uh, how we gonna do this, I mean, we are definitely a minority party."

BO: "We're...we're a slight minority but we live in a system of winner-take-all where a small majority gets magnified, and--and right now, they control the branches of government. Look, what I said, eh, the weekend after the election is, to the extent that the president wants to put forward some agendas that make sense on issues like tax reform, I'm all for cooperating (blah blah centrist nonsense)."

**** all I'm saying is that the reference to "bone gnawing" isn't malign. Obama, of course, IS malign. different story. :)

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

he sounds like all the rest of them, just wanting to gloss over it and forget the disenfranchisement of voters. not that most of the dems have been any better, but that really sucks to read. so condescending, imho.

It should be very easy for Obama to take it back out of play by saying he doesn’t support Social Security privatization in any way, shape, or form. Right?

From the On The Issues website (scroll down to "Stop any efforts to privatize Social Security"):

Obama believes we need to preserve Social Security by stopping any efforts to privatize it and will work across party lines to maintain Social Security's solvency for generations.
[...]Source: Campaign website,, "Resource Flyers" Aug 26, 2007

There is more commentary on Obama's publically-announced stance on the subject at that (presumably) non-partisian site.

As far as FISA, we shall all have to see how far he'll go to defend it, it/when it comes up for another vote. As an Obama supported, I do salute Dodd for his stand on the issue, and honestly wish he'd stayed in the race, pushing all the candidates on these critical issues.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

for providing links which help us understand your support.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I first posted this link in the comment immediately before your "Anna?" comment, Lambert.

...and, as requested earlier, you should listen to it. perhaps I am terminally naive, although I have never been accused of it before.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

the establishment candidate

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Obama doesn't emerge as anything resembling a decent politician in either the tape or the transcript. once again, he proves himself unwilling to deal with/incapable of dealing with key issues (voting irregularities/election theft, the loss of habeus corpus, Guantanamo) and resorts to the easy trope.

all I'm saying is that this is how he has presented himself ALL ALONG. perhaps the confusion is more around the tenor of the specific "bone" comment. IOW, I presumed that offense was taken because the comment looked, on the face of it, highly dismissive. my opinion is that is was NOT delivered by Obama in a dismissive manner. (and, if you know Randi, had she thought so, she'd have turned on him immediately.)

as to the greater context of what BO was saying, OF COURSE he's pathetic and avoids anything resembling substance. what's new?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...can we ditch the entire subject and start placing bets on just how many of Bill O's orifices Obama will kiss when he appears on Monday's Factor to apologize?


Submitted by lambert on

Sorry, I had just found another archive online and I mentally overwrote your comment. A lesson to me about trying to do four things at once. Thanks.

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

Submitted by lambert on

Sideshow says this better than I did:

Can [Obama] undo the damage his "Social Security crisis" language did (by explicitly dismissing SS privatization)

The issue is not whether this or that member of the OFB can come up with a past quote from Obama on Social Security and then paste it into the comments section; many have done that; you certainl y aren't the first, and I doubt you will be the last.

Rather, the issue is that Obama put Social Security "in play" as a "problem" as a cudgel to beat Hillary with in Iowa--while claiming simulataneously that it shouldn't be a political football--and muddied all his previous positions by saying that "everything is on the table." Given that privatization is a "thing," it's on the table.

I don't know why he did what he did, but he did it, and now I'd like him to undo the damage by issuing now a very simple statement saying Social Security privatization is off the table.

Heck, he can even say those nasty progressives are distorting his words--harder than you might think, but not for the reasons you might think--because God knows we're used to that. Just so long as he makes the statement on the record. Mkay?

UPDATE Hey, what's your feeling on Obama joining the FISA filibuster? The OFBs that even comment seem to think that even a single day on the campaign trail is way more important than the Constitution, even for a Constitutional law professor, but what's your take? Is it different?

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

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

Here's my quick take on the feelings of the Obama-backers I've been seeing all over the internets the last few days:

Obama will win.

Hillary will lose.

Edwards already lost.

...for the rest of us

Submitted by lambert on

But it's also entirely tendentious. Regardless, we have to do what we have to do.

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

Submitted by lambert on

Just. Wow. I guess that explains what Kristol, Brooks, Sullivan, Will, and Crazy Andy are all seeing that I'm not. All we need is for Lucianne's spawn, well-known author of Liberal Fascism, to weigh in.

We're doomed.

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

Submitted by lambert on

Oh, wait... That flavor doesn't seem to be in stock, right now.

How about some Soarin' Strawberry Lemonade?

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

I’d like him to undo the damage by issuing now a very simple statement saying Social Security privatization is off the table.

OK, I begin to see your point. You're referring to his "crisis" statement in Nov., yes? And you'd like to see something now that restrains the potential for him to flip-flop, or for the GOP to latch onto later out, either with himself or whomever is the nominee, yes?
Before I quote again, let me say this. I am a supporter (not a "Fan", he's not a bloody sports team!) of Obama. Like any politician -- any person, in fact -- he has strengths and weaknesses, points I agree with, and points I dislike.
I defend him on this because I think he fundamentally has the right of this issue. At the same time, I have to say I feel like this bit is something of a straw man. As you've pointed out, the quotes show that he's said, after he brought up the work "crisis", exactly what you wish for him to say, "I have been very clear in fighting privatization." (11/15, post-the "c" word).
So yes, my understanding, and the one that is on the site, is that he would, as President, stand four-square against the issue you fear would come up. I cannot defend his language of "everything on the table", because it's clear it is not. If it is not clear you you, then I will have to settle for him not passing your litmus test, and move on.

So does that help clarify?

The OFBs that even comment seem to think that even a single day on the campaign trail is way more important than the Constitution, even for a Constitutional law professor, but what’s your take? Is it different?

I'm going to say something that's going to be unpopular, yet nonetheless is true -- at least, for me. The absolute right thing would have been for everyone to get off the campaign trail, and go back for the filibuster/vote. And yes, I was personally disappointed that he didn't make such a promise.
And yet, I do see the point of looking at the Big Picture, and in a tight race, fighting to be able to make a sweeping change by being made President. The FISA bill is not the only bill that guts our liberties, which is why I wished that Feingold had run; he would have easily have received my support. That said, in the field as it is, Obama is, to my eye, the person who has the deepest knowledge of how our liberties work, is willing to change the system to make it back to where we should be as a country, and also has a solid chance of being elected.
With the political system we've got, you tend to make those kinds of ugly choices. I'm not defending the choice on anything but purely practical grounds, and it's clear you want more. I'm OK with that; it's a great field of candidates we have, and I want to see them pressured to Do The Right Thing.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Woodrow, you seem to be the one Obama supporter in a million.

This is what I've gotten from pretty much everyone else:

Please get the word out to the OFB, that it's safe to tell Obama when he's walking into shit, instead of on water. It will be a lot easier to haul in with him then, if he's the guy on the November ballot.

Submitted by lambert on

Woodrow isn't like this. Lord a mercy:

UPDATE: Good gracious, the fluff continues (sad to say). Over and over again Obama supporters (below) ignore this diary's request for a SUBSTANTIVE answer and just say "he has a track record" -- and simply can't or won't cite any real-world examples of how Obama's used Happy Conciliation (right from the get-go) to bring a conscienceless Neo Robber Baron to the bargaining table. Gad.

He's right.

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

To my knowledge, Obama has not "taken on" Corporate interests in the fashion the person is requesting an answer to (from what I can tell -- he says he got his answer, but there's so many comments I can't tell what that answer was).
But, instead, he's taking the long way 'round to disarming their power in Washington. Few can argue that Obama has pushed hard for Ethics reform -- the very aspect of our government that allows these guys an open door into the halls of power. By focusing on limiting the effects of money on the political process, you limit the ability of corporations to skew these issues in their favor. In this way, you force them to the table, or they risk being shutout in ways they cannot simply buy or sue their way out of.

And his conclusion, from my studies of his work, comes not from just high-minded academic theorizing on Obama's part, but from work in the trenches, fighting for civil rights and other issues, both on the street and his post-Harvard law firm work. In that work, he took on corporations by using the law to defend people, just like Edwards. Here's one example:

Obama also wrote a major portion of an appeals brief on behalf of a whistleblower who exposed waste and corruption in a research project involving Cook County Hospital and the Hektoen Institute for Medical Research and alleged that she was fired in retaliation.

The case was settled out of court. The county agreed to pay the federal government $5 million, part of which went to the whistleblower, Dr. Janet Chandler. Hektoen agreed to pay $500,000 to the government plus $170,000 to Chandler for wrongful termination.

So Obama knows this beat pretty damn well, in fact. And he's fought the same interests you're talking about. The difference is that he's trying to not set up the same fights we've been having, fights which have a distressing way of getting caught up in the court system, or in the muck and mire of actually getting crap passed. Instead, he's slowly building up a coalition, a way of not just passing legislation, but of actually re-working the system to be more accountable to the people. And it's work he's been engaged in for most of his adult life, from what I can tell.
It's fair to say, as a criticism, that it's impossible. Yet I do not feel it's fair to say that he's not been involved, or part of the battle, and is thus naive as to the depths of corporate influence, and how to attack the issue at it's roots.

Please get the word out to the OFB

Heh. I have no power with them, or much of anyone. My account on Kos is very dusty, and indeed was gotten to respond to their request for a new software backend!
Nor would I claim the mantle of Diogenes, as honored as I am by the comparison. :) I do see a lot of...unwise commentary, from all ends, on the netroots (but far still better that the GOP's End Zone as represented by Freepers!)
I'm just a guy, with my own opinions about Obama's wisdom and viability -- and sometimes, I think he's an ijiot (but, then, so does Michelle, from what I'm told, so I'm in good company...). So I'm not the person to go have a "chat" with my fellow supporters, sadly.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

And I wanted to merge it with "The Eagle has landed."

In other words, after a seemingly fruitless quest, we finally found an informed, reasonable, non-hypnotized Obama supporter capable of seeing the pros and cons of his preferred candidate.

Just wish there were more at home like you.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

But, instead, he’s taking the long way ’round to disarming their power in Washington.

can any of you, even the 'good' ones, tell me he's the Man, and at the same time not try to explain his words to me, and make them seem what they're not?

you gave us some good links and sentiment, W. i am appreciative. but you've got to know- this line of thinking i see over and over with obama people.

as an edwards supporter, i'm fully aware and willing to plainly and specifically talk about his flaws. many flaws. why is it so many obama people only want to tell me, "no, that's not what he meant?"

i am not the first person to ask about this specific obama feature/bug. either i can take him at his word, or not. same applies to everyone, but seriously: how am i, an atheist and SS defender and person who believe literally no republican is worthy of a cabinet position, to understand the chatter coming from the obama camp today?

whatever it's worth, i'm not sorry to hear JE say, "troops out now. i was wrong about my war vote. corporations are the enemy." is obama saying that as clearly? that's what we are asking for here.