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Two Totally Unrelated Guys: Obama and Leo Strauss

chicago dyke's picture

These two stories have nothing to do with each other. Leo has fans.

In the last several months, the New York Times has run four pieces defending Leo Strauss from his critics. By comparison, the Times has run no pieces in which Strauss is actually criticized, which suggests an odd editorial posture. Indeed, the Times seems to have mounted a veritable campaign for the defense of the beleaguered Leo Strauss, which seems strange considering that he has been dead for over thirty years.

These pieces are remarkably consistent. For one, each turns the very serious criticism of Strauss and his relationship with the American Neoconservative movement into a point of ridicule. The criticism is grossly distorted and key elements are misstated. For another, they present Strauss as a “liberal democrat,” not in a domestic political context, but rather as a defender of the tradition of liberal democracy we associate with Locke, Hume and J.S. Mill.

And he wants to make new friends:

"There are some very capable Republicans who I have a great deal of respect for," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The opportunities are there to create a more effective relationship between parties."

Among the Republicans he would seek help from are Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana, John Warner of Virginia and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Obama said.

"On foreign policy I've worked very closely with Dick Lugar," Obama said. "I consider him one of my best friends in the Senate. He's someone I would actively seek counsel and advice from when it came to foreign policy."

"Senator Warner is another example of somebody with great wisdom, although I don't always agree with him on every issue," Obama said. "I would also seek out people like Tom Coburn, who is probably the most conservative member of the U.S. Senate. He has become a friend of mine."

Because when you're Up High where the air is Clear, things like "party affiliation" and "constitutional duty" are just words. Friendship, loyalty, to your fellow Overlord, that is--this is what Leadership is all about.

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

Because when you’re Up High were the air is Clear, things like “party affiliation” and “constitutional duty” are just words.

I'm convinced that Obama is functioning in some parallel fantasy universe where the 535 members of Congress are just like the University of Chicago Law School: Everybody gets along and all disagreements are civil and polite and there's no hard feelings. Unfortunately, his fellow law school faculty don't represent constituents in all 50 states and have competing interests.

Two recent events have pretty much soured me on Obama's potential to lead this country.

First is the revelation that he was initially considering voting in favor of Roberts' confirmation because he admired Roberts' intellect. The Washington Post reported recently that Obama was then talked out of considering voting for the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice because of considerations for Obama's political future:

"[Peter] 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."

According to the Post, Obama said if he were president he wouldn't want his judicial nominees opposed simply on ideological grounds. He was treating Roberts' nomination as some hypothetical situation. Never mind that Roberts had taken positions hostile to women’s reproductive rights and medical choice. Never mind that Roberts had a staunch record of hostility to civil rights. Obama liked his intellect and was willing to vote to confirm him. How could he be unwilling to consider the consequences of that vote? And those consequences were borne out when the Court decided Goodyear v. Ledbetter.

The second is Oprah's decision to get more involved in the campaign. I think celebrities are low information voters: I doubt Oprah, Spielberg, Streisand, Clooney or any of them could talk at length about a candidate's positions or voting record.

She's supporting him more as a friend and less because she objectively thinks he's the best candidate. On one level that's fine but she's not just any friend: What bothers me is that the people who watch her show and who read her magazine and anyone else who is influenced by what she says and does will substitute her judgment for their own. That does not contribute toward a more informed electorate.

Submitted by lambert on

I like Obama, and I like that he's intellectually honest, as you explain, but he's obviously not nearly seasoned enough. Sharper operators around him will take him for everything he's got, and more.

On another note, I heard Hillary on NPR this morning too. I'm really getting to dislike this new, authoritative voice she's developed. I think, in time, I could dislike it as much as Bush's, which is saying something.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

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

I really don't see much difference between Obama and Clinton at this point in the game. Only the really motivated people will sit down and compare their voting records, side by side.

I heard Hillary on NPR too. It didn't reassure me.

gmoke's picture
Submitted by gmoke on

Ms Winfrey lost my respect when she decided to devote an hour of her program to Arnold Schwarzenegger and her good friend Maria Shriver a week before the CA special gubernatorial election. I thought that was an unconsciounable act of favoritism and a misuse of her position and power. I suspect she will do the same for Obama and it will backfire on her. Oprah is due to be taken down. She's passed her popularity apogee and the public is about to discover her feet of clay as revealed by an ever-rabid media swarm.

Tinfoil Hat Boy's picture
Submitted by Tinfoil Hat Boy on

What are you sgmoking? She's as popular as ever, has a great brand, devotes herself to many great causes (some of which I'm willing to bet you would agree with), has hosted people like Frank Rich who absolutely trashed Bush, and it is refreshing that she's at least willing to put her name behind something without G fucking OP behind it. She's no O'Reilly.

I hated the whole fawning over the Schwarzeneggers. I don't see backing Obama as the same thing, but then again, I like Obama despite his hateful love for Republicans.

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

to be a reassuring, nonthreatening, agrees with white middle class people on everything, rich, token, marshmellow issue-raiser, given great power by those who truly make certain decisions, who frequently evokes strong sentiment in a large number, but never takes on anything that could rock the social order.

and she's great at that!

Tinfoil Hat Boy's picture
Submitted by Tinfoil Hat Boy on

I am not an Oprah watcher, but anytime I have bashed Oprah, I have gotten an earful from Mrs. THB.

Here's the thing: with great power comes great responsibility. It would appear that Al Gore gets that. And John Edwards.

I'm trying to think of other celebs/politicians who have advocated powerfully for the right sorts of things. No, she is not calling for withdrawal in Iraq (to my knowledge) nor is she shouting about the destruction of our Constitution. Ahead of her on those fronts might be Bill Moyers, Krugman, Olberman. Nobody else comes to mind. Molly Ivins used to be on the list. Froomkin.

Anywho, Oprah has a bigger platform than any of them, and a wider audience, too. She could "rock the social order" no doubt.

But she has advocated for victims of AIDS, victims of Katrina; has had lengthy interviews with Michael Moore, Obama, and Frank Rich.

Of course we want her to do more - but should she really be the target of our circular firing squad?

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead