Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Obama watch

Barack Obama spoke in New York yesterday, taking the opportunity also to meet with big potential donors. Assuming that he runs, there’s really little or no room for anyone other than HRC in the Democratic field. I suppose that someone could pick up the pieces after a "Mutually Assured Destruction" nuclear exchange between Obama and Clinton, but thus far they’ve been careful not to confront one another directly.

In any event, both can’t occupy the "center" of the Democratic Party; it will be interesting to see who will be first in attacking the other’s left flank.

Update: Here’s Obama’s disarming World AIDS Day speech, delivered at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. A representative passage:

Like no other illness, AIDS tests our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes - to empathize with the plight of our fellow man. While most would agree that the AIDS orphan or the transfusion victim or the wronged wife contracted the disease through no fault of their own, it has too often been easy for some to point to the unfaithful husband or the promiscuous youth or the gay man and say "This is your fault. You have sinned."


I don’t think that’s a satisfactory response. My faith reminds me that we all are sinners.


My faith also tells me that - as Pastor Rick has said - it is not a sin to be sick. My Bible tells me that when God sent his only Son to Earth, it was to heal the sick and comfort the weary; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; to befriend the outcast and redeem those who strayed from righteousness.


Living His example is the hardest kind of faith - but it is surely the most rewarding. It is a way of life that can not only light our way as people of faith, but guide us to a new and better politics as Americans.


For in the end, we must realize that the AIDS orphan in Africa presents us with the same challenge as the gang member in South Central, or the Katrina victim in New Orleans, or the uninsured mother in North Dakota.


We can turn away from these Americans, and blame their problems on themselves, and embrace a politics that’s punitive and petty, divisive and small.


Or we can embrace another tradition of politics - a tradition that has stretched from the days of our founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another - and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.

Note the way he blends the spiritual and the pragmatic, the philanthropic and the governmental. Someone is going to have to make an extraordinary effort to pin him down.

Update #2: E.J. Dionne, Jr., predictably,
gushes all over the AIDS speech, but doesn’t seem to see how it’s possible to work with a politician on one issue, but not vote for him. Evangelicals, even conservative ones, don’t have to be single-issue voters, but being pro-choice and voting down distinguished Supreme Court nominees, most likely largely for abortion-related reasons (are there any others in judicial nominations these days?), are rather substantial barriers to support.

Discussions - 25 Comments

A group of conservative Christian leaders objected to Rick Warren having Obama at his church because he is pro-choice. I hope those same leaders remember that if a pro-choice Republican gets the nomination. Let’s hope their objection isn’t that he is a pro-choice Democrat instead of just pro-choice. I say that as someone who hopes Christian leaders will refuse to endorse a Republican pro-choice nominee.


I saw Obama on Jay Leno on Friday. I was impressed. He is really quite smooth. He was funny, he was self-deprecating, and he was good with small talk. He reminded me of Clinton in a way. Able to carry on a conversation like a normal person without it just being about politics.


The problem for him that I see, is that his "Can’t we all just get along? We need less partisanship. Can’t we all just set down at the table and do what is best for the country? We are really in fundamental agreement on what we want; we just differ on how we get there. Our shared values...blah, blah, blah..." shtick is only going to take him so far. As appealing as that is to the average minimally concerned about politics average voter, at some point he will have to get more specific, and when he does he will be revealed as the cookie cutter liberal that he really is.


Only a liberal can play the "let’s cut the partisanship" card because the "shared values" they are talking about are always liberal. You guys just quit being disagreeable and consent to my grand schemes. (Which is what conservatives generally do anyway.)


Not a popular opinion, but what Washington desperately needs is more clear divisions. Instead of "you want to grow program X by 10%, and I want to grow it by 5%," we need "you want to grow program X by 10%, and I want to abolish it."

The most serious issue of our time, the most serious issue confronting the whole world since the fall of the Iron Curtain, is the rise of jihadist islam, the war that GW inaccurately calls the war on terror. But this guy talks about everything BUT the great civilizational war going on. Thus I submit to you that Barack Hussein Obama is a lightweight, junior varsity, a well-spoken drone, with nothing to offer on the most serious issue of our time. How is it possible for a politician in the midst of this great and cataclysmic collision of cultures and civilizations, to remain completely silent on that war. It’s as if the war didn’t exist for Hussein Obama.

I almost never post on irrelevant issues, Obama is precisely the opposite, he never speaks on serious issues. He shows up on Oprah and discusses truancy. And people actually deem this guy a heavyweight. I don’t have any respect for Hillary, but at least she’s spoken about the war. At least she said that if Tehran gets the bomb, the very structure of Western security would be "shattered to its foundations." I don’t think Hillary has anything to worry about from another non-entity in the Senate. Recall McCain’s letter to Hussein Obama, where he just said "you’re all mouth, no action." He saw through that fraud in about a nanosecond. That’s the type of ability you’re likely to get, when you spent a good chunk of your life in the Hanoi Hilton. You acquire an ability to cut to the chase.

Obama is intimidating, he’s just so freakin’ slick. However, I think his greatness weakness will be security. The "why can’t we all just get along" attitude that let Clinton slip in (to which Mr. Phillips alluded) isn’t going to work for Mr. Obama with a nuclear Iran on the table. Hillary, of course, has been tirelessly working to portray herself as tough on security. It will certainly be an interesting race.

Dan’s post wasn’t up when I typed mine, but it looks like we agree: Obama has too much Slick Willy in him to convince the American people he has what it takes to keep NYC from turning into a HAZMAT zone.

Obama is surely weak on national security policy, though I wouldn’t draw that conclusion on the basis of this speech, which was, of course, about World AIDS Day. Still, if he’s going to be credible (not the same as electable) on national security policy, he’s going to have to do better than this, but perhaps not better than this.

"Hussein Obama?" That is over the edged Dan. (But if you are going to be that way, why not call him Osama Obama? It illiterates so well. You will be the Dan Jackson of mindless “conservative” saber rattling.) I’m not suggesting that Obama does, but one could recognize the problems with Islam without thinking the best way to solve it is attacking Iraq. That is a false dichotomy. I actually think the Universalist rhetoric of the pro-war crowd is part of the problem, not part of the solution.


But back to Obama. "My faith also tells me that - as Pastor Rick has said - it is not a sin to be sick. My Bible tells me that when God sent his only Son to Earth, it was to heal the sick and comfort the weary; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; to befriend the outcast and redeem those who strayed from righteousness. Living His example is the hardest kind of faith - but it is surely the most rewarding. It is a way of life that can not only light our way as people of faith, but guide us to a new and better politics as Americans." That is pure social gospel. He managed to leave out the important little detail that God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. There is nothing objectionable about what Obama said, but it is what he didn’t say that is illuminating. Such is always the case with the theological liberal.


But this is enlightening also. "Or we can embrace another tradition of politics - a tradition that has stretched from the days of our founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another - and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.


Some of us have been saying on here recently, some more forcefully than others, that that way of thinking is the fundamental problem with neoconservatism, and hence why neoconservatism is a form of liberalism. That it is dedicated to a "proposition" instead of to the maintenance, dare I say conservation, of a particular people/culture/society.

Who the hell’s going to vote for anyone named Barack Hussein Obama? I mean, it’s ridiculous. It’s an enemy name. It’d be like voting for someone named Fujimoto during WWII. Circulate a few pictures of him with a dishtowel on his head and it’ll be all over.

Dan P., I can’t call him Osama Obama, because Teddy Kennedy beat me to it. But I threw in the Hussein Obama to get a rise. Rest assured, if Obama SERIOUSLY tries to wrest the nomination from Hillary, he’s going to get hit with far more than "Hussein Obama," For my part, I have no problem playing political hardball, I recall talk about Mario Cuomo’s quest for the Presidency, and hearing some Southerner on television laugh at loud at the prospect, dismissing him by saying: "Oh yea, Americans are really going to turn to somebody named MARIO for the Presidency." The guy broke up laughing just thinking about it. And when you think about it, that guy had an accurate take on the American electorate. He didn’t give any credence to the "Mario Scenario."

But this is tangential to the thread. Regarding Hussein Obama, other than demonstrating his skill at moving upwards through the Democrat party ranks, what has he demonstrated? Sure, he’s articulate. But articulate about what? He speaks to no effect, words come out of his mouth, but do those words clarify, signify, demonstrate. Listening to him is time wasted. You would spend your time better by playing a flight sim on your computer. Contrast him to Gingrich for instance. Gingrich is almost PHYSIOLOGICALLY INCAPABLE of opening his mouth without speaking substantively on substantive topics.

You know, if you write a love letter, then you write of love, of the woman of your desire. If you aspire to be a statesman, shouldn’t you occasionally speak of the affairs of state. Wouldn’t that be seemly. In fact, isn’t it somewhat unnatural for Hussein Obama to continue to ignore the most serious issue of our time. I’m still waiting for obama to say something that catches my attention.

Somebody fire me an email when he finally does, will ya.

It’s true, Hussein is his middle name. If he gets the nomination, his full name ought to show up on every single piece of campaign material that the Republicans put out. Remember 9/11!

I heard somewhere that Obama is Saddam Hussein’s second cousin. I think it was on Bill OReilly.

Wasn’t the 12th Imam named Obama?

Obama isn’t interesting. He’s simply a standard liberal ideologue who speaks in a slightly different idiom. People like him for one of two reasons. One, he can neutralize or even win the support of certain normally conservative voters through a combination of race, style, and rhetoric. Two, he holds out the false hope that deadly serious differences between the parties can be transcended. There is a powerful temptation to evade our problems rather than solve them, which is always hard and painful. Obamamania reflects this.

Reminder: He voted against the appointment of Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court. The next president (and Senate) is likely to have at least two Supreme Court appointments, if those do not open up in the next two years. Here’s what Obama said at the Janice Brown hearings: "I do not expect the President to appoint many judges of my liking. . . . there is only one sure way to make sure Democrats are able to block what they consider to be bad judges, and that is to win elections."

Well, Joe tried to open, and sustain, an intelligent conversation. So it goes.

For what it’s worth, my view is that 2008 is much too early for Obama. He knows that, I’m sure. So his activity now is about something else: experience on the national stage, exposure, eventually party fund-raising.

For what it’s worth, my view is that 2008 is much too early for Obama. He knows that, I’m sure. So his activity now is about something else: experience on the national stage, exposure, eventually party fund-raising.

I agree. Obama is a novelty right now. I doubt he’d survive under the withering lights of presidential race scrutiny. In one sense he’s not much different from John Edwards -- a pretty face, smooth on his feet, but a resume that’s a bit short of presidential value.

Now, if Obama was a two term Senator who’d spent time as a governor somewhere ... that would create a different dynamic. But he has none of that. I see little evidence America would follow through and actually pull the lever for someone like that.

Joe - You say Dionne "gushes all over" Obama’s AIDS speech. But in fact, Dionne says very little about the content, concerning himself mostly with the invitation and the occasion. Dionne gushes over them, it’s true. Maybe I don’t get what you mean.

Sorry to be ditto-man here, but Dan Phillips’ third paragraph in comment nails a very basic problem. Clinton had Clinton-style, but he also had New Democrat policies. Not to mention Arkansas experience, both in governing and in campaigning. What does Obama have? And Steve Thomas is correct about it being too early, although its beginning appear Obama doesn’t have the wisdom to resist those urging him to run anyhow.

Carl Scott - You refer to Dan Phillips’ third paragraph (in #7 above), and agree with his assessment - that to the extent Obama’s ideal of community might appeal to some conservatives, they are just liberals without acknowledging it. That is, Obama’s "tradition" is universalistic and does not put the emphasis on a "particular people/culture/society." For the rest, you don’t say whether you agree with Dan Phillips’ objections to "social gospel" theology.

Is this the consensus view among conservatives, this rejection of Obama’s view of the "tradition"?

Steve,

You’re right, he gushes more over the invitation than the speech, but certainly gushes over the speech as well.

For what it’s worth, I wrote about Obama’s religion speech last summer.

There is something else to ponder. Hillary wants the nomination, but she needs somebody to be a foil, somebody to beat so as to look respectable. She doesn’t want, nor does the party want it to appear that because she is the wife of Slick, that all other candidates were maneuvered out of the way. She wants candidates who really are just auditioning to be on the ticket. I don’t think she would select Hussein for the ticket, because she has that particular constituency sown up. And were she to select somebody who may, or may not be a muslim, it would destroy her candidacy. No, she is likely to select someone NOT from Washington, a Governor for instance, and it would be helpful if that person were Hispanic. Thus I suspect that Richardson is on the very short, very, very short list.

However, I must confess, for purposes of honesty and candor, that IF Hussein Obama could hook me up with some of the Victoria Secret’s models, perhaps Adriana Lima...., THEN, THEN, I’ll cease referring to him as Hussein Obama, reconsider my conclusion that he is a fraud, reconsider my position that I’m a member of the GOP, and perhaps place some early placards supporting his candidacy on my front lawn.

For the record, Dan and Dan Phillips are not the same.


I was hoping my comment in #7 might generate some comments as well.
Obama does seem a little green, but I’m not sure that is what will sack his candidacy, if something does.

Oops! Steve, I mean to say Dan Phillips’ third paragraph of the first comment. I’m not really sure what Mr. Phillips objects to in the boldface stuff about the glory days of the civil rights movement, and the mention of us all being dedicated to (by implication) political equality, and as Obama adds explicitly, to the idea of fraternity--"having a stake in one another. I’m down with all of that, so long as we understand fraternity in a sensible (i.e., not Jacobin) manner, a la Carey McWilliams’ The Idea of Fraternity in America. And as I’m droppin’ book titles, my favorite door-stop size biography is the first volume of Taylor Branchs’ MLK trilogy, Parting the Waters , precisely it is loaded with genuine glory, of the sort that should inspire any real Christian or democrat. It’s less about King than an entire movement, but the later volumes reveal more of King’s unheroic aspects, the sheer ugliness that often is American politics, and the more ambiguous sides of the Civil Rights movmement. So yeah, Obama and I could sit down together and gush about King’s heroism in Birmingham, etc.

Unlike Mr. Phillips, (see comment 7’s last paragraph) I see no reason why Americans need to choose b/t their dedication to the proposition of the Gettysburg Address, and their devotion to the conservation of the (mixed but nonetheless distinctive)American way of life, including all those elements that trace to English and European sources. I don’t have an intrinsic problem with the U.S. population obtaining a La Raza Latte complexion over time, so long as it happens over a long time, and with respect for rule of law and democratic majorities, and so long as all Washington’s children, "Red and Yellow, Black and White," acquire genuine civic education in the thought of our Founders, and maintain a common culture that’s more than TV-provided. I am for American multiculturalism, which ethnically has more to do with slavery, Indians, Mexico, and our various wars than it does with "We Are the World," and which culturally has to do with North, South, regionalism, city, suburb, country, Red, Blue, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Unitarian, Mormon, Pentecostal, and California Buddhist. Lovers of American multiculturalism, even liberal ones, might well be for big-ass fences and against more immigrants with names like Hussein. Give them a Mario or even an Barak who really is dedicated to the American understanding of natural rights, and they won’t laugh at all.

Carl Scott - Sorry I misunderstood.

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