Reminder: There’s No Actual Office for “President of the Left”

Apparently some Obama supporters are shocked and appalled to discover that now that he’s out of the primaries, their man is running to be the President of all the people in the United States, not just the people in the United States who have the “Yes We Can” YouTube video bookmarked on their Web browser. Well, you know: Surprise, people. For example, Obama’s supporting an extension, with significant caveats, of some of the faith-oriented policies started by Bush, has gotten a lot of folks spun up. But from where I stand it makes perfect sense.

1. Many evangelicals are disenchanted with the GOP, and young evangelicals in particular seem to be coloring outside the lines, politically speaking, more and more these days. Splintering off young evangelicals, perhaps on a permanent basis, would be like cutting off the GOP’s fuel supply for future elections, given that the evangelicals have been in the tank for the GOP for at least three decades. Even just putting them into play on a regular basis means the GOP has to fight (and use money to fight) for a demographic it took for granted just a single presidential election cycle ago.

2. It’s an act of political ball-cutting. There’s nowhere on Obama’s political agenda that McCain wants to go, because the GOP base is already horrified that the man is not conservative enough for them. But Obama has some room to snack on elements of McCain’s potential agenda, and in doing so make an appeal to voters (and not just those noted in the first point) that McCain’s people probably thought they wouldn’t have to fight for. Whether Obama gets those voters is immaterial to the fact that for the relatively low cost of giving a speech on the subject of faith-based programs, he’s just committed McCain to spending a lot of time and money to keep them in his camp.

3. There are still places in the United States — some which I can see right out my window, thank you very much — where there lives a significant number of people who are under the impression Barack Obama is a Islamicist mole whose first act as president will be to suicide bomb himself in the Oval Office. Obama is many things, but “dumb” isn’t one of them. If he simply denies or tries to ignore the “Obama will fly a plane into a building” meme, it’ll fester. If he offers a substantive example of an actual policy that counteracts that meme, he’s got a tool he can use to beat it, or at least beat it down.

4. The is the part where I’m confused that people haven’t figured this out yet: Obama clearly doesn’t just want to win, folks. He wants to win big. We’re talking about Super Bowl blowout big. Spanish-American War big. Friends vs. whatever the hell was on TV against Friends big. 400+ electoral votes big. He wants a generational vote, like Reagan had in 1980 — and given the abysmal standing of the GOP and the sitting president at the moment, it’s entirely possible he can get it with a little outreach and some strategic tacking to the center.

The folks who are currently braying about how Obama is where is he is right now because he didn’t swing toward the center are somewhat disingenuously forgetting how well Clinton did in the last few Democratic primaries, appealing to more conservative Democratic voters. Remember how the primaries went all the way to the end? Yes, good times, good times. Anyway, those folks can conveniently forget the lessons of the last few Democratic primaries; Obama really can’t, and apparently hasn’t.

5. Obama’s probably also aware that he’s got the left in the tank. Some folks on the left were goofy enough in 2000 to think that voting for, say, Nader, wouldn’t make a huge difference in the end, so why not make a cute little protest vote. Here in 2008, anyone on the left who isn’t planning to pull a lever for Obama probably has congenital brain damage. Seriously, there is unlikely to be another chance for the left to so definitively remake the political map as it has this year, if the folks on the left simply don’t lose their shit at the idea of Obama trying to widen his margin of victory, the better to make the case that his election represents a major shift in US politics.

Now, I’m a firm believer in never discounting the Democratic party’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory; I’m still appalled at the incompetence of the Kerry campaign in 2004 and for that matter, the bad strategy of the Gore campaign in 2000, which involved separating their man from the most popular president in recent history. In this case I think the people involved in the presidential campaign are doing pretty smart things, and it might be the other folks who blow it.

To them I would suggest that they consider that the Obama campaign is paying them a compliment, in that they are making the (not necessarily self-evident) assumption that they’re all smart enough to realize that tacking toward the center in the campaign is going to pay huge dividends for the left when at the end of the 2008 election it finds itself in charge of the executive and legislative branches, and finds itself in a position to fill two or possibly even three seats on the Supreme Court in the next four years, and possibly in the bargain create a sturdy new left-leaning political base that lasts as long as the GOP base that Reagan used as a foundation three decades ago. I guess we’ll see if that compliment pays off.

Personally speaking I’m not hugely thrilled with every move Obama has made recently; I don’t like the continuation of the faith-based office that much (which should not be a huge surprise), although my real ire is for his position on the FISA “compromise” bill which will hopefully die in the Senate sometime next week. On the other hand, I have strong suspicions that President Obama would nominate to the high court the sort of judges that would see the FISA “compromise” bill as fundamentally unconstitutional, and in the meantime his positioning deprives the right-wing shouty chorus of some oxygen during his presidential campaign.

Which is to say that I’m fundamentally unsurprised to discover that Barack Obama, who has been in politics for a number of years, is a politician. And a politician who wants to win as big as he can.

117 thoughts on “Reminder: There’s No Actual Office for “President of the Left”

  1. And does that also apply to his pledge to end the DoJ oversight of the teamsters? A pledge which seems to be
    a) illegal in that the president doesn’t have the authority to do this
    b) incredibly stupid unless you actually like having a union in bed with the mafia
    c) an action resembling that of a typical corrupt politician not an inspirational agent for change

    Links if you don’t know what I’m talking about
    (left)

    http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=6e55fd8c-4774-4a3c-ae00-e2004369fbec

    (right wingnut) http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives2/2008/07/020889.php

  2. I suppose most people naivély think that, because he’s so charismatic and new to Washington, that he’s just the new leader of the left. They think he can win by just being him, instead of doing the usual political things.

    I think it’ll be really interesting to see what he does -after- he gets elected, because there’s always that disconnect between what you know when you’re campaigning and when you actually step into office and are presented with all the information the president knows.

    Also, typo, second to last sentence: “President Omaba”

  3. FrancisT:

    So you’re saying a politician has offered a pledge to try to do something he may not actually be able to do in order to satisfy a key constituency? Shocked, I am, shocked.

    I think you may have missed the point where I said I was unsurprised Obama is a politician.

    Sean L:

    Fixed the typo. Thanks.

  4. Obama also has realized that the 2010 census and reapportionment are on the way. So Democratic pick-ups at the state level will affect the federal balance of power. That’s presumably why he’s putting staff/money (and ideological capital) into no-win places like Texas. Being a Dem presidential candidate who doesn’t drag down the state reps and senators in conservative states will help create and maintain majorities for the next decade.

    This guy is not only smart, he plans really far ahead. Which is, by the way, the definition of a statesmen: someone who thinks of the next generation as much as the next election.

  5. John,

    The problem with your position is that Obama’s entire campaign is premised on the idea that he is somehow not a politician. Hope, change, unity, etc…

    He is supposed to be new and different in a generational way.

    The discovery that he is just a politician from the south side of Chicago with all the baggage that that entails is causing some of the kool aid drinkers to come to their senses.

    Also you are soft selling the staggering number of things that he has changed his position on. He hasn’t just tacked to the center on FISA, he has sold out on almost everything. Gun control, campaign finance, gay marriage, Capital punishment, Iraq, townhall meetings, meeting with foreign thugs, lapel pins, his church, etc… The list of campaign advisors and friends that he has had to throw under the bus is also reaching relevant numbers. The reason he is still up in the polls is because his supporters believe that he is lying and that he will tack back hard left if he is elected.

    In fact you say as much in this post. Obama comes out and says he is in favor of the Heller decision. His base gives him a pass because he has also said that he will appoint justices who would have sided with the minority in that case. Ditto for the death penalty/rape case. He says the court got it wrong, but it was decided by the judges he likes and who he wants to give a bigger majority to.

    Despite McCain being the worst possible GOP nominee, this election will be very close.

  6. drew:

    “The discovery that he is just a politician from the south side of Chicago with all the baggage that that entails is causing some of the kool aid drinkers to come to their senses.”

    I of course wouldn’t typify him as “just a politician from the south side of Chicago,” unless you want to name other Chicago politicians that have made it into the presidential race (hint: there are none). He is in fact a remarkable politician from the south side of Chicago.

    That said, yes, the sooner folks understand that politics involves politics, the better off they’ll be.

    Also, I think you’re missing the point about his “unity” theme; in his case I suspect unity is meant to encompass more than the left.

    “Despite McCain being the worst possible GOP nominee, this election will be very close.”

    I doubt that. But we shall see. That’s why they have the actual elections.

  7. “And now parting on the right has become parting on the left and the beards have grown much longer overnight”

    Dude, they’re “ALL” politicians so get on your knees and pray…

  8. And none of that changes anything, John.

    First, I disagree, quite strongly, that he’s had to do some of the things he’s done. Deciding the Fourth Amendment didn’t matter so much, for example… that really wasn’t playing well with the populace in general, and the ability to say “John McCain wants to put AMERICAN LIVES AT RISK in order to PROTECT LAW-BREAKING TELEPHONE COMPANIES FROM FINES” does. Or so the poll numbers I’ve seen seem to indicate. (The sources are biased, however, so other polls may give different results.)

    Second: yeah, he’s got my vote. That doesn’t mean I have to approve of his stance — it just means I think he’s better than the other guy. It also doesn’t mean I have to give him any more money. He’s made a very reasoned decision here: attempt to get more votes from the right-wing nutjobs who’ve been supporting the worst president in history, at the expense of pissing off his early supporters. That’s his choice to make; it doesn’t mean I have to like it, and it certainly doesn’t mean I have to endorse it.

    I said this elsewhere: I am completely unsurprised that he made a decision that annoyed me. I am completely unsurprised that it may have been done for political expediency. I am surprised it happened over this, but that doesn’t change the fact that I knew it would happen.

    You blew off a comment I made in another post by saying “Yeah, well, life isn’t fair.” That’s true. And not particularly relevant: life may not be fair, but that doesn’t mean I should stop complaining about the unfairness, or even just pointing it out when I see it. And the fact that Obama is a politician doesn’t mean I shouldn’t object, loudly and often, to anything he does that I disagree with.

  9. Re: MikeB:

    I should note that I don’t regard being a “politician” as an inherently disreputable thing. As with any gig there are good and bad aspects to it.

    Sean Eric Fagan:

    “And the fact that Obama is a politician doesn’t mean I shouldn’t object, loudly and often, to anything he does that I disagree with.”

    You are quite obviously free to bitch and moan and complain as you like, Sean. I don’t think that’s in dispute. I do think it’s worth recognizing that there’s arguable value in what he’s doing, for his long-term goals. My point is I think people forget he has to be president for everyone in the country, and that he also wants to reach out them and make them feel comfortable with the idea.

  10. I find the news coverage of this appalling, because it’s grossly distorting the actual position. Obama specifically said he would end BushCo’s policies on faith-based organizations – no religious litmus test to receive services, no taxpayer money for evangelizing, no hiring and firing based on religion for the programs receiving tax money. He simply said he could not tell these organizations who to hire and fire in the parts of their programs not receiving taxpayer money. That is, in itself, constitutional. Just as church is not supposed to tell state what to do, state is not supposed to tell church what to do.

    And while every story quotes the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State as being “disappointed,” they leave out the rest of the public statement, where they praise Obama for all of the above and congratulate him for ending those highly unconstitutional policies.

    Politically smart, yes. Also shows a respect for the Constitution we haven’t seen in a very long time. It has the bonus of being brave, which is something we also haven’t seen for a very long time. I haven’t drunk the Kool-aid, but I’m still quite impressed.

  11. To true, for sure. Like used car salesmen and religious leaders there are perceptions that are hard to shake. One hopes that those who actually get to vote for the next President of the United States bear in mind the essential difference between appearance and reality.

  12. Personally, I find the idea of such an egregious violation of the separation of church and state that faith based programs are to be repulsive.

    But, I’m writing this from the most secular city in the most secular province of Canada, so I’ll just chalk this up to cultural difference and ignore it so long as it stays in your back yard (and you don’t start executing people over it).

  13. My point is I think people forget he has to be president for everyone in the country

    The current one certainly isn’t, so I don’t know why you think he has to be.

    there’s arguable value in what he’s doing

    And there’s arguable risk. As I said, he’s certainly made it clear to me he doesn’t need my monetary support any longer. That’s the cost he’s paid for it. Saying “life is unfair” or “he’s a politician” doesn’t change that — it is, in fact, a part of it.

    And the cost of lying to your supporters is that they get mad, and vocal, and you lose some support.

  14. It’s still disappointing. I mean, we’re all adults and we know that Obama isn’t going to lead us into the shining future of Socialism, but there was so much hope.

    The last couple weeks have been hard for me to get as enthusiastic about Obama. The FISA thing, faith based speech, the public financing thing. It adds up.

    Don’t get me wrong, I could see video of him eating puppies and I’d still vote for him over McCain, but I’ve been somewhat disillusioned.

    I heard some good commentary a while ago that we’ve projected so much on Obama, he won’t be able to do anything but disappoint. I’m guessing I am in that stage now.

  15. Sean Eric Fagan:

    “The current one certainly isn’t, so I don’t know why you think he has to be.”

    Unfortunately, not only is this statement factually wrong (check the Constitution), I also consider it pretty damn clueless. The fact that Bush has lead from the extreme right is the reason the US is in the position it’s in at the moment and why things are as polarized and divisive as they are. And it’s also destroyed the right in this country; check the polls. Obama could certainly try to rule wholly from the left, but he’d be stupid to do so, no smarter than Bush is. Now maybe that’s sufficient for some; I prefer to think that who I vote for will have more sense than that.

    “And there’s arguable risk.”

    Not as much, I suspect, as you appear to think there is, as I noted in the entry. I think the opportunity here outweighs the risk by a considerable margin. And you don’t win without risk.

    As I said, do as you will. But as I said, being surprised that a politician running for president runs differently in the general election than he does in the primaries is at the very least an act of naivety. People should have understood tacking toward the center was coming.

    Sean:

    “I heard some good commentary a while ago that we’ve projected so much on Obama, he won’t be able to do anything but disappoint. I’m guessing I am in that stage now.”

    Indeed. Lots of folks are, apparently. Either one deals with it, or one doesn’t. Most people, I think, will learn to deal with it.

  16. He’s going to do that when he’s running for President, B. Dewhirst?

    No?

    Then it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the discussion at hand. But thanks for playing.

  17. I realized I’m coming across awfully confrontational, and apologise. And my complaints with Obama have nothing to do with the “faith based” thing you mention, as you can probably get from my comments :).

    I do, however, disagree with the way you seem to dismiss complaints people have about Obama’s tacking to the right. The title alone — “There’s No Actual Office For ‘President of the Left'” — implies chastisement for any on the left who are upset. Such as myself ;).

    In the past week, Obama has broken his promise about FISA, and “rejected” factual statements from Clark (how do you reject a factual statement?) — lending support to Clark’s critics — and now this. Given the headlines, is it any wonder people already annoyed with his actions have over-reacted?

  18. I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from the movie “Red October”:
    I’m a politician, which means I’m a cheat and a liar, and when I’m not kissin’ babies I’m stealin’ their lollipops.

    *nods* Politician.

    What cheeses me off so much is that he had begun to sound like a statesman, which gave so many of us so much hope….. and then he ups and steals our lollipops trust….

  19. John,

    Obama has been taking his rhetoric to some fairly outlandish places in his attempt to claim that he is not a politician. Remember this gem from his speech in ST. Paul ?

    “we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”

    This guy is going to “heal” the planet.

    How about the speech in Oregon where he claimed to see dead people?

    Your admonition that he is a mere politician is blasphemy.

  20. Sean,

    Does the phrase cutting off your nose to spite your face mean anything to you?

    It’s an imperfect world. But the simple fact is that he’s our last best hope. I’m not happy with this at all. But to withdraw support and start being vocal in opposition to him ? Now? Seriously? Politics is the art of the possible. How does your position result in anything positive happening? All it does is increase the chance of McCain getting elected. Playing black and white absolute games at this point is just plain stupid.

  21. Part (not all, I’m sure) of the reason that Bush has “lead from the right” is that the left never conceded that he’d won the elections, and so the campaign had to continue.

    All humans are politicians. Some of them get paid for being so.

  22. Sean Eric Fagan:

    To be sure, I’m not dismissing these complaints, since I note in the article that I have them myself, particularly regarding FISA. I am looking at the context for them, which is a presidential election. The context makes my tolerance somewhat higher. I think other folks do need to factor in the context as well.

    Technoshaman:

    “What cheeses me off so much is that he had begun to sound like a statesman”

    Sure. But I suspect he’s thinking he’ll have a better chance to do statesman-like things if he gets elected.

    Note well that I’m not saying that a general election is a carte blanche to say anything to anyone just to get elected. I think there’s an actual point at which things simply become shameless. I’m not convinced we’re anywhere near that point, however.

    htom:

    “Part (not all, I’m sure) of the reason that Bush has ‘lead from the right’ is that the left never conceded that he’d won the elections, and so the campaign had to continue.”

    Bush showing up for work in the actual Oval Office should have been his first clue that he no longer had to campaign, htom. Bush lead from the right because he never had any intention of doing anything other.

    drew:

    “Your admonition that he is a mere politician is blasphemy.”

    Wouldn’t be the first time I was accused of that.

  23. Obama hasn’t stolen my trust. He’s in the midst of a process. He’s employing strategy. On half of these issues he hasn’t even actually done anything yet (FISA vote hasn’t happened…), but still people react with knee-jerk outrage which is just the way of the world (at least parts of the online world) these days. I suspect he said what he said to gauge the reaction because he knew the actual vote wouldn’t happen for a week or so. Maybe that’s giving him too much credit but from the way he’s run this campaign so far, through the primaries and onward, I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch. The FISA issue does concern me, and I did send a comment to the campaign about it, but I just don’t see the value in making absolute statements like “he just lost my vote” or “he lost my trust” when the issue isn’t resolved yet. But that’s just my position.

    It’s quite interesting to witness this election, and I’m already imagining the volumes of analysis 30 years or so down the road (beyond the blatherings of wholly partisan “analysis” that are already on the market). Like it or not, we are living in interesting times. I still have hope that it’ll all work out, and I’m reserving my judgement for Obama’s concrete actions rather than his campaign feints.

  24. “I’m a firm believer in never discounting the Democratic party’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory…”

    Well put. The Democratic Party is the Minnesota Vikings of politics. I’m a big fan of both, and they both keep breakin’ my heart.

  25. Yeah remember when Barack wanted to unite the country and be a centrist? He had the last 6 monhts to prove why he’s good for the democrats, so now he’s got to prove it to the rest of the country.

    Speaking of Nader, I had some Nader-ite aproach me on the Metro to sign some pledge or something. Gaaaah. Has anyone figured out which side benefits from Nader’s vote splitting?

  26. As I was explaining to the Spousal Equivalent last night, I’ll still vote for Obama–he aligns much closer to me politically than does McCain–but I’m not mustering up the kind of enthusiasm I had a few weeks ago. I understand what John’s saying, and I agree: they all do it. That doesn’t make me rest any easier, trying to decide which specific group he might be pandering to when a law needs to be enacted.

    My brain says he’s still the best choice. It’s the heart that gins up the enthusiasm, and he appealed to people’s hearts by making a big deal about being different. The more he behaves like a typical politician, the less his emotional appeal, even if the brain knows it’s necessary, and traditional.

  27. John,

    Fantastic analysis. And, imho, the fact that he’s running a 50-state campaign (preparing for the future, as you said in your post) is what proves him a statesman.

    I share your concerns on the FISA vote. However, Obama has also said that in his first 100 days he would work with his Attorney General to rescind the Bush regime’s signing statements and other orders that violate the Constitution. Overall, I remain impressed with his strong commitment to our civil rights.

    As for his supposedly switching positions – he has publicly declared his opposition to California’s anti-marriage amendment. He didn’t have to be public about that, but he took that stand. As for other issues, unlike the current idiot-in-chief, Obama as proven that he will actually change his positions as the facts change – imagine! I remain shocked that people will criticize him for doing the kind of thing that they rightfully criticize Bush for being unwilling and unable to do.

    Obama also has a long history of saying things that are not exactly popular with the audiences with whom he has been speaking. He did that in the primaries and he’s doing it now. That’s what we call “leadership,” folks – a willingness and ability to take stands based on what will actually work, not just what plays well to your base.

    Ok, done ranting now.

  28. I think it’s fascinating that very few media outlets are noting that Obama’s first political forays were as a community organizer, which, in northern Illinois (where I’m from) and Chicago (where he’s from) means working within established institutions that have strong faith foundations. So he’s actually harking back to his roots, and acknowledging that faith-based organizations often have ties to communities, and that community power matters. For him to disavow the value and power of those community faith organizations would be startling, and definitely out of line with what he’s said and done in the past.

  29. Terrific analysis, as usual, and I extend that to your commenter as well. But just to dampen the (barely-perceptible) echo a bit:

    …anyone on the left who isn’t planning to pull a lever for Obama probably has congenital brain damage.

    Fixed that for you, no charge.

    I kid, because you’re demonstrably big enough to take a little kidding. Also, it’s low hanging fruit.

  30. Pious,

    I read that just as my phone started playing Insanity by Oingo Boingo at me. Given the last eight years how anybody can think that is beyond me.

  31. Hear hear!

    I don’t like Obama’s FISA thoughts, but like someone else said: he hasn’t DONE anything yet. So I’m waiting (unlike the hungry media and the bored bloggers) to see what he actually ends up doing. I hope he doesn’t vote for it if the immunity is still in. The Repubs will call him unpatriotic if he votes against it, and a flip flopper if he votes for it. Loses either way. Might as well vote the right way (well, what I think is the right way).

    As far as the faith based things go, as long as the government isn’t supporting parts of them that have discriminatory hiring guidelines (which he said they wouldn’t), then I think it’s fine.

    Seriously, a LOT of this country thinks it was founded DIRECTLY by God and therefore everything the government does should DIRECTLY be part of the Christian religion. Abortion, prayer in schools, funding for churches, etc.

    So the fact that a “Godless liberal” even mentions the faith based things without the words “shut down completely” might make them stop for a second. And that’s a GOOD thing. If Obama can bring people to slowly step away from wanting the Christian religion in every part of the government, then he can do ANYTHING. And I think this is one step towards that goal.

  32. sng writes:I read that just as my phone started playing Insanity by Oingo Boingo at me. Given the last eight years how anybody can think that is beyond me. in re…anyone on the left [strike] probably has congenital brain damage.

    Actually it is remarkably simple to think that. Anyone who believes in small government and anyone who believes in individual responsibility should have a problem dealing with democrats, as does anyone who thinks that er actually invading Iraq was in fact a good idea (don’t laugh these people exist) etc.

    To move beyond that point and verge somewhat OT

    McCain is the low risk candidate in this election. We know he’ll end up p*ssing off religious righties and moonbatty lefties at different times because he’s done all that in his what 30 years of senatorial career. On the other hand he probably won’t go for big risky reforms or changes, especially since it looks like he’ll be facing a democratic congress. Obama on the other hand was promising all kinds of big change things. That is potentially risky because a) we don’t know precisely which big change things he’ll implement b) whether they’ll actually work and c) he has been pretty much of a cipher in his legislative career to date.

    At some point I anticipate McCain going for “steady pair of hands” and “what you see is what you get” rhetoric. I reckon there is an excellent chance that in the current less than stellar economic environment this sort of rhetoric may well appeal to rather more voters than might be expected. This is especially likely if Obama maintains his current tack to the center after his previous pandering to the nutroots because it makes the “can you trust this guy” ads so easy.

  33. The caveats Obama adds to his Faith-based program support would finally put the faith-based office on the side of the constitution. Once the govt forbidden agencies are forbidden from proselytizing to those they help, forbidden from discriminating among those they provide services to, I (a card carrying member of the ACLU) see no issue.

    The way the program is currently operated is a mockery of the First Amendment, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be operated well.

    Obama’s stance doesn’t come as a surprise reversal of stance. He has long been a supporter of both the “no establishment” and “no prohibiting the free exercise” clauses of the first amendment.

    I *would* be surprised if a Faith Based Office under the leadership of President Obama refused to fund an agency run by a Wiccan Coven on the basis of their religion, though.

  34. FrancisT. Wow.

    “as does anyone who thinks that er actually invading Iraq was in fact a good idea (don’t laugh these people exist) etc.”

    “McCain is the low risk candidate in this election”

    Do you think invading Iran is a good idea? If so, then you are in the category with the first. Do you think doing anything militarily with Iran is a good idea? If so, then you REALLY have problems.

    Well, remember McCain’s little song? Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran? How is he the low risk candidate when he wants to extend our wars in the middle east?

  35. Interesting to me that over on sites like Andrew Sullivan’s they have started to toss around the “landslide” word when describing this election.

    I understand that Obama is an extremely smart politician and wouldn’t at all be surprised if this election is a blow-out that would look like the reverse of Reagan over Mondale.

  36. Spencer:

    Re: “Landslide” — I would personally be careful about using such terms, even though I think he’s probably going to win, on the simple reasoning that counting one’s chickens before they hatch is a nice way of having no chickens. If the Obama people are smart, they’ll keep the mindset all the way through that the election is closely matched and about to get closer.

  37. As a left-of-center moderate, I’m continually amazed at two assumptions that the far left seems to cling to:

    1) My presidential candidate must be completely in my camp; any deviations from my beliefs must be attacked, and attacked hard.

    2) The president must bring about a radical change once he assumes office.

    Belief #1 is just a form of the circular firing squad, something the Democrats have raised to an art. And belief #2 is contrary to history. Most presidents do well if they can just grab the tiller of the ship of state and nudge things in the correct direction for four or eight years. Occasionally a president is handed the opportunity to make radical change, but usually not. (And sometimes, as was the case after 9/11, they squander that opportunity in spectacular ways.)

    So, yeah, Obama sometimes suggests things I’m not crazy about. Too bad for me. But I’d rather have him steering the country than McCain, particularly when it comes to selecting of Supreme Court judges or dealing with the rest of the world. At this point, having a president who’s merely adequate would be a huge improvement.

    In the words of 20th century political philosopher Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you can get what you need.” Let’s keep that in mind on the way to our polling places, OK?

  38. Francis,

    “Actually it is remarkably simple to think that. Anyone who believes in small government and anyone who believes in individual responsibility should have a problem dealing with democrats”

    Yeah, cause that’s what the neocons are ALL about. NOT! The card in my pocket says “Libertarian” and Obama is a lot closer to getting us back on the track to where those principles are achievable than is any other viable candidate in this election.

  39. At this point he’s doing what all presidential candidates do after they secure the nomination – they tack slightly to center to try and pick up the independent vote. At this point my only real concern is that the “the center” has been dragged so far to the right that his gentle tacking means he strays into territory including support for the current FISA bill.

    Deep down I know that he’s doing what needs doing to get elected. I just wish there was a way to get inside his head and see, for sure, that he’s just playing the game of politics, and will return to sane, moral, reasonable, progressive turf once he’s in office and has the clout to do something good for our country.

    Unfortunately, we can’t see inside his head, so we are forced to simply wait things out. All I can tell you is, at this point, I sure hope you’re right, John, and that everyone with more than half a brain can see that he’s the only reasonable choice after the past eight years of mismanagement.

    As for the landslide comments – all I can do is but reference this point: think about the average American, and just how stupid and selfish they can be. Then realize that 50% of the country is stupider and more selfish.

  40. Here’s my problem. Sen. Obama has not, to my knowledge, demonstrated an ounce of political courage. He votes present on any bill that seems controversial, he hasn’t introduced any groundbreaking legislation, he hasn’t gone to the mat for any cause. And he seems to attempt the same sort of things with personnel (disinviting Rev.Wright to his candidacy announcement, the current Gen. Clark thing, etc.) where he wants to ‘vote present’ but ends up pissing off everyone. It makes me wonder what he would care about enough to risk his politcal capital on. I don’t really want the next President to be a doormat or a weathervane. Obama seems to get himself into both categories.

  41. My experience in electoral politics is that you should always expect some sort of letdown. We tend to project a lot of our own desires and ideals on candidates. If we’re fortunate they will accomplish at least a satisfying part of what we hope for.

  42. Here’s my problem. Sen. Obama has not, to my knowledge, demonstrated an ounce of political courage.

    That include him staring down Illinois police about videotaping confessions?

  43. I believe that Senator Obama’s speech on race was a very brave act. We can debate the cause and timing of the speech, but that doesn’t take away from the message.

  44. You know the faith based initiative thing makes total sense to me. You gotta remember where Obama is coming from and who he is. He is a community organizer from the south side of Chicago. Much of the work he did he did in churches. He knows the good a church can do within a community, he has been there. Of course he’ll continue the faith based initiative, but he will make it fair. It won’t be a program to buy off religious leaders, there won’t be a religious litimus test, etc.

    Personally I think religion is silly. I believe in God, but not religion. That said I totally stand behind Obama on this.

  45. The whole problem above, and in many other political discussions, comes from the idea that any politician “must agree with me 100% or he is a traitor.” Those at both ends of the spectrum set up a set of ideas of what constitutes a proper liberal and a proper conservative, and then get all bent out of shape over a 5% deviation. So you think Obama is not the absolute perfect liberal politician. What are you going to do about it? Vote for McCain? Vote for Nader? Sit home in proud self-righteousness on election day, helping McCain win? And what about the conserviatives who call McCain too liberal. Are they going to vote for a democrat? Stay home in self-righteousness pride?

    As I tell people on election day when they seem to think an election judge can give them voting advice, “You vote for the one you like the most, or dislike the least.” Getting all bitchy because your man is not being true enough to your principles is self-defeating. And expecting any candidate to come up with the perfect position on every possible issue, then never change his mind because of changing conditions or added knowledge, is just plain stupid.

  46. gwangung @47:

    I read a Wash. Post editorial about that, but call me skeptical. A bill that passes the Senate 35-0 was a tough fight? I just spent the last good while searching the Chicago Sun-Times archives and found dick all about this tough fight. If his hometown paper wasn’t writing about it, how tough could it have been?

  47. votes present on any bill that seems controversial

    Uh, without doing any research at all, I can come up with voting against the war in 2003. That took ten seconds of thought.

  48. He was elected to federal office in ’04; he held an elected position before then.

  49. (Admittedly that wasn’t voting on a bill; that was, however, taking a then-unpopular position and sticking with it.)

  50. Some folks on the left were goofy enough in 2000 to think that voting for, say, Nader, wouldn’t make a huge difference in the end, so why not make a cute little protest vote. Here in 2008, anyone on the left who isn’t planning to pull a lever for Obama probably has congenital brain damage.

    Sadly, if you go to Crooksandliars.com (to name one site), you’ll find plenty of folks who plan to do just that, i.e. throwing their toys out of the pram.

  51. Yanno, I’ve decided to start telling people that the reason I hardly ever blog about politics is because Scalzi already said what I would have said — and said it better.

  52. I read a Wash. Post editorial about that, but call me skeptical. A bill that passes the Senate 35-0 was a tough fight? I just spent the last good while searching the Chicago Sun-Times archives and found dick all about this tough fight. If his hometown paper wasn’t writing about it, how tough could it have been?

    I looked in the Nexis archives. Apparently the videotape requirement was part of a package that was recomended by previous Illinois governor Ryan in 2002. This package was dropped by the Republican led Senate. Incoming governor Rod Blagojevich also opposed these measures.
    Feb. 21 2003, the Sun Times specifically mentioned the opposition from the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.

    Make of that what you will.

  53. Hey John. I don’t even know how I came across your site (about a week or so ago), but damn it, if you haven’t warmed that little corner of my brain that begs for left-leaning bloggers to stop and think before proceeding. I like the common sense approach that you seem to take–I say seem because I haven’t been reading you for very long to make a truly accurate assessment–and I wish others would be just as clear and concise about what they mean to convey without being over the top.

    Anyway, I have enjoyed the few posts of yours on the presidential race that I have thus far read. It doesn’t leave me feeling frustrated afterwards. At least, not yet.

    Keep up the good work. :)

  54. Thanks, RS. Be assured I can be as over the top as the the next blogger when I want to be, so I may annoy you at some point. But that’s all right. I annoy everyone here sooner or later. Just ask ‘em.

  55. Christ, John, this humility you keep showing off is SO ANNOYING. Stop it and get an ego, already!

  56. One thing that I’ve noted here in Indiana with the Obama commercials that have been aired is that someone seems to be aware that a) McCain is not yet campaigning here (and may never–this is not a major battleground state), and b) that even bad publicity is good publicity. Which is to say that the Obama ads have not mentioned McCain. They focus entirely on Obama and who he is and what he stands for. He remains totally radio silent on McCain. Which means that the only person anyone is hearing about in MT is Obama. Add in the fact that he’s coming here for the 4th and McCain will likely never come here, and he may win a traditionally republican state.

  57. (Admittedly that wasn’t voting on a bill; that was, however, taking a then-unpopular position and sticking with it.)

    What he said, man.

    Okay, so “voting” was perhaps the wrong way to phrase it.

  58. Thanks for this timely reminder of, you know, pragmatism. For getting things done, I will take a pragmatist over an idealist any day, despite being a bit of an idealist myself.

  59. Of all of the GOP policies to pick from this is the one least likely to get me to vote for him. What part of “SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE” don’t these people get?

  60. My question is: what does he REALLY believe?

    Case in point:
    (while running for the nomination and thus going for the lefties) “Yes, I support the DC ban on handguns. Gun control is good!” (paraphrased for snark)

    (now that he’s interested in more than just the Democratic nomination, and now that the SCOTUS has ruled on it) “Yes, I support the individual right to bear arms. Gun control is bad!”

    Just one of many. Definitely a great orator. But the speeches change when the winds change.

  61. While McCain is worse (both on a policy level and a “flip-flop” level) Obama’s recent actions have annoyed me for two reasons:

    1) He’s often given more nuanced, intellectual answers to topics, which I thought was nice to do in the face of accusations that doing something like that was just an attempt to straddle the fence as part of a political calculation. We need more intelligence and nuance in politics, which is why now that it’s revealed that they are, in fact, not attempts at intelligence or nuance but blatant political calculation it has been rather disappointing. This has a shade of “He’s just another politician” but while that’s always been obvious the way he’s gone about it has ultimately hurt having intelligent political discourse.

    2) While neither the faith-based thing or campaign finance thing annoy me that much, and the gun flip was an improvement both in an “agreement with my politics” sense, and a “position makes any sense at all” sense, simply accepting people changing any positions is, if anything, even worse than being too strict about your politics.

    One should have some principles, and the telecom immunity acceptance is violating mine. If they have good faith to believe they were giving a lawful order from the government, they’re already immune; the court cases (those of which that are valid) are about finding this out. Now we’re creating a precedent where if you’re a company, you do what the executive branch tells you no matter what. It’s difficult enough to stand up to illegal government orders as it is – the incentives are heavily weighted towards doing what the government says – and this is removing any incentive to not blindly violate rights.

    3) It’s bad politics. I don’t think the FISA cave will give a significant political advantage, and Obama is calculating on having lots of money. Lots of money in individual donations. From people who are inspired and enthused about his campaign. Who he has promptly pissed off.

    This isn’t going to affect my vote, both because McCain’s worse and I don’t have one anyway (Permanent Resident) but it’s certainly stopped me from bothering to give him any money if he follows through with this.

  62. JustAnotherJohn:

    To be fair, he’s always said that the Constitution guaranteed an individual right to bear arms but allows reasonable restrictions, both before and after the decision. That said, he allowed an (implicit or explicit, I don’t remember) endorsement of the DC Gun Law to remain around until it became inconvenient politically, which suggests it wasn’t necessarily a nuanced position based on the facts but rather a grab at political advantage.

  63. JustAnotherJohn, I also remember him saying more than once during the debates that “gun control” meant vastly different things when you were talking about it in rural Montana versus, say, Chicago, and that big-city mayors and city councils who want to control gun violence and rurals who don’t want anybody telling them how many rifles they could own both had valid points.

    He seems to be on both sides because the debate’s simply not that simple.

  64. He’s going to do that when he’s running for President, B. Dewhirst?

    I’m afraid he’s still a sitting Senator… and may well back a resolution leading to war with Iran.

  65. “I’m afraid he’s still a sitting Senator…”

    Sitting senators are unilaterally able to order bombing runs?

    “…and may well back a resolution leading to war with Iran.”

    Because he’s been such a staunch supporter of the current war?

  66. Found your site because of the Michelle Obama post. Not really interested in science fiction. Will continue to read all posts because of insightful entries like these.

  67. Scalzi wrote in a prior comment: But as I said, being surprised that a politician running for president runs differently in the general election than he does in the primaries is at the very least an act of naivety. People should have understood tacking toward the center was coming.

    People should also understand that because Obama is a politician and has never been anything else, he lies whenever it’s convenient. Thus, neither you nor I nor anybody else has any idea what his actual policies will be. He’s a Rorschach blot, in which people see whatever they want/expect to see. Liberals see their Messiah come to lead them out of the wilderness of the Bushitler Reich to the Promised Land of socialism from sea to shining sea. I see a typical Democrat — which is to say, a cowardly, treacherous, anti-American, would-be tyrant — who is willing to do anything, say anything, betray and abandon any friend and any principle in pursuit of votes.

    So go ahead. Vote Rorschach. And when you discover that what you got is worse than what you wanted or expected in every possible way, you’ll have no one to blame but yourselves. You’ll also be totally unable to do anything about it, because you’ll have elected a socialist president and a socialist congress, and socialists don’t give you mulligans.

    And people wonder why I think most voters are morons.

  68. So what are Obama’s real positions?

    The one’s he ran on to get the nomination or the ones he’s running on to become President?

    Either he took the Left for suckers during the Primaries or the primaries have taught him that all of his previous positions were wrong and he has changed his now changed his mind.

    The latter possibility I can respect and understand.

    I thought his previous positions were wrong too.

    But he should say that’s what happened, not just morph.

    But one thing is very clear: The politics of the Left are not viable on the National scene.

  69. Frank:

    “But one thing is very clear: The politics of the Left are not viable on the National scene.”

    Actually, one thing is very clear: Flat pronouncements of this sort are likely to cause their utterers some embarrassment, especially if, as appears likely at the moment, Obama wins this thing. Because winning would suggest, you know, that the national scene thinks they’re perfectly viable.

    Seriously, Frank. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the politics of the right aren’t exactly setting the national scene on fire this election cycle.

    Wolfwalker:

    “People should also understand that because Obama is a politician and has never been anything else, he lies whenever it’s convenient. Thus, neither you nor I nor anybody else has any idea what his actual policies will be.”

    Would you like to extend such an admonition to John McCain as well, Wolfwalker?

  70. Scalzi

    Because winning would suggest, you know, that the national scene thinks they’re perfectly viable.

    Two things:

    1) If Obama takes a Leftist position and a “Center” position, how can you tell which the voter is voting for?

    2) If you are correct, then why is Obama trying so hard to move to the center?

    The reason for my “one thing is very clear” statement is that it is clear that Obama is moving Right from his former positions. If the politico-Obama senses he needs to move to the center win the General, then it seems my statement is at least clear to him, and me, if not to you.

    Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the politics of the right aren’t exactly setting the national scene on fire this election cycle.

    Of course we’ll see, but it is true that the Republicans, whether by choice or by accident nominated a Center Right candidate.

    And strangely, we are a Center Right country.

    And this is what is most responsible for his doing so well in the polls at this point when all the indicators have been that this is the Year of the Democrat.

    McCain doesn not have to move to the Center. Obama does.

    ’nuff said

  71. So if he doesn’t drop the bombs by himself, one by one, by hand, manufactured in a little shop in IL, he is magically absolved of all responsibility?

    I’m suggesting that while still in the Senate, he’ll vote for bills which lead to the bombing of Iran.

    After all… he has voted for Iraqi funding resolutions.

    This suggests to me that when Bush hands him a war which has already started with Iran, he’ll continue it after he is elected.

    If he -were- against all wars, then I couldn’t well say that… unfortunately, he does not have such a principled stance.

    Really what I was trying to get at was… how far is too far? If he’d kill and eat one of your grandparents, and McCain would kill and eat two of them, you’d still defend him?

    I see criticism from the left as the only way to keep him from red-shifting, as the only thing which would keep him honest.

  72. This suggests to me that when Bush hands him a war which has already started with Iran, he’ll continue it after he is elected.

    At this point, there is little doubt that this is true.

    But I knew this before, and said it, even while he was pandering to the Left. The words he used, and the follow-ons by his surrogates made this plain.

    He’s also good on NATFA. If you think he is really going to renegotiate NAFTA, you have another think coming.

    And those faith-based programs? Good on them as well.

    And he will not allow Iran to become nuclear capable, as no responsible President will.

    And he will invoke the Unitary Executive in all instances in which he can, because, well, he’ll be President.

    And he will protect the American people with the Patriot Act and call for its continuence as long as there is a threat (unfortunately, maybe longer).

    So who will be the Third Bush Term again?

    I see criticism from the left as the only way to keep him from red-shifting, as the only thing which would keep him honest.

    Keeping him “honest” will assure he loses.

    Just sayin’

  73. Frank:

    “And strangely, we are a Center Right country.”

    Might have been, once. Recently the polls suggest otherwise. Probably because Bush trashed the brand.

    In any event, you’re sort of overlooking the dynamic here, which is that Obama’s ahead in the polls and has his base pretty solidly behind him, which allows him to go poaching into McCain’s territory. McCain doesn’t have that flexibility and has to defend the political territory he has.

    I do like your ability to look at McCain being on the defensive and to think that means he’s sitting pretty, but I don’t see it as a view that has much relation to the reality of the moment.

    B. Dewhirst:

    “I’m suggesting that while still in the Senate, he’ll vote for bills which lead to the bombing of Iran.”

    Well, no. If the president decides he wants to bomb Iran, he can do so without the authorization of the House or Senate.

    “This suggests to me that when Bush hands him a war which has already started with Iran, he’ll continue it after he is elected.”

    Which is a manifestly different thing than your original whackadoodle thesis, which is that he’d bomb Iran to prove he wasn’t a Muslim. Quite obviously, if Bush starts a war and leaves office, Obama (or whomever) will be obliged to continue it, if only to end it.

    The further you go with this thesis that Obama is some sort of warmonger, the less convincing it is.

  74. Scalzi

    Might have been, once. Recently the polls suggest otherwise. Probably because Bush trashed the brand.

    The Republican Brand may have suffered, but that is not to say that we are not, still, a center-right country.

    Look, the Democrats won Congress in good part because of Howard Deans 50 state strategy. Yet, they were still unable to end the war or stop the Patriot Act. Why? Because although lots of Democrats were elected, most were not Leftists. Most were center/center-right.

    It’s the only way they could win Congress.

    Seats they picked up could not have run a Nancy Pelosi or a Harry Reid and still win.

    This must be pretty clear to everyone by now.

    There will only be a battle in the Fall if both candidates are near the center. If one is too far right or too far left, he will lose.

    My only point is that McCain has always been center right. But as I have pointed out (like here) the Republican Party has itself moved to the center.

    Democrats, in general, are center-left. But a large part of the Democratic primary voters are more leftist than the Party in general (at least that is my perception).

    As a result, Democrats have for a long time now had the structural problem where their nominees had to run left for the Primary and then take a right turn for the General.

    The exception was Clinton, who managed to stay Center-Left all the way through. Still, he never managed a majority in either of his elections.

    In any event, you’re sort of overlooking the dynamic here, which is that Obama’s ahead in the polls and has his base pretty solidly behind him, which allows him to go poaching into McCain’s territory.

    So you say. He is not ahead in the polls, at least not beyond the margin of error. (RCPs current national average of all polls has him 5.4% ahead of McCain and the map of electoral votes is even closer)

    With regards to “the base” the very existence of this post suggests that there is some part of his base that is very dissatisfied with his “new” positions.

    This is roughly analogous with the Far Right’s dissatisfaction with McCain.

    But the battle is always for the center and who can take it while keeping the majority of his party.

    From my point of view, an Obama Presidency will not be a disaster. I judge that he will not precipitously leave Iraq, he will not allow Iran to get nukes even if it means war. He will continue the Patriot Act. But as these facts become clearer to the electorate, support of the far Left will continuously erode.

    But again, I judge he will be reasonably responsible and he will put the country’s interests first.

    He will not be a disaster, but he is not, to me, preferable.

  75. Frank:

    “He will not be a disaster, but he is not, to me, preferable.”

    Funny, I feel the same way about McCain.

  76. I find that person’s on the extreme end of any political spectrum are quite cute in their outrage. Given a choice between someone who is ideoligically pure and, likely, unelectable and someone who is pragmatic but ideologically different, they will prefer the ideologically pure, but unelectable person.

    This was one of the reasons that I left the New Democatic party (the Canadian version of the Socialist/Social Democratic Party). In my home province of Ontario New Democrats have never been part of national office and have only run the province for 5 years. The party is filled with cranks and true believers who would rather sit on the sidelines and “educate” the voters on that their view is correct than actually be pragmatic, win elections and do some good. I once went to a national convention and met New Democrats from Saskatchewan; New Democrats (and their predecessors) have been running Saskatchewan for a majority of the time since the depression. They were not like my Ontario Brethren; they were sane.

    The current kerfuffle over Obama “running to the centre” reminds me of this. It appears as though hard left folk decided that Obama was a hard left true believer and are now dissappointed that he is not. They appear to want him to stay as an ideologically pure leftist, even if it costs the democrats the election.

    This is geniunely stupid.

    It is also factually false. When Barack Obama was running for the nomination (and before) he was clearly running on a notion that he was not a partisan ideologue. Remember when he said at the 2004 Democratic convention that there were no red states or blue states but just the “United States”; what do you think he was talking about. It certainly wasn’t being a partisan leftist. You can look at a bunch of things, including his health care plan which was the most centrist of the top three democratic candidates (remember his was the one without the mandates). He has also taken a more centrist view about education (He either is for more educational choice than it traditional for a democrat or is more for teacher testing than is traditional for a democrat; I am working from memory here). As for his “faith based initiatives”; why does that surprise anyone. The man was probably the most openly pious of all the democratic candidates and in his early community development days, he worked with alot of churches that did social services. Apparently his first community development job was primarily funded by the Catholic Church.

    The really fun thing about this is that both the hard right and hard left are gnawing their own livers about their candidate not being conservative/liberal enough. I think the U.S. will be fine after January.

    Cheers
    Andrew

  77. I’m surprised it’s taken so long to bring up an old political adage:

    “The primaries are a race away from center, the general election a race toward it.”

    Makes perfect sense now, doesn’t it?

  78. The most critical part which I don’t think you’ve addressed is…

    What makes you think he’ll be any less afraid of being branded a Muslim (or whatever) after he is elected? Democratic Presidents have a rather poor record of pacifism (as do Republican Presidents.)

    I don’t get why you don’t feel you can criticize him… McCain would still kill -more- babies and grandmothers.

    I do get why you feel like you don’t want to, because he is on “your side.” I just think that reason sucks.

  79. My only question is: if you knew all along that you wanted the kind of politician who will say anything to get elected, why support Obama? Not only is that Hillary Clinton’s entire persona, but it’s one which has been crafted on the national stage for a decade longer.

  80. Barack Obama is a Islamicist mole whose first act as president will be to suicide bomb himself in the Oval Office.

    Heck, he’d probably get more votes if he said he would personally fly a plane into the first session of the full Congress.

    Start over, and make it a random lottery for all positions. We could hardly do worse then the bozo’s we’ve got now.

    I think the present disappointment in Obama is that he ran as a “New Kind of Politician” and people forgot that he was still a politician. And now he’s just confirming that he’s a politician who plays by the old rules. So, he’s running directly away from what he ran as. Pretty soon, we’ll here him say, that’s not the Obama I knew.

  81. B.Dewhirst:

    “What makes you think he’ll be any less afraid of being branded a Muslim (or whatever) after he is elected?”

    Since I don’t think he’s at all afraid of being branded a Muslim in the first place, his being less afraid of being branded so after the election is neither here nor there.

    And anyway: so what if he’s branded as a Muslim after he’s president? He’d still be president. Unless you’re under the impression being thought of as a Muslim by ignorants is somehow an impeachable offense, and that the Senate would convict him for it.

    Again: this argument of yours is getting sillier as we go along.

    As for criticizing him: Don’t be silly, I feel perfectly free to criticize him. Please see my comment re: his position on the FISA compromise.

  82. Liberal Bloggers Accuse Obama of Trying to Win Election

    The liberal blogosphere was aflame today with new accusations that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) is trying to win the 2008 presidential election.

    Suspicions about Sen. Obama’s true motives have been building over the past few weeks, but not until today have the bloggers called him out for betraying the Democratic Party’s losing tradition.

    “Barack Obama seems to be making a very calculated attempt to win over 270 electoral votes,” wrote liberal blogger Carol Foyler at LibDemWatch.com, a blog read by a half-dozen other liberal bloggers. “He must be stopped.”

  83. So, Wolfwalker, did you see my question at comment 77, or are you just choosing to ignore it?

    Also apropos to this thread, a new poll which suggests flip-floppery doesn’t particularly bother voters this year. A money quote:

    According to CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, the flip-flopping charge may not resonate as much with voters this year as it did in the past. “So what if voters think both candidates are flip-floppers?” asked Schneider. “After eight years of George W. Bush, voters may welcome some pragmatism and flexibility in their leaders. Times change.”

  84. I had to travel so I couldn’t get back to this thread. Sorry. Anyway @43 sng wrote:
    Yeah, cause that’s what the neocons are ALL about. NOT! The card in my pocket says “Libertarian” and Obama is a lot closer to getting us back on the track to where those principles are achievable than is any other viable candidate in this election.

    sng may be a libertarian but, as it well known, getting libertarians to agree on things is almost as easy as herding cats. Other libertarians (e.g. Eric Raymond) are rather less impressed. He also wrote this which was what I was trying to get at but failed to express clearly.

    We still have 4 months till the election so a lot could change but it is far from clear to me that Obama will win by the landslide people here are predicting. At present, despite some polls indicating that he will win, this is by no means a certainty (as our host points out @41).

    We have 4 months for Obama’s campaign to pick holes in McCain and vice versa*, both will do so and the candidates that are voted for in November are both going to look a lot less pristine than they do now. I agree with Frank at 82 (and earlier) the US public is closer to the default McCain political position than it is to the Obama one (at least as stated to date) so Obama is going to have to continue his rush to the center and thereby leave himself open to accusations of flip-flopping, lying and otherwise acting like a typical politician

    Since he is just a typical politician this fact may not hurt him, but since the Obama brand has to date been all about change from normal it is a bit of a contradiction and Obama has to hope that people are willing to vote for him knowing that all his claims of being a new sort of politician are bunk.

    *I’d love it if both campaigns tried to accentuate the positives of their candidate rather than the negatives of the other but we all know that isn’t going to happen

  85. Oh and just a note to our host re his comments 77 & 92.

    Politicians flip-flop, just like politicians lie. The American electorate is aware of this and I suspect cynical enough to accept it to some degree.

    McCain has not made a big deal of being a new kind of politician for change hence it will be understood that he flip-flops. Obama on the other hand made all this earlier BS about being a new breed, honest etc etc. so therefore flip-flops not only damage in themselves but also because they affect the Obama brand in a way that McCain’s ones don’t.

  86. FrancisT:

    “McCain has not made a big deal of being a new kind of politician for change hence it will be understood that he flip-flops.”

    I think it’s funny how quickly people forget stuff like “The Straight Talk Express.” Or if they have not forgotten it, at least hope the rest of us have.

    Don’t go selling the idea that McCain didn’t position himself as a new, maverick kind of politician, FrancisT. It doesn’t fly. Hell, it doesn’t even crawl.

  87. I’m of the opinion that McCain will win this election. When voters start sizing up McCain vs. Obama (as opposed to Obama vs. Clinton), I suspect that a lot more will prefer McCain as opposed to Obama, for the simple reason, as other posters have stated, this is a center right country.

  88. The issue I have with Obama’s recent statements is that he’s making them after he’s sewn up the Democratic nomination. To my way of thinking, if Obama believed he needed to speak for the center after the nomination, why didn’t he speak for the center before the nomination?

    Do I think Obama will win? Yes, especially after debates. We’re now finding out that McCain is not as bright as some people originally thought, and the debates should demonstrate this concisely. No matter what else you think of Obama after recent activity, he is more intelligent, knowledgeable, and well spoken than McCain. McCain also can’t figure out that Americans are less afraid of some on-the-run terrorist and more afraid of losing their jobs, getting sick, and being able to put food on the table and gas in the car.

    Will I vote for Obama? Yes, because I don’t want McCain. But it has now become a vote against a person rather than a vote for a person. I’m not voting for a candidate because I am a part of the left that no longer has a candidate representing me.

  89. Scalzi@95

    OK you got me good there. However I wonder if I’m not alone in completely forgetting about McCain’s 2000 campaign.

  90. One more of the things that the Obama folks are also aiming at is redistricting. If his coattails are long enough to help change the partisan balance of a few state legislatures — and they very well could be — that’ll affect how district lines are drawn for US Representative districts after the 2010 census. More Democratic statehouses means more favorable districts for Democrats in the years 2010-20. Time to build a little lock-in.

  91. Yeats said “caged bears and lead ponies make but a poor show.”

    If you run a senator against a dead guy as a presidential nominee, the dead guy wins (granted JFK was a notable exception but he had Joe Kennedy behind the scenes).

    The only way for a senator to win is to run one against another. But it makes for a poor show.

    We have never had two totally lame candidates before.

    Kennedy against Nixon was an example of two experienced politicians with fantastic campaigning skills; two magnificent prize fighters.

    Senator Bob Dole of Kansas was disabled by wounds he suffered in combat while serving his country in war, so that must be said, acknowledged and admired before saying he was a lame nominee, but the ’96 Clinton/Dole contest is a classic example of a strong versus lame candidate. Another example is the ’72 Nixon/McGovern campaign. Regardless of the expectations going in, the returns showed one nominee overwhelming the other.

    We have, for the first time in history, two lame nominees.

    It is impossible to handicap this race for this reason, but I will venture to say it will likely not be close.

    Granted, I see them on even ground right now. The Hillraisers are bitter towards Obama and the small donations are drying up as Obama races towards the center. At last count I believe the center represented 39% of the vote and whomever gets the lion’s share of that, wins, period.

    McCain has no upside or downside potential.

    Nobody shows up for McCain rallies, but those that do will vote for him. Countless thousands show up for Obama rallies and he whips the huge crowds into a frenzy. However, Obama is an extremely good, large venue entertainer, and I think the crowds show up for the entertainment; you can spend $500 on a Stone’s concert and this is free and darn near as good. If 10% of the people who attend the hugely entertaining Obama stage presentations vote for him that would be a lot of votes; expecting a large percentage of these people to show up to vote is delusional.

    Everybody knows all too well just what McCain is, so no upside potential. As a maverick he has equal potential for traction in the middle ground. Unless he makes a big mistake it is unlikely anything is going to be revealed to increase his downside.

    So, on the one side, Obama is a thrilling newbie with a huge upside that may quickly evaporate and a huge potential for increased downside. He has to change course and race to capture the center, but has good prospects for doing so even with the ensuing downside effects.

    McCain is an old, maverick, soldier who is an old guy but a spirited maverick who also has good prospects for getting traction in capturing the middle.

    Methinks the nominee who first makes a really bad mistake will see the other nominee sail past him and gain a hopeless lead. However, Obama, if he has a good lead, better watch out for the historical last-week-change-of-heart. For whatever reason, historically, people abandon the Democrat and go for the Republican instead in the last week before voting.

  92. You know it’s bad when a New Yawk Times editorial notices it:

    Only an idiot would think or hope that a politician going through the crucible of a presidential campaign could hold fast to every position, steer clear of the stumbling blocks of nuance and never make a mistake. But Barack Obama went out of his way to create the impression that he was a new kind of political leader — more honest, less cynical and less relentlessly calculating than most.

    You would be able to listen to him without worrying about what the meaning of “is” is.

    But Senator Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He’s lurching right when it suits him, and he’s zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that’s guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash.

  93. Obama engaging McCain is the battle for the middle; whomever wins the middle wins.

    Obama has a big problem McCain does not have: Hillary Clinton.

    If Hillary Clinton’s name is put into nomination at the Denver convention and a full roll call occurs, 1600 convention delegates will nominate Hillary. Everyone will realize that Hillary did not lose.

    It will be immediately apparent that Obama was not elected, but rather selected as the nominee by the denounced primordial ooze of the smoke-filled-back-room Chicago-style politics he emerged from.

    This will at best divide the Democrats and at worst perpetuate the perception of Obama as de facto primordial political pond scum, peddling the same old snake oil with the same old PT Barnum “a sucker born every minute” mixture of entertainment and lies.

  94. That’s a nice plot for a political thriller, Jon Zink. Seems unlikely (at best) in the real world.

  95. Well, thank you, Mr. Scalzi. I have read all your major novels and consider them the best of the best. Coming from you I consider your comment the finest compliment I will ever receive. I wish it was deserved. Sadly for me, if you check some political blogs you will find this is current news.

  96. I dunno why you seem to think that people haven’t figured out that Obama wants to win big. Has there been a presidential nominee since Reagan who hasn’t wanted to win big? (I might only exclude Bob Dole, whose entire campaign ran on the premise that “It’s my turn, dammit!”)

  97. Paul Havemann:

    All candidates want to win big, sure. But a lot of them strategize to win certain places they know the can win, and then try to pick off a few borderlines states. Obama, among other things, is running a 50-state campaign, with offices in every state. It’s one sign that aside from wanting to win big, he’s made plans to do so.

  98. Obama, among other things, is running a 50-state campaign, with offices in every state.

    [semiserioussnark] Yeah, abrogating his commitment to public financing worked out well on that score, didn’t it? [/snark]

  99. Paul Havemann:

    You know, of all the things I’d be inclined to be annoyed with Obama changing his mind about, his decision not to have the taxpayers fund his campaign is not one of them.

  100. Are there any similar ‘decisions’ (I’m advisedly not using the term ‘flip-flop’) with which you are annoyed? FISA, gun control, etc.? You seem well-grounded and -informed; I’m curious how far your tolerance extends.

  101. The FISA vote really hurts. I understand that Obama is (and has to be) a professional politician, but when he acts directly against something I really care about, it’s hard to work up much support for his campaign. He’ll get my vote (because the alternative makes me itch), but until he shows some concern for this issue, he won’t get much else.

    Gaaaahhhh! This vote makes me want to strangle the next Obamavangelist I see!

  102. Well, let me repeat that McCain has no upside. Obama thrills huge crowds. No crowds show up for McCain and he is about as thrilling as listening to grandpa wheeze while eating a cheese sandwich.

    But McCain has no downside. Unless he self destructs with a big mistake you can go negative with continuous bombardment and maybe knock a little rust off, that’s it.

    Obama is like General Gau (I think General Gau started out as a Chicago politician.). Obama is very vulnerable on the downside. He is just like General Gau, trying to win fast and big.

    Recall the conversation between General Gau and Administer Perry.

    General Gau gave Perry time to return to his colony before extinction and said: “And I promise it will be quick and painless. Be strong for your people”.

    “I am not crying for my people, General”, Perry said.

    It is ironic, Mr. Scalzi that you are an Obama supporter since your works offer possibly the best education on politics and war since “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, written 2400 years ago.

    Obama has the same win-fast-big-with-huge downside-potential program as General Gau.

    McCain’s strategy and tactics should be to exploit this weakness, go negative on Obama relentlessly and try to devise a coupe where he says: “I am not crying for my people, Obama.” If McCain has not found his General Laurence Szilard he is fatally ignoring his military genes.

    Bear in mind, before you flame me, I give your novels as book gifts exclusively to my friends, all of whom are conservative. Without exception they buy the rest of the series. Here is a quote from todays email: “I bought and read “The Last Colony”. I picked up on some left wing ideology while reading it, but I didn’t think anything of it because most “artists” and creative people lean left politically. I liked the book and bought two more, that I haven’t read yet.”

  103. Jon Zink:

    “It is ironic, Mr. Scalzi that you are an Obama supporter since your works offer possibly the best education on politics and war since ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu, written 2400 years ago.”

    Well, I don’t know about that, but thank you. It helps that I’ve read Sun Tzu, of course (and a number of other military theorists and commentators, up through Victor David Hanson). Short of being in combat and planning strategy, I think that’s useful.

  104. Egads! Did I really say that. I forwarded that and a whole bunch of people are now awaiting the gifting.

    It’s a pleasure. Everyone I give your novels to is impressed with fast paced, sagacious plot lines dripping dry wit, humor and quotable quotes.

  105. It looks like we’re getting closer to having Obama as POTUS. He’s got the lead and the American people are ready to make a fundamental change in Washington.

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