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December 09, 2006

Obama

I've been a bit cool towards him, but this, via Unfogged, might just swing my vote.

December 9, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

You forgot the " ;-p " emoticon. Right?

Posted by: fiat lux | Dec 9, 2006 3:43:02 PM

i hope you are correct, fiat lux. It surely should take more than a private apology for messing up a potential (no one has said it was a SURE thing) hit on a woman who left him in the lurch anyway over a piece of trivia.

Policies! Saying the right things the way a Dem says them! Those will sway me.

Yeah, he's smooth, and he talks in unifying words. But is there really any Democratic THERE, there?

OK, I'd take Obama over Hillary right now, without anything more being said, but they both have issues that may well prove to be decisive.

Gore/Obama or Clark/Obama sounds more like progressive heaven to me for 08.

Hillary for Senate Majority Leader! heheh

NO MORE DYNASTIES! (because they prove to be NASTY).

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Dec 9, 2006 4:09:06 PM

The Editors had a good send up on this one today.

...and speaking of dynasties, Jim.

Posted by: H.H. | Dec 9, 2006 5:20:48 PM

That is awesome. I assume your post is tongue-in-cheek, Ezra, but the author's point at the end is valid and serious. Wouldn't it be great to have a president who a) tries to resolve conflict rather than polarizing people, and b) doesn't take himself too seriously? Aren't those, in fact, two of the most essential qualities we desperately need in a president right now?

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Dec 9, 2006 5:55:10 PM

Well, hopefully this cockup will swing your vote back. There's no term but "religious nut" that can properly describe someone who cosponsors a bill to make tithing exempt from bankruptcy rules.

Posted by: Alon Levy | Dec 9, 2006 6:22:57 PM

Obama was awesome as well on Leno last night. Audience members were literally screaming (as in Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan screaming). As a yellow-dog Dem and unreconstructed liberal, I don't appreciate all of Obama's triangulations. But Dem primary voters would be insane not to at least factor in Obama's mad charisma; Kennedy and Reagan are the only two postwar American leaders in Obama's league in this regard.

Posted by: kth | Dec 9, 2006 6:27:00 PM

kth: remember when all the folks were saying what a nice guy (they meant buy) GW Bush was? How he would be fun to have a drink with? A regular guy, he was (supposed to be).

and ya, Ronnie made the mid-40's and older ladies get wet. Some of them (those still alive) still are, but their diapers hide it now.

Give me a wonk (that's electable - like Clinton), instead of a guy that gives hot flashes to women and men, but can't find his rear end with two hands, a flashlight and a mirror. And who believes you pull good ideas (like Iraq) out of that end.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Dec 9, 2006 6:39:26 PM

I am now convinced it's too much, too fast. This seems like a hype machine in over drive. This kind of thing isn't sustainable. A lot of light, but there won't be a fire because he doesn't have anything more than the celebrity effect going on right now, and both his rhectoric and those of his supporters tell me it won't last. A good ill wind, and he's gone.

Posted by: akaison | Dec 9, 2006 7:03:00 PM

He has alot more to offer than someone like Hillary. If you want to rag on someone she is perfect. DLC washington inside the beltway republican lite.
I don't want him for vice president. I want him to be president. Once people see just how intellegent and how much of a policy wonk (which was his thing here in Illinois) and his ability to lead, they will be surprised.
He is very cool.
And i hope he buries Hillary early.

Posted by: vwcat | Dec 9, 2006 8:14:43 PM

As a Chicagoan, I'm getting more and more annoyed by the Barack backlash. It makes sense to be skeptical of a new entrant onto the national stage, but ... really? a triangulating theocratic conservative? A political neophyte comparable to G.W. Bush in experience?

One small comment: the district that Obama represented in the Illinois legislature -- when he was my rep -- includes Hyde Park. There's a lot of complaining that can be done about Hyde Park, and I've done it all, but it's not a place that supports ignoramuses.

The man really is smart, and charismatic, and of the left. That might mean he'll never be president -- a black man with "Hussein" as his middle name -- but don't go playing sour grapes by pretending that he's something he's not, and we're better off nominating some dull white guy who'll be "electable."

Posted by: Brian | Dec 9, 2006 8:57:09 PM

Re: triangulation. Dubya did a fair bit of stylistic triangulating in 2000, while taking substantive positions that were pretty reactionary.

Obama's been doing a fair bit of stylistic triangulating while taking substantive positions that are pretty progressive.

That's sort of what you want in a general election candidate, isn't it?

I understand the desire to see more flamethrowers out there. Dean was the biggest flamethrower last time, Kucinich the biggest progressive. Remember which one the blogosphere was more enthusiastic about?

But either way, most people don't vote to "make a statement." That's probably one of the biggest disconnects between the way activists and regular voters think.

Posted by: Chris | Dec 9, 2006 9:24:17 PM

Re: Brian's comment. I've been thinking a lot about all the wrath and churlishness that Obama seems to inspire in places like this and attempting to figure out what's causing it. My guess is a number of factors.

1. Back in '04, a lot of people seemed to have hopes and expectations that Obama would be the Second Coming of Paul Wellstone. When he turned out not to be Paul Wellstone, they felt betrayed.

2. Leaving aside ideology, I think a lot of people on here also hoped and expected Obama to sort of draw a line through the party and say, "Good Democrats are over here, Bad Democrats are over there. We Good Democrats are gonna take this party over!" That's what Howard Dean did in '03-'04, and it got a lot of netroots types really excited about him, even though Dean was much more of a triangulator than a progressive himself when he was Governor of Vermont. Instead, Obama compiles a progressive record on the issues while saying there should be room in the party for people like Joe Lieberman and saying that it's okay to put the words "God" and "Jesus" into political speeches. Not at all the style of Democrat they want to see.

3. Something Ezra has written about before: Tribalism. Whenever a politician goes before a certain community, he or she is expected to say certain things in a certain way, kiss the rings of community "leaders", etc. It's a sign of respect. The liberal blogosphere is a community like any other. So far, Obama has seemed wary about engaging the "netroots" on the terms that they'd like. Remember when he wrote this diary on Daily Kos? The basic point was, "I agree with your goals, but the tone on here may turn voters off." Well, that's an argument that the blogosphere has been hearing, sometimes from people offering it in bad faith, since its inception. Obama violated one of the codes you're not supposed to violate when trying to engage the community. That makes him a "concern troll." It's taken as a sign of disrespect.

4. I think Obama makes the netroots feel irrelevant. Here he is, achieving all this fame and acclaim in the media, and drawing all these huge crowds out on the campaign trail, and he's doing it without the blogosphere's help. That makes them upset. After all, who likes to feel irrelevant? Nobody, that's who.

That's not to say that Obama hasn't taken the occasional position that someone would disagree with. But Good Heavens, so did Howard Dean, both during his tenure as Governor and on the campaign trail too. Activists are perfectly capable of overlooking that kind of thing if they're in a mind to do it.

Posted by: Chris | Dec 9, 2006 9:51:23 PM

I wouldn't over-analyze the backlash - to a large extent it's simply natural, and to be expected. We veer too far in our media to showering people with praise, and then we veer too far in "course correction" by discussing flaws and why, well, sliced bread is really not all that new anyway. I find Obama interesting (as much as I do not find the term "cockblocking"), but I think he's too new and too untested to seriously merit consideration right now. That might change for me, depending on what develops over the next year or so. Remember this is all very early and too soon to really know how things will pan out - Obama is telegenic and well spoken, and that can't be discounted. He's also refreshing. But it will take more than that to get where he needs to be as a serious, viable, national candidate. We'll see if he gets there. Or if he even wants to.

Posted by: weboy | Dec 9, 2006 10:58:31 PM

I haven't seen any overreaching backlash. i have seen a correction about expectations. His supporters have annointed him the second coming, and this reminds me way to much of the GOP's annointing of Bush. Every candidate has his or her strengths and weaknesses, and yet, when faced with Obama's we are told that he is misunderstood, he is as great as people claim etc. Look, he has both strengths and weaknesses. We have heard his strengths. Now people are vetting some of his weaknesses. His supporters can't handle that. Life is tough, and if you can't handle criticism on this level, you certainly aren't going to be able to handle the GOP. We have been down this path of annointing candidates in 2004 and 2000. The lesson isn't about triangulation, it's not about Obama even, it's about vetting the candidates. Really vetting them rather than having supporters spin them as their candidate de jour (whether it is Gore, Obama, Bayh, HRC or whoever). Not one of them should be above scrutiny.

Posted by: akaison | Dec 9, 2006 11:18:48 PM

I've been thinking a lot about all the wrath and churlishness that Obama seems to inspire in places like this and attempting to figure out what's causing it.

Look, it's pretty simple. The guy hasn't done anything, he has no experience, and he's being talked up for the most powerful position in the world on the basis of a charming backstory and a way with words. The typical response to this seems to be to write off political and leadership experience entirely as a prerequisite for the presidency, an argumentative dodge which smacks to me of either desperation or lunacy. Obama's apologists note that George Bush had only six years in office before he became president; is this meant to be comforting? They also compare his lack of experience to Lincoln's. But Obama isn't Lincoln, and more to the point, this isn't 1860. When Lincoln ran for the office, the United States was mostly concerned with its own domestic crises. Today America is the world's only superpower, and the chief executive needs to grapple not only with a host of pressing domestic issues, but with dozens of ongoing and developing foreign crises across the globe. It's not just that it's a very, very hard job, it's a job that has gotten much, much harder over the last two hundred-plus years, and if the last six years have demonstrated anything, it's that we can't afford to put someone in that job who isn't qualified to do it.

Barack Obama hasn't demonstrated that he's qualified to be president. Hell, he hasn't demonstrated that he's more than a bare cipher as a senator at this point. The fact that he could be seriously considered presidential material in this country indicates that we have completely lost our ability to evaluate these people.

Posted by: Christmas | Dec 9, 2006 11:25:53 PM

Obama compiles a progressive record on the issues

...except the ones that poll at less than 70%. The populist rhetoric is cheap and easy to make; WJC made ample use of it in 1992 before governing as a hard centrist and breaking all of his promises. So far, the only bill I know that he's sponsored is something he's cosponsored with Orrin Hatch that allows bankrupt families to earmark 10% of their income to tithes before paying their creditors.

Even HRC takes a clear stance on abortion, even if she waffles on all other issues.

Posted by: Alon Levy | Dec 10, 2006 7:23:43 AM

Albeit politicians will usually try to fix politically damaging events, after 12 years of republicans failing to comprimise, admit any mistatkes, or even say I'm sorry, it's refreshing to see a diplomatic response to perceived mis-step. That may be why it's so memorable. Makes one wonder how an actual diplomat/politician would respond to mis-steps in Iraq and diplomacy with groups the US has problems with....

Posted by: bones | Dec 10, 2006 8:15:12 AM

Obama's apologists note that George Bush had only six years in office before he became president; is this meant to be comforting?

Here's the difference: Bush was a governor. Obama is a Senator, and the Senate is the graveyard of presidential ambition. (This is why I think neither McCain nor Hillary will win in 2008, although Hillary is more of an wild card in that respect.)

The longer Obama spends in the Senate, the more chance he has to do important and valuable things that will doom his presidential chances. (Kennedy, remember, had a fairly undistinguished Senate career; LBJ inherited the presidency.)

With the Illinois governorship out of the equation, Obama needs at least the Veep spot before he amasses votes and Senate actions that ruin him on the campaign trail: as James Bryce wrote, '[n]o man stands long before the public and bears a part in great affairs without giving openings to censorious criticism.' Hence the advantages of governors in presidential races, especially in states with lotsa electoral college votes. High name recognition where it matters, but a relative blank slate when it comes to critiquing the record.

In short, Obama's already in exactly the wrong place to run for the White House, and the longer he stays there, the worse his chances. I think he should do it, because I suspect that the public mood will be to repudiate everything Bush-like.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Dec 10, 2006 9:22:02 AM

Pseudonymous, that provides Obama with a motive to run. It doesn't provide us with a motive to vote for him. The Senate has to be something more than just a stepping-stone on a way to a presidential run; it can and should be used by senators to better their country. The best objection to candidates like Obama and Clinton is precisely that they've used their Senate careers as little more than preparation for a presidential run, and have accordingly taken no real risks and have made no real attempt to lead their party. Now that Democrats control both houses of Congress, the prospect of staying in the Senate should be more attractive than ever to a serious public servant - it's a chance to actually get things done. But Obama isn't a serious public servant, and he's not taking the Senate seriously in the least. He's just an ambitious pol who wants to coast to the top on little more than buzz and speaking ability. To ask the question of Obama Ezra has asked of Hillary: how can this guy lead the country if he doesn't want to lead at all where he is now?

Posted by: Christmas | Dec 10, 2006 11:17:21 AM

Obama's been doing a fair bit of stylistic triangulating while taking substantive positions that are pretty progressive.

That's sort of what you want in a general election candidate, isn't it?

Bingo. Progressives tend to make the mistake of wanting their people to sound progressive as well as vote progressive...which is just unbelievably stupid and self-defeating, because a plurality of Americans can't stand 'progressives' (even though they generally support progressive policies).

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Dec 10, 2006 11:21:11 AM

And for the record, I don't even like the idea of Obama as vice president. It's easy to forget that the VP's office has an actual constitutional role, and that the vice president should theoretically be just as qualified to lead the country as the president because he could replace him at any time. I don't think Obama is qualified for the top spot, and I don't think he's qualified to be a heartbeat away, either. Using the VP's office as a sort of training ground for a "designated successor" eight years down the line may have become the standard, but it's bad policy.

Posted by: Christmas | Dec 10, 2006 11:23:17 AM

Pseudonymous, that provides Obama with a motive to run. It doesn't provide us with a motive to vote for him.

Agreed. Although I do think you're far too idealistic about what it takes to be elected. For a politician with even the inkling of presidential aspirations, the career must be spent avoiding (or diminishing the damage) of everything that might scupper a potential run. You may find that distasteful, but that doesn't prevent it from being the case -- and it has been the case for a very long time. Read Bryce's book: it's aged well.

Using the VP's office as a sort of training ground for a "designated successor" eight years down the line may have become the standard, but it's bad policy.

If you'd like to go back to the very early days when the runner-up in the presidential election got the Veep spot, I wouldn't object. But if you're arguing that the Veep should be a term-limited Prince Charles, I don't think you'll find many takers. In truth, even the president isn't qualified for the job until he takes office.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Dec 10, 2006 12:06:42 PM

Alon Levy,

this Obsidian Wings post gives a pretty nice overview of what Obama has sponsored and proposed in Congress.

In short, legislation securing loose nukes in the former Soviet Union, regulating genetic testing, requiring hospitals to disclose medical errors, avian flu preparedness, subsidizing health care for auto manufacturers who develop hybrids, raising CAFE standards, bans on no-bid contractors in Katrina re-development, and (a proposal that has passed) - a public, searchable internet database of federal spending and contracts.

Posted by: Andrew | Dec 10, 2006 5:39:06 PM

I was just about to weigh in when I saw that Andrew had linked to my post above. I am completely undecided about '08, and completely uninterested in the 'ooh, who's going to run?' stuff. (Too early for me.) So I am not at all on Obama's bandwagon, or anyone else's.

However, as a wonky person, I have been really impressed by the number of times I'm digging around for information on some issue, and lo and behold I find that Obama has proposed really good legislation on it. The post Andrew linked gives details. A lot of it is on deeply non-sexy topics which are never covered, which is why people don't hear about them. But trust me: he has been doing some very good work, and he is what JimPortlandOR wants: an electable wonk.

Posted by: hilzoy | Dec 10, 2006 9:11:19 PM

what I love is when someone says they don't have a horse, and proceed to sound like they do.

Posted by: akaison | Dec 10, 2006 9:27:12 PM

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