July 8, 2008


The Struggle to Define Barack Obama (Thomas Edsall, 7/08/08, Real Clear Politics)

The struggle to define Barack Obama over the next seventeen weeks will pit the two presidential campaigns against each other, along with independent 527 groups determined to put their own stamp on the contest. Just as importantly, the battle will take place in the context of the contemporary politics of race.

On the Democratic side, the drive will be to portray Obama as a success story, an exemplar of deeply-rooted American egalitarian traditions, significantly advancing the national commitment to freedom and justice.

On the Republican side, the effort will be, rather, to link Obama to the powerful negative stereotypes of black Americans that were once widely prevalent, triggering bias -- proponents of such ads hope -- and stirring up the kind of race prejudice which underpinned that other American tradition -- slavery and Jim Crow.

Last we checked, Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis, and John Kerry weren't black, and that's all this election is about: Barry is a Northern liberal and he has to run away from that fact. His black nationalism is gravy, not the main course.

Indeed, we're much more likely to see this sort of black on black ideological violence as Senator Obama tries to ditch the identity politics that won him the nomination, Lurching With Abandon (Bob Herbert, 7/08/09, NY Times)

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.

So there he was in Zanesville, Ohio, pandering to evangelicals by promising not just to maintain the Bush program of investing taxpayer dollars in religious-based initiatives, but to expand it. Separation of church and state? Forget about it.

And there he was, in the midst of an election campaign in which the makeup of the Supreme Court is as important as it has ever been, agreeing with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas that the death penalty could be imposed for crimes other than murder. What was the man thinking?

Thankfully, a majority on the court left the barbaric Scalia-Thomas-Obama (and John McCain) reasoning behind and held that capital punishment would apply only to homicides.

“What’s he doing?” is the most common question heard recently from Obama supporters.

For one thing, he’s taking his base for granted, apparently believing that such stalwart supporters as blacks, progressives and pumped-up younger voters will be with him no matter what. A taste of the backlash this can produce erupted on the candidate’s own Web site.

Thousands of Obama supporters flooded the site with protests over his decision to support an electronic surveillance bill that gives retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The senator had previously promised to filibuster the bill if it contained the immunity clause.

There has been a reluctance among blacks to openly criticize Senator Obama, the first black candidate with a real shot at the presidency. But behind the scenes, there is discontent among African-Americans, as well, over Mr. Obama’s move away from progressive issues, including his support of the Supreme Court’s decision affirming the constitutional right of individuals to bear arms.

Obama's Astounding Bad Faith (Rich Lowry, 7/08/08, Real Clear Politics)

What makes Obama’s “textbook” dash to the center so extraordinary is not just its speed, but how it falsifies the very essence of his candidacy. It’s as if Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 1992 and announced suddenly that actually he was not a “new kind of Democrat”; or if George W. Bush, after winning his party’s nomination in 2000, forswore “compassionate conservatism”; or if John McCain, after winning the GOP nomination this year, declared in favor of a hard deadline for withdrawal from Iraq.

In the past few weeks, Obama has broken two pledges (to take public financing in the general election and to filibuster legal immunity for telecoms that cooperated with the government in terrorist surveillance); has belittled his own rhetoric during the primary campaign (saying it could get “overheated and amplified” on the issue of trade); redefined his promise to meet without preconditions with the leaders of hostile states until it’s basically meaningless; endorsed a Supreme Court decision striking down a Washington, D.C., gun ban his campaign had previously said he supported; and made muddy, centrist-sounding statements about his positions on Iraq and abortion that he had to go back and try to clarify.

Has there ever in recent political memory been so much calculation and bad faith by a politician who has made so much of eschewing both? We now know that Barack Obama is not naive, but his ardent supporters are. Obama exhorted them to “believe” — one of his favorite words — in him and his virtue above all, and as soon as they gave him the nomination he wanted, he showed how foolishly credulous they had been. When it comes to triangulating, he’s Hillary Clinton without the baggage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 8, 2008 7:12 AM

100% of the people I've ever read talking about Obama being "attacked" for being black are Democrats. It's all a setup for claiming that McCain won because of racism.

Posted by: b at July 8, 2008 11:46 AM
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