Andrew Sullivan’s Insight into Obama

Barack Obama has transcended the traditional support for a liberal candidate. He has both conservatives and libertarians seriously considering voting for him. Andrew Sullivan sums up what is different about Obama:

He is not a traditional top-down big government liberal. He’s a pragmatist who believes in finding ways to empower people to run their own lives. No, he’s no libertarian. But his view of government’s role has absorbed some of the right-wing critiques of the 1970s and 1980s. Hence the lack of mandates in his healthcare proposal and his refusal to engage in racial victimology. This nuance is worth exploring. Unlike Hillary, he doesn’t believe he is going to save anyone. He thinks he has a chance to help some people save themselves.

Obama is a liberal for those of us who are not worshipers of big government and who understand why the Democrats became a minority party. Obama can receive support from conservatives and libertarians, and will undoubtedly remain the target of an ongoing stream of attacks from big government liberals like Paul Krugman. Krugman, along with Clinton and Edwards, represent an old fashioned strain of liberalism which has failed and has been rejected. Obama is not a conservative or libertarian as he will use government where needed, without attempting the micromanagement of each individual’s life like Hillary Clinton or resorting to class warfare like John Edwards. Obama represents the liberalism of the future, which understands the classical foundations of liberalism as a philosophy of liberty.

Toni Morrison Endorses Barack Obama

In 1998 Toni Morrison wrote about Bill Clinton: “White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black president. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.” America may have changed more than she expected since 1998. Today she wrote to Barack Obama to support him for president:

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don’t see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can’t train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace–that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country’s citizens as “we,” not “they”? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Ted Kennedy Endorses Barack Obama, Debunking Clinton Talking Points

Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama earlier today (video above). The full texts of Kennedy’s speech, along with speeches by Caroline Kennedy and Barack Obama are available here. During the speech Kennedy said:

Let there be no doubt: We are all committed to seeing a Democratic President in 2008.

But I believe there is one candidate who has extraordinary gifts of leadership and character, matched to the extraordinary demands of this moment in history.

He understands what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “fierce urgency of now.”

He will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past. He is a leader who sees the world clearly without being cynical. He is a fighter who cares passionately about the causes he believes in, without demonizing those who hold a different view.

He is tough-minded, but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”

I am proud to stand here today and offer my help, my voice, my energy and my commitment to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States.

Kennedy responded to some of the recent attacks on Obama. On Iraq he stated:

We know the true record of Barack Obama. There is the courage he showed when so many others were silent or simply went along. From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq.

And let no one deny that truth.

This is extended to the other recent distortions of Obama’s positions by the Clinton campaign as Kennedy said, “With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion.” Kennedy took on another Clinton talking point in saying, “I know that he’s ready to be President on day one.”

Lying and the Undermining of Democracy

The previous post commented on one of the absurd reactions to the Clinton vs. Obama campaign in the blogosphere. Fortunately there are also numerous excellent posts which show that some liberals really are in the reality based community. One which is well worth reading comes from Obsidian Wings. Hilzoy begins by noting, “I think it’s more or less beyond question that Hillary Clinton, and her husband, have told a series of lies about Barack Obama.” The post proceeds to discuss how this undermines democracy:

Lying in an election is basically a way of saying: we know how you ought to vote, and if we can’t get you to vote that way by presenting you with facts and arguments, or even with truthful but emotionally shaded appeals, then we will get you to vote our way by telling you things that are not true. It’s hard to see what could be more profoundly disrespectful of people’s right to decide for themselves whom to vote for.

It is also, needless to say, at odds with one of the basic principles of democracy: that people have the right to decide for themselves whom to support.

But it also undermines democracy by placing intolerable burdens on citizens. As I said above, I think that the assumption that most people are not following the news closely enough to be able to tell who is telling the truth and who is lying is probably correct. In part, this is because (in my humble opinion) many people are not sufficiently politically informed. I think that it is our duty as citizens to learn enough to cast informed votes, and that this requires both following the news to some extent and also acquiring enough background knowledge (e.g., of economics) to be able to assess what people say.

However, I do not think that it ought to be our duty as citizens to become complete political junkies, the sorts of people who follow each and every twist and turn in a Presidential campaign. Some of us are like that (she said, bashfully), but I cannot see any reason at all why everyone should be.

But when candidates tell the kinds of lies that the Clintons have been telling, they place citizens in a position in which the only way to know what is going on is to become political junkies. Being merely informed is not enough: you have to be the sort of person who actually remembers the article from 2004 that Bill Clinton was referring to when he said that Obama had changed his position on the war, and so forth.

The post concludes with a round up of several of the major lies being spread by the Clinton campaign.

Taylor Marsh Jumps the Shark

The nuttiness from some of the Clinton supporters is getting more and more absurd. It’s bad enough when they repeat every dishonest claim, from their misinterpretation of the present votes to the distortions of the interview where Ronald Reagan was mentioned. They easily ignore all the cases of race baiting. At other times Clinton supporters brag about the manner in which their candidate is going after Obama, seeing nothing at all wrong with imitating the tactics of the Republicans. Today the lunacy has reached a new extreme in a post from Taylor Marsh.

Hillary Clinton had tried to get the endorsement from Ted Kennedy. Kennedy is planning to endorse Obama, largely due to the unethical tactics of the Clinton campaign which the Clinton supporters either ignore or justify. (They really do need to get their stories straight on this point.) Marsh responds by trashing John Kennedy, including bringing up his connections to the mob. There’s no doubt that if Ted Kennedy had endorsed Clinton we would be hearing about how wonderful JFK was and how Hillary would recreate Camelot.

Marsh progresses to develop an imaginary world in which she claims Obama would have voted for the war if he was in the Senate. This argument is hardly convincing considering that it was Clinton who voted for the war while Obama was speaking out against it.The ending is quite strange as it suggests that Marsh has no understanding of why the war should have been opposed. She argues that Kennedy would have voted for the war because he was “an unabashed Cold War hawk.” This accepts the right wing meme that to oppose the Iraq war is equivalent to being opposed to the defense of the country. The Iraq war should have been opposed because the war was contrary to our national interests and because it represented an unprovoked invasion of another country on false premises. This was not a matter of being a hawk or a dove. One could be a hawk against a real threat such as the Soviet Union and still opposing an disastrous move such as going into Iraq. John Kennedy might have opposed the war as his brother has.

Besides, even if JFK would have voted yes this does not mean that Obama would have. Obama is receiving the endorsement of Kennedy’s brother and daughter, and is being compared to him in some ways, but that does not mean they are identical. The endorsement does not suggest that Obama and Kennedy would agree on all matters. Even if the JFK of the early 1960’s seemed like someone who would have supported the Iraq war, a current Senator or president would have the added historical perspective of the limitations of American intervention and of the complexities of the middle east. No matter how she tries to spin it, Hillary Clinton had the poor judgment to support the war while Obama opposed it.