Obama’s Legislative Record

The usual assortment of pro-Clinton blogs are making a big deal about an interview in which Texas State Senator Kirk Watson did a poor job of answering a question from Chis Matthews on Obama’s record. Again this shows their propensity to disregard the truth. A surrogate’s inability to answer a question on Obama’s legislative record might reflect poorly upon the surrogate’s ability to act as a surrogate for the campaign, but it says nothing about Obama’s actual record. In the future campaigns might consider briefing surrogates on such matters before an interview.

Sometimes it is a matter of having difficulty answering a question under the pressures of being on television. Watson has a blog post in which he tries to correct his earlier answer:

On Tuesday night, after an important and historic victory in the Wisconsin Presidential Primary by Senator Barack Obama, I appeared on the MSNBC post-election program. “Hardball” host Chris Matthews (who is, it turns out, as ferocious as they say), began grilling me on Senator Obama’s legislative record.

And my mind went blank. I expected to be asked about the primary that night, or the big one coming up in Texas on March 4, or just about anything else in the news. When the subject changed so emphatically, I reached for information that millions of my fellow Obama supporters could recite by heart, and I couldn’t summon it.

My most unfortunate gaffe is not, in any way, a comment on Senator Obama, his substantial record, or the great opportunity we all share to elect him President of the United States.

Had I not lost my mind, here are the accomplishments I would have mentioned:

  • Senator Obama’s fight for universal children’s health care in Illinois.
  • His success bringing Republicans and Democrats together (a huge selling point for me in general) on bills such as the one in Illinois requiring police interrogations and confessions to be videotaped.
  • His leadership on ethics reform in Washington (the bill that lobbyists and special interests are complaining about right now has his name on it).
  • His bill to make the federal budget far more transparent and accessible to Americans via the Internet – we could use that openness in Texas.
  • And his vital work with Republicans to lock down nuclear weapons around the world.

Of course, it would have helped to remember all of this last night. I encourage anyone who wants to know more (especially Mr. Matthews) to log onto texas.barackobama.com.

In the meantime, let’s not lose focus on what’s important in this election. It’s not my stunning televised defeat in “Stump the Chump.” Thankfully, it has nothing at all to do with me.

What’s important is the direction our country is headed. What’s important are the priorities, methods, and, yes, accomplishments of those seeking the highest office in the country.

Senator Obama has a vision for this nation, and we would be fortunate to fulfill it. He has the commitment to work with everyone from across the political and demographic spectrum to achieve it. And he has the strength to defend us, our security, and our values against all who will challenge them.

But most of all, he has the record to prove that all of this is possible. It’s something no one should forget.

. . . Even though I did.

. . . On national television.

I’ve noted elements of Obama’s legislative record in previous posts. Hilzoy had an excellent post not long ago:

I came to Obama by an unusual route: as I explained here, I follow some issues pretty closely, and over and over again, Barack Obama kept popping up, doing really good substantive things. There he was, working for nuclear non-proliferation and securing loose stockpiles of conventional weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles. There he was again, passing what the Washington Post called “the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet” — though not as strong as Obama would have liked. Look — he’s over there, passing a bill that created a searchable database of recipients of federal contracts and grants, proposing legislation on avian flu back when most people hadn’t even heard of it, working to make sure that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were screened for traumatic brain injury and to prevent homelessness among veterans, successfully fighting a proposal by the VA to reexamine all PTSD cases in which full benefits had been awarded, working to ban no-bid contracts in Katrina reconstruction, and introducing legislation to criminalize deceptive political tactics and voter intimidation. And there he was again, introducing a tech plan of which Lawrence Lessig wrote:

“Obama has committed himself to a technology policy for government that could radically change how government works. The small part of that is simple efficiency — the appointment with broad power of a CTO for the government, making the insanely backwards technology systems of government actually work.But the big part of this is a commitment to making data about the government (as well as government data) publicly available in standard machine readable formats. The promise isn’t just the naive promise that government websites will work better and reveal more. It is the really powerful promise to feed the data necessary for the Sunlights and the Maplights of the world to make government work better. Atomize (or RSS-ify) government data (votes, contributions, Members of Congress’s calendars) and you enable the rest of us to make clear the economy of influence that is Washington.

After the debacle that is the last 7 years, the duty is upon the Democrats to be something different. I’ve been wildly critical of their sameness (remember “Dems to the Net: Go to hell” which earned me lots of friends in the Democratic party). I would give my left arm to be able to celebrate their difference. This man, Mr. Obama, would be that difference. He has as much support as I can give.”

Hilzoy also discussed many of Obama’s proposals, including ones related to open government:

Moreover, he is very interested in open government. The searchable database of government grant and contract recipients that I mentioned above is part of that. But Obama’s proposals (pdf) go further. For instance, consider these proposals:

* Centralize Ethics and Lobbying Information for Voters: Obama will create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records, and campaign finance filings in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.* Create a Public “Contracts and Influence” Database: As president, Obama will create a “contracts and influence” database that will disclose how much federal contractors spend on lobbying, and what contracts they are getting and how well they complete them.

* Expose Special Interest Tax Breaks to Public Scrutiny: Barack Obama will ensure that any tax breaks for corporate recipients — or tax earmarks — are also publicly available on the Internet in an easily searchable format.

* End Abuse of No-Bid Contracts: Barack Obama will end abuse of no-bid contracts by requiring that nearly all contract orders over $25,000 be competitively awarded.

* Sunlight Before Signing: Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them. As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.

* Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.

* Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.

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