The End of the Freak Show and the Conservative Arguments Against Obama

Guy Benson (www.guybensonshow.com) and Mary Katharine Ham (www.weeklystandard.com) have posted what they consider to be The comprehensive argument against Barack Obama at Hot Air. Their inability to come up with anything more with more substance than this, along with the lack of any positive argument to vote for John McCain, demonstrates why Obama is now so far ahead in the polls. The post consists of a lot of distortions and repetition of standard right wing talking points which I and others have debunked multiple times throughout the campaign, and which voters are ignoring this year.

Their arguments consist of the type of freak show politics which Matt Drudge has promoted in recent years as described by Mark Halperin and John Harris in The Way to Win. The failure of such smears to gain traction points to a change in the political climate discussed by Eric Boehlert today as he discussed how Drudge has lost his influence compared to that described by Halperin and Harris in The Way to Win. Eric wrote:

Why the misfires? As Halperin himself noted in 2006, “Matt Drudge is not doing stories on policy, on welfare, on healthcare. He’s doing stories on the most salacious aspects of American politics. When that drives the dialogue, that’s where the country heads, that’s where our political coverage heads.”

Thanks to our current economic crisis, “the most salacious aspects of American politics,” as Halperin put it, have taken a vacation during the closing weeks of this campaign. And the press can’t even pretend that those “salacious aspects” are remotely newsworthy, which means the second part of Halperin’s claim, about Drudge driving the dialogue, no longer applies.

Halperin’s writing partner John Harris admitted as much recently while addressing students at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. In an article on Harris’ speech, the local paper reported: “The Republican Party’s ‘Machiavellian’ style of attack politics hasn’t struck a chord in this election, Mr. Harris said, leaving John McCain to shift strategies nearly weekly.”

The so-called comprehensive argument against Obama represents a futile attempt to restore the freak show to its dominance in selecting presidents at a time when the electorate has moved beyond this and wants a serious candidate who has meaningful positions on the real issues.

I have already discussed many of these arguments in depth and will only quickly outline the flaws in the these arguments against Obama. Their arguments would only be persuasive to those who lack a moral compass and accept the authoritarian mind set and dishonesty of the far right or who are ignorant of the issues and Obama’s actual positions. They pretend to be providing information by utilizing video clips, but they repeatedly take comments out of context and surround them with outright untrue statements and misinterpretations in what amounts to a crude hatchet job and not meaningful political discourse.

Their first point comes the closest to being over a real issue. While they grossly distort Obama’s views, repeat the usual right wing nonsense on partial-birth abortions, ignore Obama’s opposition to late term abortions unless the health of the mother is in danger, and even repeat the smear that Obama supports infanticide, there is a real differences between the parties on abortion rights. What they fail to understand that a majority reject the view of the authoritarian right that they have the right to control the bodies of others. A majority agree with Obama on abortion, and reminding them that John McCain would return us to the era of shirt-hanger abortions will not help him pick up any votes. Even many who oppose abortion rights would not go as far as John McCain and Sarah Palin in ignoring exceptions based upon the health of the mother or rape.

Their second point distorts Obama’s views on taxes, distorting his words and claiming that Obama’s comment to “spread the wealth around” does not sound like the words of a tax cutter. An objective comparison of the tax policies of Obama and McCain was reviewed here. They miss the point that by spreading the wealth around Obama means giving a tax cut to the middle class. They also erroneously claim that increases in capital gains taxes decreases tax revenue, and vice versa, along with ignoring the fact that Obama’s proposed increases in capital gains taxes will only affect couples making over $250,000 per year, and the tax would still be less than under Ronald Reagan. Changes in the capital gains rate primarily changes how investment income is structured and changes where the taxes come from far more than the total tax revenue raised, making it easy to play politically motivated games with the results of a rate change. The ability to distort the consequences of tax rates on investment income is further complicated by the fact that more taxes are brought in when the market is rising. Tax revenue will increase during a strong bull market if the capital gains rate is raised, lowered, or remains the same.

Their third point is to again raise the debunked claims of radical associations which I have already discussed in numerous posts. The ironies in this attack are that 1) John McCain is the one who really has associations with extremists, and 2) these McCarthist attacks on Obama have wound up backfiring against McCain, providing serious people with a real reason to stay clear of the authoritarian right.

Bringing up foreign policy judgment was a poor choice considering that Obama was right on opposing going to war, regardless of how much they want to minimize this. Obama was also right about the surge, regardless of how they want to distort his actual position. Opponents of the surge predicted a decrease in violence with an increase in troops, but the real issue is achieving a political settlement which allows us to leave rather than remaining in Iraq for one-hundred years. While John McCain might be okay with this strategy, the majority of American voters are not.

Similarly they distort Obama’s position on negotiations, appearing to not even understand what “precondition” means diplomatically. While Obama is not demanding preconditions as to the outcome of negotiations, he is not supporting negotiations without any preparation or conditions as they falsey imply. They quote Hillary Clinton and John Edwards’ politically motivated opposition to Obama’s position during the primaries but ignore the support for diplomacy recently expressed by five former secretaries of state. Most voters will feel more comfortable with a candidate who wants to talk to Iran and realize that singing “Bomb, Bomb. Bomb Iran” as McCain has only worsens the situation.

Their claims of disdain for the heartland and playing the race card based upon statements taken out of context and creative interpretations of his meaning, are total nonsense which will have no traction. Their claim of lack of accomplishments ignores Obama’s actual accomplishments. Besides, this a rather bizarre argument to still bring up against Obama after John McCain picked Sarah Palin, who has a fraction of the experience which Obama has, to be his running mate.

More importantly in terms of the election, American voters have seen Barack Obama and John McCain together in three debates besides watching both on the campaign trail. It has been clear that Obama, despite (or perhaps because of) less years in Washington, Obama has far better understanding of the issues, better judgment, and holds the positions held by a majority of voters. Such attempts to revive the freak show will not work as voters are now looking for the candidate who can best solve our actual problems, not the types of problems which only haunt the imaginations of those on the far right. These attempts to replay the politics of past elections when voters have moved beyond such nonsense is exactly why Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 and why John McCain is unlikely to be elected president.

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