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.

Seattle Times Endorses Obama

The Seattle Times has endorsed Barack Obama. In this excerpt from the endorsement they address the question of experience versus judgment. I certainly agree in choosing someone whose judgment has proven to be correct over a candidate such as Clinton who might have more experience (if you include her years as First Lady) but who has shown poor judgment on the war as well as other issues:

Critics ask a fair question about Obama’s experience. He has been a U. S. senator for three years, Illinois state senator for eight, lawyer, lecturer, community organizer — a résumé some say is not executive enough for a president.

American voters tend to select governors rather than senators for president, President Bush being a recent example. Bush fit the mold — governor of Texas six years — but his résumé proved to be a failed indicator.

Judgment is more important. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was the most-wrongheaded decision of our time.

Voters this time have reason to focus on other qualities, such as the courage to tell people things they might not want to hear. Obama, for example, took his pitch for higher fuel-efficiency standards to the most-challenging audience, Detroit.

And in October 2002, when our country was horribly bruised by Sept. 11, he came out against the war in Iraq: “I don’t oppose all wars. … What I am opposed to is a dumb war. … What I am opposed to is a rash war.”

Such statements might sound unpatriotic — unless, of course, the speaker turns out to be correct. In an Obama administration, American troops have a chance to start coming home.

Sebelius To Endorse Obama

We have yet another endorsement coming in for Obama this week:

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) will deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union on Monday.

And then Tuesday or Wednesday, she plans to endorse Barack Obama, numerous Democratic sources said.

The sources said that Sebelius decided some time ago that Obama was her candidate but decided to wait until after the State of the Union.

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Independents on Super Tuesday

In the early primaries both Barack Obama and John McCain have benefited from votes from independents in states where they are allowed to vote in the party primaries. I’ve seen a number of articles claiming that they would lose this advantage as the upcoming primaries are closed, but not it appears this does not entirely apply on Super Tuesday. AP reports:

More than half the states holding presidential contests next month on Super Tuesday allow unaffiliated voters to participate, giving millions of independents a chance to shape what is usually an insider affair among Democratic and Republican loyalists.

Two of those states, California and New Jersey, together have nearly 6 million unaffiliated voters who will be allowed to cast ballots. Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts and Alabama are among other prized catches with millions of independents eligible for the Feb. 5 contests…

Fifteen of the 24 states holding contests on Super Tuesday have some form of flexible voting system. Some are wide open, allowing voters to cast ballots in either party regardless of political affiliation. Others have semi-open primaries, allowing unaffiliated voters to participate if they register with a party on the day of the primary.

Obama could get the biggest boost, analysts said, because independents appear to be leaning toward Democrats this year…

The ranks of unaffiliated voters have grown steadily since the 1960s. Experts estimate that about one in five eligible voters nationally are independents. But the figure is difficult to pin down because many states don’t require voter registration by party, and many voters who call themselves independents lean strongly toward one party.

Among states with partisan registration, percentages vary widely.

California’s 3 million unaffiliated voters account for about 19 percent of the state’s total registered. In New Jersey, some 2.8 million are unaffiliated, well over half. Kansas and Massachusetts, two other Super Tuesday states with flexible primary rules, have 447,634 (27 percent) and 2 million (50 percent) unaffiliated voters, respectively.

I’m also not convinced that candidates who appeal to independents won’t do as well in states which do not allow independents to vote in primaries. Independents who are motivated to vote in party primaries might be more likely to take action to ensure they can vote in other states. I bet that many people will register as independents in states where this is an option but register as a member of the party they vote for the most often if this is the only way to vote in a primary. I suspect that states which do not allow independents to vote in party primaries have a larger number of people registered as members of a party who vote more similarly to the independent voters, and such voters will still tend to vote more for Obama and McCain. One important factor might be the ease of registering to vote in a party primary for new voters who desire to vote for Obama. It will be interesting to see if there is a major difference in the primary results based upon whether independents can vote.

Joe Klein on The Rejection of the Smear Campaign

Joe Klein has some comments on the repudiation of the Clinton smear campaign in South Carolina:

Make no mistake: What happened in South Carolina today was a moral reprimand delivered to Bill and Hillary Clinton by a united Democratic Party–but especially by the African-American segment of that party.

I chased the Clintons around South Carolina yesterday and the absence of black faces at their rallies was striking–eerie almost, the absence a palpable presence, as if the rooms were filled with ghosts. In Penn Center on St. Helena Island, which has been a historic nexus of the civil rights movement going back to the civil war–a place where Martin Luther King Jr would sometimes go to live in a rude cabin, and to write and think–Bill Clinton looked out on a lily-white crowd and he must have known what he was seeing: a silent, decorous protest against him by a segment of the Democratic Party that was always there for him in the past, the churchified African-American middle class, a group that represents the Democrats’ canary in the coal mine when it comes to injustice.

A mass, unspoken decision had been made that Bill and Hillary Clinton had behaved unjustly toward Barack Obama. It was the sort of decision that Bill Clinton might have tried to argue with, if it had come from the presss: “Hell, that Reagan thing…c’mon that’s the kind of thing Republicans do to us all the time. Barack’s gonna have to get used to it if he wants to play in the big leagues…” Except he had pulled the Reagan thing–trying to make it seem as if Obama had said that Reagan’s ideas were better ideas–with the wrong audience…and I don’t just mean black people, I mean an entire political party sick of games-playing.

This might be the key lesson from this primary campaign. Republicans might have gotten away with these tactics, but many Democrats do not want to wind up with a choice of two parties behaving equally bad.

It may well be true that any Democrat is going to have to handle that sort of sewage in the general election, but I’ve now–belatedly!–figured out that the real audacity in Barack Obama’s campaign–far more than his positions on the issues, which almost seem an afterthought–is his outrageous belief that the entire country, not just Democrats, wants to see a straight up election; that the entire country is tired of the pestilence of tactical tricks that the Clintons learned from their co-dynasts, the Bushes. (The latest example being their sudden, sociopathic emphasis on the importance of the Florida primary, a contest all three candidates had agreed to eschew at the behest of the Democatic National Committee.)

It is a hell of a bet Obama has made. And nearly 40 years of political, uhm, experience tells me that it isn’t a very wise one…but I must also say that it is truly sad to see Bill and Hillary Clinton on the wrong side of it.

Illinois Legislators Defend Present Votes

Stateline.org has reviewed the meaning of “present” votes in the state legislature:

Obama’s former colleagues who still serve in the Illinois Capitol say that the attacks are off-base and that either Obama’s opponents don’t understand how things work in Springfield or they are deliberately distorting his record.

“To insinuate the ‘present’ vote means you’re indecisive, that you don’t have the courage to hold public office, that’s a stretch. But, it’s good politics,” said state Rep. Bill Black (R), a 22-year veteran of the House and his party’s floor leader…

The “present” vote in Illinois is sometimes cast by state lawmakers with a conflict of interest who would rather not weigh in on an issue. Other times, members use the option to object to certain parts of a bill, even though they may agree with its overall purpose.

“The ‘present’ vote is used, especially by more thoughtful legislators, not as a means of avoiding taking a position on an issue, but as a means of signaling concerns about an issue,” said state Rep. John Fritchey (D), an Obama supporter.

There’s further information on voting present both in the entire article quoted above and in this post from last month.

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