Obama’s Record on Bipartisanship and Defending Liberal Principles

David Igantius has bad timing with today’s op-ed. He accuses Obama of being thin with regards to being a bridge builder, taking a selective view of his record to support his premise. Today’s news provides one of many examples to contradict his argument as The Times of London reports on Obama’s plans to consider Republicans for his cabinet:

Obama believes he will be able to neutralise McCain by drawing on the expertise of independent Republicans such as Hagel and Lugar, who is regarded by Obama as a potential secretary of state.

Larry Korb, a defence official under President Ronald Reagan who is backing Obama, said: “By putting a Republican in the Pentagon and the State Department you send a signal to Congress and the American people that issues of national security are above politics.”

Korb recalled that President John F Kennedy appointed Robert McNamara, a Republican, as defence secretary in 1961. “Hagel is not only a Republican but a military veteran who would reassure the troops that there was somebody in the Pentagon who understood their hopes, concerns and fears,” he said.

While the appointment of McNamara did not turn out very well, we cannot judge all potential Republican cabinet members based upon his failings.

Obama’s record both in the Illinois legislature and in the Senate is far stronger than as described by Igantius, including measures involving achieving bipartisan support. I previously wrote about Obama’s record here. Ignatius also revives the bogus attacks on Obama for voting present in the Illinois legislature. Members of the Illinois legislature have defended Obama’s record as noted here. I also had more on this issue here. An op-ed at The Chicago Tribune has argued that this disparagement of Obama’s voting record doesn’t hold up. Lorna Brett Howard, the former President of Chicago NOW, changed her support from Clinton to Obama after seeing how Clinton was distorting Obama’s record.

Obama’s ability to transcend partisan divides can also be seen in the support he receives from independents and even some Republicans. Another example can be seen in the influence of Obama’s economic advisers from the University of Chicago. This leads to a number of economic policies which transcend the traditional left versus right divide by promoting progressive aims with consideration of conservative Chicago School economic views.

The type of criticism of Obama coming from Igantius is also an example of Obama being held to a higher standard than other politicians. Few people really expect Obama to be able to suddenly eliminate all partisan disputes. I support him primarily based upon the issues. For example, of the three remaining viable candidates from either party he is the only one who has a liberal record on civil liberties and social issues where I have many areas of agreement, and is the only one to have opposed the Iraq war. The fact that Obama does show some ability to transcend partisan disputes is a plus, but hardly the main reason to support him.

Obama, like Clinton and McCain, is also a politician and it would be quite naive to believe that he has never considered the political implications of issues. Some people incorrectly compare Obama’s bipartisanship to Clinton’s triangulation but there are major differences. Obama continues to support liberal principles while achieving bipartisan support for his positions while Clinton is to ignore principle based upon political expediency. One of the best examples came after the 2004 election when it was revealed that Bill Clinton advised John Kerry to support the Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in the states where this was on the ballot in order to pick up more votes. Kerry refused to ignore principle by following this advice, but does anyone doubt that Hillary Clinton would have? We also see her willingness to pander to the right in her support for a ban on flag burning, her crusade to censor video games, and her support for the drug war (including opposition to needle exchange programs and her views on sentencing).

Igantius also seems to find McCain to be purer than Obama, but this does not hold up when looking at how McCain has refused to repudiate John Hagee, especially when compared to Obama’s response to his support from Farrakhan. McCain has also pandered to the religious right in the past, such as with his claims that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. McCain’s position on lobbyists is contradicted by recent revelations. McCain also voted the party line, ignoring his previously stated principles, when voting on the water boarding ban.

Bill Clinton is right when he describes voting for Obama as a gamble. However, when looking at the positions and records of Hillary Clinton and John McCain, this is a gamble which I believe we should make. With both Clinton and McCain we are virtually guaranteed to continue with the status quo. Of the remaining candidates, only Obama offers any hope of real change on foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues. Only Obama offers a chance to move beyond the current strategies of both parties to impose their viewpoints based upon achieving the support of 50% plus one and achieve a new majority.

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  1. 1
    Christopher says:

    This is something I don’t understand about Hillary’s Harpies who go batshit crazy about Barack Obama saying he plans to represent all Americans: black, white, liberal, winger, gay and straight and furthermore, reach across the aisle to work with Repugs in order to get his ambitious agenda passed for the American people.

    Obama is smart enough to realize in order to get 60 votes, he will need the support of a few Repugs. Ted Kennedy understands this. Alan Simpson understood this. Adults understand this.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely zero use for the GOP and their minions but in a divided Congress, sometimes deals must be cut with the enemy.

  2. 2
    mary says:

    I am surprised that Senator Obama would consider Luger for Secretary of State. That disappoints me. Lugar authored the Iran Resolution and Obama wrote the counter resolution to slow down a rush into Iran. It seems to be a contradiction. I thought Obama was too smart to take us into yet another war, unlike Clinton who voted yes to the Iran Resolution. Sad day for the USA that we seem to be mislead by even Senator Obama, if this is true.

    Too bad the known corrupt Clintons had not been disbarred from running, so, we, the people could have had more choices on the Democrat ticket.

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