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  1. #1
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    What Obama stands for

    Russ made this comment on another thread:


    There has been an increasing amount of support here for Obama, which, IMHO, seems to be largely based on emotion, in that his charm and charisma make us feel good. Perhaps we're waiting until he officially becomes the D candidate before taking a more detailed look at where he stands.

    I think it's an interesting comment, and made me do a quick rewind through my own thinking about this race. So, with apologies in advance for rambling, and with the intention of sparking an open-ended conversation about what we're looking for in a president, here are some loosely connected thoughts:

    As you all know, there was no chance going into this primary season that I'd switch my party affiliation. I'm a liberal Democrat, so the open question for me from day one was which of the Democratic candidates would get my vote in November.

    A year or two ago, I hoped for a Gore-Obama ticket, which of course was just wishful thinking. Gore is finished with electoral politics.

    For a while I considered Mark Warner, the former VA gov, back when he was getting serious profiles in major magazines. Mostly I liked him for his crossover appeal: successful businessman, popular red-state governor, a non-divisive guy with an optimistic attitude. I saw some potential for him to emerge as a viable moderate. But he dropped out more than a year ago.

    My next choice was probably Bill Richardson, mostly because of his resume -- congressman, diplomat, energy secretary, red-state governor.

    When Obama got into the race, I thought he must be in there to make himself viable as a VP candidate. I wondered if Richardson-Obama be a good ticket.

    In the early debates, I grew to like Clinton more and more, and wrote Richardson off. She seemed to be the most confident candidate, and gave the most measured answers to questions. Richardson seemed scattered. At times I wondered if he was mildly inebriated. I thought I could've performed better in those debates than he did. (I later learned that in one debate he couldn't hear what was going on from his end of the stage, which helps explain why he seemed so out of it.)

    A few thoughts about Clinton:

    I never doubted her potential competence as an executive. People now are joking about her assertion of "35 years' experience," or whatever it is, but I take that claim seriously. From the time she served as a lawyer on the Senate committee investigating Watergate, she's been involved in the political process. Writing laws is the province of lawyers, and she's been involved in the law at a high level for decades. She took a lot of heat for her role in her husband's career as governor and president, but I think we can all concede now that it helped prepare her for the presidency.

    So I was fine with her as the Dem nominee, if she won. She seemed the most ready for the job.

    Obama, meanwhile, seemed too passive and lawerly in those early debates. He didn't leave much of an impression.

    But he got better as the race went on. In particular, as it came down to a two-person race, he got much better at countering attacks. Kuri and I have been joking about how he's using MMA while Clinton keeps trying to force him to box. But does that say anything about him as a potential president, beyond his growing skill as a political campaigner?

    Let's consider a few of his qualities:

    1. He's extraordinarily intelligent. But that should just be the entrance requirement for a U.S. president, rather than a remarkable trait. And Clinton is no dummy.

    2. He's a policy wonk, sponsor or cosponsor of hundreds of bills in Illinois and the U.S. Senate. But you can't say he has an edge over Clinton here; if anything, she's even more policy-oriented.

    3. He's a constitutional scholar, which means he knows what's in the real constitution, not the made-up version that has a unitary executive. But Clinton is no stranger to the law, as I noted earlier.

    4. In his voting record, he's a pretty conventional liberal, which of course applies to Clinton as well. I've read that their voting records are more or less identical. That makes sense, given the tactical, partisan nature of the Senate since 2004, with many of the votes being called just to embarrass one side or the other.

    5. The major point of separation is that she was in the Senate in 2002, and voted for the Iraq war resolution. He was in Illinois, where he gave a speech opposing the war. It's impossible to say how he would've voted if he'd been in the U.S. Senate in 2002. Would he have joined Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, Max Cleland, and all the others who ended up regretting that vote?

    So here's what I'm left with: If I had to pick the Democratic nominee who'd be the best president, in terms of pure governance, I'd probably go with Clinton.

    But the presidency is never about pure governance. It's never about the candidate's resume or proven competence in other jobs held before the presidency. If it were, James Buchanan and Herbert Hoover would've gone down in history as two of our best presidents, rather than two of our worst.

    Two of our best presidents, Lincoln and FDR, came into office with relatively thin resumes.

    Lincoln was a very successful lawyer, one of the wealthiest men in Illinois by 1860, but his political accomplishments were limited. He gained the confidence of the nascent Republican Party because of his inspirational speeches and his backroom ability to bring people together. He was funny in a self-deprecating way, and he made people like him and like each other when they were in the room together.

    FDR had a more varied resume -- he'd been in the NY state senate, assistant secretary of the Navy under Wilson during WWI, and governor of NY -- but he'd also failed in campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the vice presidency. Like Lincoln, however, he learned from his early mistakes, and knew how to make friends and gain party leaders' confidence.

    I look at Obama in that context. He's really no neophyte. He's come from nowhere to forge important alliances and gain leaders' confidence everywhere he's gone. I mean, imagine a guy with no wealth, no family history, black skin and a funny name being elected president of the Harvard Law Review. Twenty-some years later, he's the front-runner for a major party's nomination at age 46, running against one of the best-known and best-funded candidates in modern history.

    So that's why I'm excited about him. He can connect with voters with his speeches, and in the corridors of wealth and power, where things actually get done, he can gain the confidence of major funders and party insiders. The people who understand power and politics far better than we ever can support him.

    That's why I think he can be a good president. He can inspire, he can bring people together, and I think ultimately he can lead.

    That's my very long-winded take. The bald-headed gentleman from Pennsylvania now concedes the floor.

  2. #2

    What Obama stands for

    Quote Originally Posted by "Lou Schuler":3s0ar28z
    Let's consider a few of his qualities:

    2. He's a policy wonk, sponsor or cosponsor of hundreds of bills in Illinois and the U.S. Senate. But you can't say he has an edge over Clinton here; if anything, she's even more policy-oriented.
    Which may or may not be a good thing. Just because you can suggest or sponsor policy doesnt make them good policy.

    3. He's a constitutional scholar, which means he knows what's in the real constitution, not the made-up version that has a unitary executive. But Clinton is no stranger to the law, as I noted earlier.
    Just because you know the Constitution doesnt mean you follow it. If that were the case, theyd be taking up Ron Paul's message. Instead, you have Clinton trying to push for universal everything and would still stay in Iraq and such without declaring war. Obama is not as left as Clinton from what Ive seen, but I hardly believe that hes following the Constitution based on his policy prescriptions.

  3. #3

    What Obama stands for

    I saw that comment, too. And like Lou, went through the process in my head; that process that has brought me to this point of supporting Obama. Originally, again like Lou, I really hoped for a Gore-Obama ticket. IMO, that's the dream ticket.

    Upon the realization that Gore was out, I became an Edwards supporter because of the populist message and platform Edwards was campaigning on. That was the only other choice for me. He was the only one out there speaking for the middle class and the poor of this country. And now that Edwards is out, I had to go through this process again. After much research, I noticed I was leaning Obama. As I've said before, I have no doubts Hillary would make a fabulous President. BUT the problem I have is that while Bill was President for eight years, the Democratic party went into shambles - it became fractured and my thinking is that his may very well happen again with Hillary. My belief is that with Obama, there is a much better chance that the opposite would happen. I should mention that Obama's speech last night was peppered with populist messages. This gives me hope.

    You know, besides all the terrific points Lou brought up in his "rambling" post (ha!), there was a WaPo article last year that opened my eyes to Obama. Here it is:

    Obama Forged Political Mettle In Illinois Capitol - washingtonpost.com

    Excerpt:

    Obama was given the job of representing Senate Democrats by state Sen. Emil Jones Jr., who chose him on the recommendation of Abner J. Mikva, a former judge and Democratic congressman.

    "He was very aggressive when he first came to the Senate," said Jones, now president of the state Senate. "We were in the minority, but he said, 'I'd like to work hard. Any tough assignments or things you'd like me to be involved in, don't hesitate to give it to me.' "

    Obama favored more ambitious changes in campaign law, including limits on contributions, but nipped and tucked in search of consensus.

    "What impressed me about him was his ability in working with people of the opposite party," said Mike Lawrence, director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. "He had definite ideas about what ought to be contained in a campaign finance reform measure, but he also was willing to recognize that he was probably not going to get everything he wanted."

    The result, according to good-government groups, was the most ambitious campaign reform in nearly 25 years, making Illinois one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure.

    Five years later, Obama waded into a complex capital-punishment debate after a number of exonerations persuaded then-Gov. George Ryan (R) to empty death row.

    Obama wrote in his recent memoir that he thinks the death penalty "does little to deter crime." But he supports capital punishment in cases "so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment."
    One bill in particular that Obama sponsored (Coburn-Obama Government Transparency Act of 2006 that became LAW) - his co-sponsor was Tom Coburn. The Republican Senator of Oklahoma - one of the most conservative members of the Senate and a polar opposite of Obama's. BUT they worked together on this bill. Now, this is a grand example of bipartisanship and where it works.

    So yes on Obama being able to work not just within his own party, but with others across the aisle. While his speeches are uplifting, inspiring and very well written - there is substance to them. A good example was last night's speech. Also, it's refreshing to see a Presidential candidate not use a teleprompter. One more thing and this may seem silly, but I just got a kick out of this, that all of the music used for the campaign (Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and Kanye West - for example), are from his own iPod. Hey, music just provides another connection, I guess.

    [url=http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2007/09/23/obama-grooves-to-stevie-wonder-and-eminem/:cpnl6srp]CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Obama grooves to Stevie Wonder and Eminem

  4. #4

    What Obama stands for

    Thank you honorable follicly challenged colleague from Penn.

    I'm sure we've all been assailed with words to the effect that Obama has little substance etc... but remember very early in the race when many of those same people were saying he'd be too scholarly, too wonkish to connect. And I admit I was excited that here was someone with a serious intellectual background that also had some experience living outside these borders.

    But back to his supposed lack of policy detail I think Obama knows that speeches are not the place to put people to sleep with infinite policy position details.

    Someone on NPR said for that just look at his website which has a handy index of his positions on issues here: Barack Obama | Change We Can Believe In | Issues

    Concerning his ability to connect with disparate segments of our society can you imagine any other candidate getting the support of blue collar white guys in Wisconsin, white male Texas Republicans, and young urban African Americans?

    I can't recall any candidate since, well ever, that has been able to pull that off.

  5. #5

    What Obama stands for

    Kuri and I have been joking about how he's using MMA while Clinton keeps trying to force him to box.
    He's got her on the ground with one arm tied up. Let's see if she can punch from her back before he sinks the choke in.

  6. #6

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    What Obama stands for

    Lou - nice summary

  7. #7
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    What Obama stands for

    Quote Originally Posted by "kuri":2k8e3bxi
    He's got her on the ground with one arm tied up. Let's see if she can punch from her back before he sinks the choke in.
    For some reason, I find that image remarkably disturbing, even though it works as a metaphor.

    Extending the politics-as-combat idea:

    Someone on another thread (I think it was Russ) said that Obama knows how to play this game, and we shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking he's above it.

    Personally, I don't think that for a minute. I think everything about his history suggests he's actually a pretty good fighter. He's no John Kerry or John Edwards, getting Swift Boated or allowing himself to be called the "Breck girl." Kerry made dark threats early in the 2004 campaign, saying that he'd hit the Bushies with everything if they stepped over the line. But when they stepped over the line -- repeatedly, in my view -- he never retaliated.

    The Clintons are now coming after Obama with everything they can think of, and with each attack he gets stronger and they get weaker. It's to the point where it looks like they're just trying to make him bleed, rather than playing to win.

    I've suspected for a while that Obama's campaign has some dirt on the Clintons that they haven't yet used. Early in the campaign, his aides were dropping hints to reporters about Bill Clinton's post-White House sex life, and I don't think they were just throwing it out there to see if the reporters would dig something up that they didn't yet know. My guess is that they knew something, and they were setting up a trail of bread crumbs that, as far as anyone knows, no reporter has yet followed.

    I have a hunch that if McCain's campaign steps over that invisible line, going after Obama's family or his manhood, we'll suddenly learn a lot about McCain that even the people closest to him don't yet know.

  8. #8
    Axis
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    What Obama stands for

    Speaking of knowing how to play the game, I thought Obama's editorial in USA Today was excellently timed and well-played. He's forcing McCain (Mr. Campaign-finance-reform) to put-up or shut-up, and, at the same time, acting like he is already the nominee to further marginalize Clinton. Nice move, Barack.

    Opposing view: Both sides must agree

    I will seek a good faith pact that results in real spending limits.

    <byline></byline>By Barack Obama
    <intro></intro><more></more>In 2007, shortly after I became a candidate for president, I asked the Federal Election Commission to clear any regulatory obstacles to a publicly funded general election in 2008 with real spending limits. The commission did that. But this cannot happen without the agreement of the parties' eventual nominees. As I have said, I will aggressively pursue such an agreement if I am my party's nominee.

    I do not expect that a workable, effective agreement will be reached overnight. The campaign-finance laws are complex, and filled with loopholes that can render meaningless any agreement that is not solidly constructed.
    As USA TODAY has critically observed, outside groups have come to spend tens of millions of dollars "independently," while the candidates they favor with these ads "wink and nod" at this activity. There is an even greater risk of this runaway, sham independent spending now that the Supreme Court has wrongly opened the door to more of it in a recent decision.
    I propose a meaningful agreement in good faith that results in real spending limits. The candidates will have to commit to discouraging cheating by their supporters; to refusing fundraising help to outside groups; and to limiting their own parties to legal forms of involvement. And the agreement may have to address the amounts that Senator McCain, the presumptive nominee of his party, will spend for the general election while the Democratic primary contest continues.
    In l996, an agreement on spending limits was reached by Sen. John Kerry and Gov. William Weld in their Massachusetts Senate contest. They agreed to limits on overall and personal spending and on a mechanism to account for outside spending. The agreement did not accomplish all these candidates hoped, but they believe that it made a substantial difference in controlling outside groups as well as their own spending.
    We can have such an agreement this year, and it could hold up. I am committed to seeking such an agreement <emdash></emdash>if that commitment is matched by Senator McCain. When the time comes, we will talk and our commitment will be tested.
    I will pass that test, and I hope that the Republican nominee passes his.
    Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is seeking his party's presidential nomination.


    [align=right:7e8xz88o]Posted at 12:21 AM/ET, February 20, 2008 in Campaign finance - Editorial, Election 2008 - Editorial, Elections/Voting - Editorial, Politics, Government - Editorial, USA TODAY editorial | Permalink[/align:7e8xz88o]

    <script type="text/javascript" src="http://blogs.usatoday.com/.shared/js/comments.js"></script><script type="text/javascript">hostName = '.usatoday.com';</script>

  9. #9

    What Obama stands for

    anyone watching/watched tonight's debate? I didn't think Obama was at his best. Though, I still prefer him to Hillary.

  10. #10
    Jazno
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    What Obama stands for

    I think he's stepped up his game from previous debates. Clinton's Xerox line was a bit much, considering that she most likely didn't write it! Her closing argument sounded a bit like a valedictory...the fact that Texas is a dead heat does not bode well for her. Having said all that, Obama will need to be even more aggressive against McCain, who will go for the jugular.

  11. #11
    Senior Member LisaS's Avatar
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    What Obama stands for

    I saw the title and half expected to see
    O is for the Only ....
    B is for the Best ...
    A is for the A...
    M is for the M...
    A is for the A...

  12. #12
    Jazno
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    What Obama stands for

    The final debate before the Texas primary tonight was spectacular. I thought both candidates gave a sharp performance, but again, Obama seems to improve with each debate, and Clinton seems to have grown more shrill.

  13. #13

    What Obama stands for

    Agree on the shrill factor. It was funny when, I think it was David Gregory, told her to "stop" and showed her the hand. She doesn't stop for a breath even, she'd have gone non-stop the entire debate if they'd let her. It was almost comical when Obama would try to respond to something she said and she'd just keep yammering on.

  14. #14

    What Obama stands for

    I'm going to have to youtube this debate, i think.

  15. #15

    What Obama stands for

    Sorry, that was Brian Williams. No idea how or why I came up with Gregory's name on that.

  16. #16

    What Obama stands for

    Say it ain't so, Obama: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/03/us...hp&oref=slogin

    From the article:

    Then she charged that one of Mr. Obama’s senior advisers had told Canadian officials that Mr. Obama’s opposition to the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, was largely a political tactic, not a serious policy position. Mr. Obama denied that he was sending back-door messages to the Canadians and said the Clinton campaign was “throwing the kitchen sink” at him.


    AP is reporting similar - closed door meetings, etc. to appease the Canadians while saving face with Ohio.

  17. #17
    Administrator Jean-Paul's Avatar
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    What Obama stands for

    Hillary is getting nasty. But then again, she's desperate right now to find anything with teeth. Tomorrow is do or die day, and she knows that voters have a notoriously short attention span. If she can cast any doubt about him whatsoever on the eve of this election she can get those coveted undecideds to pull her lever.

  18. #18

    What Obama stands for

    an informal poll of all my work peeps: with the exception of one girl who knows literally NOTHING about politics but votes for whoever her parents say she should, even the moderates and undeclareds are going Obama. Hope!

  19. #19

    What Obama stands for

    Quote Originally Posted by "liftintexas":3278t804
    Say it ain't so, Obama: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/03/us...hp&oref=slogin

    From the article:

    Then she charged that one of Mr. Obama's senior advisers had told Canadian officials that Mr. Obama's opposition to the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, was largely a political tactic, not a serious policy position. Mr. Obama denied that he was sending back-door messages to the Canadians and said the Clinton campaign was "throwing the kitchen sink" at him.


    AP is reporting similar - closed door meetings, etc. to appease the Canadians while saving face with Ohio.
    Two faced?

  20. #20

    What Obama stands for

    I like Obama, especially when compared to Hillary. And that's why I cast a vote for him early in the primaries (still not sure I'll go there in the gen election). But I think the NYT article I referenced and the one OldGuy links is more than just Hillary casting stones and looking desperate. For me, it serves up the issue - will this just be politics as usual.

    A huge part of Obama's appeal is promise to move away from business as usual in Washington. If his campaigning looks to be doing the same thing that every other politician does (tell the people what they want to hear, but do whatever it takes to get elected), why should we believe he'll be any different than any other president?

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