Wednesday, May 7, 2008

T.W.M. and the Audacity of Hokum

On more than one occasion, I've been dissed or emailed or insulted by people who, closing their minds and opening their web browsers, decide they can happily dismiss and reflexively vilify me just because I, on occasion, happen to agree with a guy (or a gal) they can write off as a neocon kook. You know -- as if the world is divided into good and evil, as if they have the exclusive right to decide which is which, and as if that stance is not in direct violation of the ideals they, by supporting Senator Obama, claim to espouse.

And yet those sorts of do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do sorts of hypocrisies these days abound in Camp Obama, as Mr. Krauthammer -- who is, I think, wrong about many things but still right about these (see how easy that is, kids? just a simple, substantive, case-by-case judgment; that's a new kind of rhetorical politics you really ought to try sometime) -- neatly observes: (Teacher. Wordsmith. Madman.)

O poor, maltreated blogger! For whom it is a necessary labor to judge Barack Obama savagely, compulsively, uncritically and exclusively on the basis of an association with a pastor -- but to take the author's own professional associations into any consideration of his work? How cruel, how unfair!

Someone was saying something about hypocrisy?

Because one important thing changed: [Rev. Wright] had the (what's that word again?) audacity to insult Senator Obama. To question his sincerity. To suggest that he was just playing politics. In other words, as they say in those bad movie trailers: This time, it's personal.

I suspect that, as much as the National Press Club bully loony pulpit, was the reason for the change of heart. And the sudden willingness to disown someone he once said he could no more disown than his own grandmother. Combine those two factors, mix in a newly energized press corps that, in the middle of a surprising but almost certainly inevitable course-correction, has finally decided to draw some fresh blood from Senator Breath of Fresh Air, and you get what we saw and heard but did not quite buy in North Carolina this week.

So much for unity. So much for a new kind of politics.

Well, there is another explanation.

It could be that everything having to do with Rev. Wright, and everything having to do with Sen. Obama's descriptions of his posture towards Rev. Wright, is and has been so obviously remote from anything even tangentially related to the future of our nation or the selection of its president, that the two individuals are content to hold a partially scripted falling-out for your benefit, to say whatever words are necessary to comfort their respective audiences, and move forward.

(Unless you really think Sen. Obama hates America and is a one-man sleeper cell. In which case, we have no option but to write you off as unpersuadable.)


Which brings us to the confusion of many about "a new kind of politics." As far as we can tell, Obama's new politics basically consists of:

1. No stupid or personal attacks on opponents
2. No stupid public policy because it sounds good

Now, given that for most politicians this simple code of conduct must seem astoundingly angelic, it is no surprise that for them, every instance of an issue-based attack, every cleverly-framed argument, and every (perish the thought) public relations adjustment from Team Obama will be considered a betrayal of revelatory proportions, to be met with HAHAHAHAHA YOU'RE A HYPOCRITE!, thereby completing the Catch 22 with HAHAHAHA YOU'RE NOT TOUGH GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN!

However, in reality, we are learning that even in the 21st century, sometimes the only defense against a barrage of hogwash is a little more hogwash.

Because that's what it was, and is.

The Comet does not, and has never purported to, support Sen. Obama's candidacy because we expect him to magically unite the country and bring about a new kind of politics. As far back as we can remember, every presidential, gubernatorial, mayoral and dog catchorial candidate has attempted to escalate the drama and import of their candidacy just a wee bit. We're not going to hold it against Barack because he's good at it.

The Comet supports Sen. Obama because we want government subsidized health care, fair taxation of the wealthy, sustainable environmental regulations and a swift conclusion to our unconscionable military adventuring -- the very same reasons we also support Sen. Clinton to a degree.

The difference is, if Obama can pull off a victory in the manner in which he is attempting -- by staying focused on issues, eschewing personal attacks, rejecting false machismo and remaining a proud educated intellectual who is not somehow at odds with common folk -- then he may actually usher in a period where sincerity and seriousness come into fashion.

It will not last forever -- but in the interval, pundits and political advisers will warn their charges ominously, "Isn't this like the gas tax holiday all over again?" "Isn't this like voting for the Iraq War when you know it's wrong?" "Isn't this like obsessing over Rev. Wright for months on end, just to keep voters alarmed and distracted?"

As long as Obama can keep it going, the hogwash will be seen to fail and so will be utilized less, and we will all be the better for it.

That is our rationale for whom we support and why. If it pains our friend Mr. Hermann that others are defining him unfairly, he can always choose to put forth his own politics in a similarly affirmative fashion.


  1. And yet, it did not work out for Dr DeSantis to run a high minded campaign.

    Which is comparing apples to oranges (knew I forgot to bring something today, either an apple *or* an orange). I support Obama myself slightly more than Mrs. Clinton because he is sometimes a better speaker. Sure, if you analyze his speeches line by line like Mr. Hermann does, you can find inconsistencies and inflated rhetoric. But Obama makes it work in the moment, which is a lot more important even than what he says. Sorry Chad, but politics is measured in how many votes you get and how much money you raise (and occasionally by how good your policies are), not by an abstract standard of rhetorical correctness.

    Still, Obama is not out of any woods yet. Mrs. Clinton has taken to presenting herself as a common person, a champion of the (white) little guy because she came from that place herself. I heard one woman say that Mrs. Clinton is a working mom, just like herself. Please, I believe Mrs. Clinton puts in long hours, but none of them were or are spent washing Chelsea’s pantsuits (which match her mom’s). But Obama needs to stay in the game, first denying Mrs. Clinton’s claims to common-ness and then advancing his own. As much as he can and any chance he gets, he needs to fire down a Bud. And Obama needs to match Clinton negative ad for negative ad. Because the only thing worse than having a negative ad running down your opponent is not having one.

  2. The most ridiculous part of TWM's assailing of Obama's "new kind of politics" is that he is basically saying that their campaign theme of change and new politics is BS because of what a surrogate says, or because of mistakes or, some would say, the plain stupidity of his campaign staff (his web developers, no less). TWM - WTF!? Are you freaking kidding me?

    If you've actually followed the campaign and the two candidates on the issues, it should be clear that on the issues they are very similar. However, when it comes to their approach they are very far apart. The Clintons employ a scorched earth, say anything, win at whatever cost policy. Obama, on the other hand, tries to stay above personal attacks and is hell bent on not only saying he is a uniter but acting like one.

    When it comes to pandering, no candidate is above it, they all do it to a degree, but Obama is not the one standing in the back of pick up trucks in Indiana or touting that he is fond of hunting and shooting guns, or pandering to middle class voters by saying he will lift the gas tax.

    Also, ever wonder why none of the skeletons in HRC's closet have been drug out by the Obama campaign? They have not once brought up a past personal relationship of Clinton's that would raise doubts about her candidacy, as that is something that is expected from wing of the Republican party.

    I don't have a problem with Obama being vetted though. Having the Reverend Wright thing out in the open now is better than having it come out as an October "surprise", although, some rural voters who have a problem with his connection to to the Christian pastor still believe that he is a muslim. Ohhh, the audacity of those bitter rural Americans!

    The next few weeks will tell us a lot about the Clinton legacy. Will they go out gracefully, winning the 3 of the final 6 primaries (WV, KY, PR) without throwing the kitchen sink at Obama? Or, will they go Nuclear?

  3. I couldn't agree more. I don't think TWM's hatred for Obama is healthy (he should probably see a therapist or something), and I pointed that out here. I'm glad to see that when he calls out the people who "decide they can happily dismiss and reflexibely vilify me... write me off as a neocon kook." I wasn't the only one who said, "that's exactly what I do most of the time, and I don't feel bad about it."

  4. well done bram.

  5. "Still, Obama is not out of any woods yet."

    I thought maybe he WAS out of the woods? That seemed to be the overwhelming consensus of the talking heads last night, analyzing Clinton's speech, communications, and future prospects? What are the signs and portents saying this afternoon?

  6. Well, until Mrs. Clinton drops out of the race or at least stops campaigning, she is clearly going to try to peel away as many voters as she can from Mr. Obama. Howard Dean has already said (in several places) that the Michigan and Florida delegates will be seated in some fashion. Mrs. Clinton hopes to seat them just as they are, not in some segmented or partial fashion. Before then, she will want to generate any momentum she can. When Obama rests or is distracted, as arguably he did/was in the Pennsylvania primary, Mrs. Clinton can make up ground. So Obama needs to continue to campaign as hard as he has in the last couple of weeks. More Buds, more basketball.

  7. Bram is right, Obama has not had stupid public policy, he has had NO public policy. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with him IF and only if there is a reason to. Please Bram, all knowing, why should I? You can't, as many can't, think of one thing that is substantive that Obama stands for besides hoping for change, believing in hope, changing to believe and all that other crap he says that means nothing. I have never seen such a large group of intelligent people support someone and have no idea why. It scares me. And people say that all the people that voted for him will feel slighted, how bout all the people that voted for her. I guess the democrats feel they don't need to care about the moderate or conservative wing of the party. Let's cater to the liberals and lefty nut jobs that vote for him in droves. How well did that work for McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, and Kerry? We will all look back in November, when it is President-Elect McCain, how great it felt to listen to all these wonderful words that ended up being a load of crap and realizing we are going to get four more years of the same. Thanks to all those who chant "Yes We Can" but have no idea what it actually stands for...including the man who said it first. And on another note, I am sick and tired of being labeled a racist for thinking my candidate is better. Sorry to all those who believe that I should have no opinion unless I agree with Obama. He could be the whitest person I have ever met and still be a bad nominee for President!

    Oh and P.S., neither Sen Clinton or John McCain have harped on Rev. Wright so please drop it! That was a combination of the media churning it over and over again, Wright bringing it back up, and Obama not throwing him under the bus sooner. And since I am on the topic, if Obama now feels Wright made these crazy comments, then why did he stay in the church? Isn't that a fair question? If you sit there and listen and not speak out against it, doesn't that make you just as bad as the person saying it? Especially if you are running for President? Guess not in Obama-World, because he does no wrong!

  8. Yes we can,

    Yes, people support Obama because he offers something different, and the hope that he can shake things up in Washington. A president cannot single handedly change Washington, but he can set the tone for the agenda and make a commitment to certain things, like putting us on a course for energy independence, or creating a national health care plan so every American citizen can have affordable health insurance. Our current President, George W. Bush, made some commitments over the last seven years. One being a commitment to staying the course in Iraq. Two being his commitment to tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. If we choose the wrong candidate this November we risk have more of the same. The gap between the wealthiest Americans and the typical working class American will continue to grow. Oil companies will continue making record profits while we pay $4, $5, and maybe even $10 a gallon for gasoline.

    My belief is that Obama is genuine in his commitment to changing some of these big problems of ours and will invest our resources in education, energy , infrastructure, and the health of our citizens (we current rank 42nd in global life expectancy!) instead of investing our resources and lives of our young men and women in a war that should have never been fought in the first place.

    So, yes, I support Obama because I want change, big change, and I just think that maybe having a President that will represent all Americans, regardless of race, age, class, gender, or sexuality, is what we need at this time in our history to improve our standing in the world and reunite our nation that has been divided along these lines for far too long.

  9. Of course most people vote with their gut, and even talk about their candidate with their gut. I myself don't really know what Obama's "new politics" actually is. I know you can go to Obama’s website (because I just did) and read about a lot of policy proposals. Since the President isn’t a legislator, he can’t do much more then propose policies anyway, so we can safely assume that even a friendly Congress would at least alter the proposals, and probably ignore the majority of them.

    Were there intelligent people supporting the campaign of the current President in 2000 and 2004? Why? Did he ever explain what a compassionate conservative is? Or how his tax policy was helping Americans besides the very rich?

    What’s interesting to me is that Kimberly Ellis calls Reverend Wright a black intellectual, while pundits like Mary Matalin call his ideas out of the mainstream and ridiculous. We Americans (white Americans in particular) are very uncomfortable with the idea that some Americans (African Americans) might have an entirely different view of history and the government than the (bare) majority whites. They may just be middle and upper class whites. Blue collar whites and African Americans probably have more in common than they might think.

    The fact that Reverend Wright could be considered a black intellectual could easily be a reason to stay in the pews for twenty years. Barack Obama, having spent his youth in Hawaii and Indonesia, might well be interested in what Wright would have to say, but apparently does not subscribe to his ideas as a personal philosophy. But Wright’s ideas about the United States, about the injustices done to African Americans from the beginning of this country through slavery and then segregation and now simple racism, these ideas would be seen differently by an African American than by a white person. What in fact surprised me a bit was that Obama took the white perspective in criticizing Wright, agreed that Wright’s statements were outrageous, first in the out of context clips and then more strenuously based on the recent personal appearances.

    Of course Obama is a politician. He is evidently ambitious, although for someone who is running for the biggest job on the planet, he is willing to take some days off. But the very fact that Obama has convinced some smart people that he represents real change is one of the things I really like about him. He is a good speaker when he wants to be, when the winds are blowing right or whatever. And that is a good thing for a President. There is a chance he could start a groundswell movement to impose a four dollar a gallon tax on gas, like the Europeans have. Enough of a groundswell to push it through Congress. Also, he may be better able to get a universal health coverage plan through Congress, better than Mrs. Clinton, who has some baggage in that area. Besides be just as smart or smarter than Mrs. Clinton, Obama’s speaking ability makes him a better candidate than Mrs. Clinton.

  10. Yes She Can,

    As I've written before, I am impressed with Obama's health care plan, which centers around a National Health Insurance Exchange program, which subsidizes the best tendencies of the free market system instead of replacing it. I believe this plan stands a much better chance of passing because it doesn't force everybody to purchase insurance. I know some people view this as a weakness, but I do not regard a plan that whips up everybody with a libertarian streak or with any skepticism into a fury as being likely to pass. I'd rather have 9/10s of a loaf than no loaf at all, which is what we got with Hillary in 1993.

    Furthermore, I don't see how you can say "He has absolutely no plans or policies" in one breath and then say, "He's an extremist kook liberal" on the other hand. As far as the liberal smear goes, I'm proud to stand with him on that, but where did the "He has no policies" meme come from?

    Is it only because he's young? Is it because cable news only reports his soaring platitudes and not his boring details? I have even heard people say, "His website is full of all these fancy policy positions from egghead academics," and THEN go on to say he is empty of substance. The two cannot both be correct.

    Many are just taking it as an article of faith that Hillary's 15 or so more years on earth (despite having less years in public office) has given her more wisdom. I don't see much evidence of that, and we know for sure who had more wisdom in fall of 2002.

    PS -- I'm only addressing Rev. Wright because our friend from another blog is still at it, as are many surrogates of this or that campaign. Just an exercise, so to speak.

  11. Oh, and Mrs. Clinton did say, I believe several times, that Reverend Wright would not be her pastor.