Barack Obama and the Conventional Wisdom

by Jeff Siegel

My bartender is big on Barack Obama. So is a friend I drink wine with. An old newspaper buddy is practically giddy with enthusiasm for him.

And, most intriguingly, they aren't the 20- and 30-somethings who have flocked to Obama's campaign, but middle-aged white men. They, too, have bought into Obama's vision of change.

Everyone, it seems, from the major newspapers to Wisconsin's Democratic primary voters, have embraced what Obama's campaign says: "With the right leadership, and a change of attitude and focus, Barack Obama brings a new viewpoint to discover solutions to the problems at hand."

This makes Sen. Obama (D-IL) the official front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and even those of us who thought Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) would get the nomination are taking notice.

Yet, having said that, what's so different about Obama? What has he done or said or supported that's all that different from the usual Republican Lite who panders to suburban soccer moms, who takes money from the same corporate money grubbers that the Republicans do, and who waffles on the major issues of the day, depending on what the latest focus group polling tells him to do. That he gets away with it – as opposed to Mrs. Clinton – is a mystery to me.

If Obama wants those of us on the left – the real left, and not the "We want to be rid of George Bush, so anyone is good" left – he needs to answer these questions:

• Will he appoint a Supreme Court justice who will uphold Roe v. Wade? Urging abstinence before marriage isn't even close.

• Will he denounce the Iraq War as immoral and unjust, and set a timetable for withdrawing troops? His speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in 2005 is an example of what not to do: I'm against the war, but we'll fight it anyway.

• Will he unequivocally support repeal of the Patriot Act and all its various amendments and related laws? Saying it's bad and then voting to extend it doesn't count.

• Will he work for an energy policy that continues to increase auto mileage standards, focuses on renewables like wind and solar, gets us off the foolish ethanol express, doesn't involve tax breaks for the oil business, and doesn't include nuclear in the mix? He didn't vote – not even his infamous present – during the debate on the 2007 energy bill, perhaps the most important energy legislation in the past 25 years.

Answer those questions, and maybe then some of this change business will start to sound like something other than the usual campaign crap.

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(Photo by jurvetson of Menlo Park, CA via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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Anonymous said...

We have a two party system and reality is that
if any democratic candidate ever tried to please the "real left", in todays political environment, he would never get elected .

The bigger picture here is the corrupting influence of our campaign finance system on a 2 party system. Big money essentially renders real debate impossible such that a person with courageous positions and experience is easily marginalized by a highly effective 30 second TV commercial. But I don't think we are going to get past that issue in the next 8 months.

So in the meantime, the real left will be faced with a take it or leave it offer from the Democratic candidate. it's either sit the election out and know your vote might put McCain in, or instead you can take your chances with Obama (unless dinasaurus Hillary finds a way to undercut him)

Obama is a middle class kid from Chicago who rose on his merit to Harvard and eventually to the US Senate. I am willing to bet that has the skills to lead America out of 8 years of devastation created by Bush. If I am wrong, so be it, it's better than McCain singing "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran"

Jeff Siegel said...

Here's the difference between the Republicans and the Republican Lites. McCain is no hypocrite -- I know what I get with him. I respect that. This is what drives the GOP nutcases crazy.

What I don't respect is the Republican Lites telling me I don't have a choice, that I need to vote for them, or evil things will happen. And then they go and do the evil things anyway.

Re Obama and Iran: He told a pro-Israel group last March that the use of military force should not be taken off the table when dealing with Iran, which he called "a threat to all of us." (http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/281249,CST-NWS-OBAMA03.article).

This, of course, was his position then in front of that group. No doubt he has a different position for another group for another time.

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