Barack Obama on the Issues: Where Does He Stand

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has been very clear about what his message is -- hope, change and optimism. That's all very nice, but for a lot of us, it doesn't tell us what we want to know: where does he stand on issues and what does he propose to do about them if elected President? What's his voting record?

Enter Eriposte at Left Coaster. He's done an incredible analysis by assembling Obama's past statements and voting records on 13 issues.

His objective was to find out if Obama is a triangulator (and, he finds, he is) but it's also very revealing about where he stands on issues and whether he will follow through.

First, what's a triangulator? Wikipedia says:

Triangulation is the act of a candidate presenting his or her ideology as being "above" and "between" the left and right sides of the political spectrum. It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one's political opponent. The logic behind it is that it not only takes good ideas away from your opponent, but that it insulates you from attacks on that particular issue. It is a tactic commonly used in third way politics.

While Eriposte was out to see if Obama was a bigger triangulator than Hillary (turns out, he is) his findings are very instructive on where Obama stands on issues, and whether he's been forthright in the campaign about his stances.


One of Sen. Barack Obama's major attack lines against Sen. Clinton is that she a poll-reliant, triangulator unlike him. In this post, I systematically examined key aspects of Sen. Obama's voting record and statements over the years to assess how his record stacks up on the issue of triangulation. I used his votes, statements and behaviors on a large number of topics, grouped into the following sections in order to reasonably assess his inclinations: No Compromises Before Getting Elected, Iraq, Iran, MoveOn.Org and Petraeus, Abortion, Gays, Faith and Religion, War, Corporations, Supreme Court, Social Security, Healthcare, Joe Lieberman, The Piece-de-resistance, and The Non-Ideologue v. The Partisan.

Go on over and read his findings.

It's an excellent and well-researched piece that deserves your attention.

I'm Black, I'm Yong and I'm not voting forObama."
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    OK read that (none / 0) (#1)
    by Jgarza on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 05:09:47 PM EST
    Unimpressed.  Its this laundry list of criticisms of Obama that have already been well discussed, and labels them all triangulation.

    My favorite is this crap about Paul Krugman being the scared leader of the left who know one can criticize.

    All this Obama hate from the Clinton bloggers is a sad and pathetic attempt to even up Obama and Clinton's negatives.  Many of them are personal attacks.  Think of Jane's Obama is a opportunist crap.  These supposed liberals are attempting to do to Obama what the right wing machine did to Hillary in the 90's.  Look for all this crap to parroted in the genral if he wins.

    Thats the problem with Clinton and her supporters, what they won't do it win.

    Read that (none / 0) (#2)
    by RalphB on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 05:26:15 PM EST
    earlier today and was very impressed. I even checked some of the referenced items and they were correct. Unlike a lot of folks, this wasn't just made up junk for a change.

    If these had really been thoroughly discussed before, Obama would be gone from the race after Iowa.  You still will not find much, if any, of this in Big Media.  There's quite a selling job being done for Obama, for now.

    If he gets the nomination though, all the gloves will come off and he's gonna be hit in the face with a 2x4 every day by the republicans and Big Media.  It's happened before in '00 and '04 and will happen again.

    If you think that blog is hateful, you ain't seen nothing yet.

    i dont mind the (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jgarza on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 05:30:34 PM EST
    criticism its the constant attempt to try and turn them into a narrative of a character problem.  Lots of name calling, triangulater, oppertunist, senater waffle.  Its all part of an attempt to boast his negatives, to try and even him up to Clinton, its pathetic, the Clinton bloggers think its good to assure that no matter who our nominee is they will have high negatives.

    G W Bush = Barack Obama (none / 0) (#3)
    by koshembos on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 05:29:48 PM EST
    So Obama is about hope, change and optimism. That's a reasonable summary of the Bush 2000 campaign. Furthermore, both want to change the US, the country of the Clintons - the real enemies of the people.

    Most of the facts in the complete research are well known, true and reflect the fact that Obama is not only a Triangulator, but also to the right of HRC, ie. the center, and is a very dangerous for a Democrats to vote for.

    The degree of emptiness in Obama's campaign is not reflected by Left Coaster. The first several months of the campaign had no content. The idea seems to have been: Obama is the best thing since sliced bread, everyone must realize that. Later plans were copied mainly from Edwards. Finally, Obama morphed into an ugly and mean Republican.

    How sad.

    perfect example (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jgarza on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 05:31:29 PM EST
    of what I'm talking about.

    Understanding Obama (none / 0) (#6)
    by joejoejoe on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 05:50:41 PM EST
    The best thing I've ever read about Obama was from PastorDan (more on Dan in this NYT profile) of Street Prophets and Daily Kos. Here's an excerpt:
    Much has been made of Obama's affinity for "third way" politics in the style of Joe Lieberman or Jim Wallis. There is some of that here, but we shouldn't mistake Obama for a simple triangulator like Bill Clinton. Nor is he necessarily in pursuit of an illusory moral center like Wallis. Unlike the mushmouthed practitioner of "God's Politics," Obama isn't so certain that all the differences can be worked out if we just try hard enough to get right with God and agree with one another. He's after something more here, something infinitely more threatening to politics as they are currently practiced: he wants to reclaim the authentic self in the public realm.

    I know what I look like, he says to his readers: just another b.s. artist with some snake oil to sell. But it's not me; it's the fallen nature of our discourse. We can't take someone like Obama at his word, he argues, because the structure of our political life has been set up to prevent us from trusting one another. In turn, that lack of trust prevents us from being who we were meant to be, both as individuals and as a society. And so here's the audacity: Obama believes that the current political logjam can be broken by repairing the discourse that created it.

    That, I may need to spell out, is a very Christian line of thought. Obama is going to drive progressives up a wall because they'll be looking for him to take their side in the partisan dogfights, and he's practicing a ministry of reconciliation. Which doesn't mean that he doesn't agree with them on the issues: it just means that he defines leadership in a very different way. Unlike many in the netroots, Obama doesn't believe that liberals need to do the same thing, only better - ie, outwork the Republicans. He thinks that it's time for fundamentally new tactics and a fundamentally new strategy.

    There is some value in comparing voting scorecards but it's an imperfect tool at best. Sen. Lieberman  used these scorecards to "reveal" the truth about his true liberal self and former President Clinton was right at his side pushing that lie. I just think many smart progressives just flat don't understand Obama's motivations and rhetoric -- mistaking engagement for triangulation and comity for capitulation. Obama is trying to repair divisions in our society to accomplish great things. Triangulation is about papering over the divisions to pass things like the V-Chip and fund grants for school uniforms. There is NONE of that small-bore nonsense in Obama's record and that is the best evidence you can find to show he's not a triangulating politician. Psifighter37 has more on the state of online Obama opinion making at Daily Kos.

    that post by psifighter (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:04:18 PM EST
    doesn't help your case. It shows a Senator only in office since 2005 with very few votes to judge him by and someone whose biggest appeal is to those who want something "different."

    "Different" how? Like hope, optimism and change, "different" doesn't tell us anything. It could be better or worse.

    I don't want to buy a pig in a poke. I want to know what I'm getting. More and more it seems he's running because he gave a good speech at the Dem Convention in 2004 -- and that he's experiencing a bounce now because of a speech a few weeks ago at the Jefferson Day Dinner. I don't go by speeches 00 especially just two of them. I want substance.


    We dont know enough (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jgarza on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:10:46 PM EST
    but the Clinton bloggers think its enough to distort him into being as bad as her.  Thats pretty pathetic, the best they can do is he is as bad as her.  Ohh and when her campaign tries to make the same argument they have to use kindergarten essays.

    Um, Clinton is very good. (none / 0) (#10)
    by MarkL on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:15:50 PM EST
    It doesn't make any sense that vast numbers of Democrats would support her, thinking she is a terrible candidate. What we want is for attacks on Clinton's character to be balanced out by showing the Obama has the same "faults".
    He acts, sounds, and talks like a politician, just like Hillary, and just like Edwards. Big deal.
    The issues matter: phony attacks on character should  not.

    What has she done? (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jgarza on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:31:07 PM EST
    Health care? nope
    she did oppo research on women Clinton screwed around with.

    ran a war room?

    That's the kind of experience that makes a good president right?

    If this race is about experience, it is Biden Dodd and Richardson you should be supporting.

    I love this lots of people liking Clinton means she is good, lots of people liking Obama means bloggers haven't tried hard enough to smear him.

    Being in the cult of Clinton really messes with logical reasoning.


    Ok, you're just trolling. (none / 0) (#12)
    by MarkL on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:32:36 PM EST
    I'm wasting my time.

    Mark, I agree with you (none / 0) (#17)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 07:11:32 PM EST
    why bother? I've tried a few times, but every time I mention "Obama", no matter what I say, JGarza has the same response. He's an Obama supporter here to attack the other candidates. I think I'll stop responding to him too.

    It's that time of year (none / 0) (#19)
    by andgarden on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 07:14:30 PM EST
    Well (none / 0) (#21)
    by Jgarza on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 07:41:19 PM EST
    every time you mention Obama it's something negative. If the headline were "Obama is seconds coming of Jesus Christ," you'd right a post about how being a religious figure disqualifies him from being president.

    What should i defend Clinton? if you ever spoke ill word of her someone might have the chance, but you don't.  So either you think she can do no wrong or you have some other reason for not writing about any of your concerns about her.


    A well-documented pig in a poke (none / 0) (#15)
    by joejoejoe on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:41:32 PM EST
    Jeralyn - The guy has written two books, served 7+ years in the IL state senate. Every bill he ever sponsored is available at the link below.


    Obama has published writings (Why Organize? Problems and Promise in the Inner City) on organizing dating back to 1990. He's got far more of a public record than either George W. Bush or Jimmy Carter had before they ran for president. Obama is no pig in a poke.

    I respect the view that Obama's healing rhetoric isn't backed by sufficient political skill to get the job done or even the view that Obama is fundamentally misreading the political landscape and his supporters are naive. But there is more than enough in the public record for people to come to a different conclusion in good faith.

    The best example of how Obama operates in practice would be the passage of the "driving while black" bill in Illinois. From the NYT:

    [fellow IL Sen. Dem and Obama critic] Mr. Hendon praised Mr. Obama, however, for later winning passage of what some in Springfield called "the driving-while-black bill," which required the police to collect data on the race of drivers they stopped as a way to monitor racial profiling. Law enforcement groups had repeatedly blocked earlier versions while the Republicans were in control; when the Democrats took over, Mr. Obama brokered a compromise between the police groups and the A.C.L.U.

    Mr. Hendon, sponsor of a previous bill, said Mr. Obama had "made some compromises that other members of the black caucus just weren't willing to bend on" -- perhaps, he said, because Senator Obama had never been abused by the police. But he added, "I'm not saying he gave up too much. In hindsight, it was best to go ahead with the weaker version because a lot of police attitudes changed when we passed it."

    Obama gets criticized by left as compromised, Obama passes bill, bill makes real changes for the better, left acknowledges Obama's view. That's a pattern that gets repeated again and again including Sen. Obama's work passing the Obama-Coburn (Coburn? yikes!) bill on open government while in the minority of the Senate.

    Obama doesn't have a monopoly on good intentions but I don't think he anything close to the bad intentions he's often accused of having from the left. His pitch and approach are like fingers on a chalkboard to many on the "fighting left" but his record is the most progressive in the race in my view.


    Yet Hillary (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jgarza on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:47:14 PM EST
    has so much more documentation, all those years as first lady we can go back and look at the documentation...  Ohh yeah thats right we can't, she wont fight to release the documents.

    Thank you (none / 0) (#18)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 07:14:16 PM EST
    The legislative information is the kind I've been asking for. I will go check the links and read it.

    Authoring books doesn't seem to me to be a qualifier. Or are you suggesting it's what he writes in his books that shows he's a good choice?

    I do appreciate your serious response.


    Books (none / 0) (#23)
    by joejoejoe on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 09:25:38 PM EST
    I'm not suggesting that being an author makes qualified to be president although Profiles in Courage from JFK in 1956 helped change the national view of him from playboy to scholar (many believe Ted Sorensen ghost wrote the book). I would suggest that the stories Obama chooses to tell about himself in books gives you some insight into his mind and ideas - even if you disagree with him and take his stories with a grain of salt.

    If you have any trouble navigating the IL Senate records I linked to above let me know in a comment and I'll see if can reformat Obama's IL legislative record in a more accessible form.


    This is interesting, but he barely (none / 0) (#20)
    by MarkL on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 07:20:57 PM EST
    has a national record of the same sort.
    I know there are a couple of examples---but why hasn't he led on Iraq? I'm disappointed that he was willing to risk almost no political capital to oppose an unpopular war in substantive ways.

    There's a discussion at DK on this too: (none / 0) (#7)
    by MarkL on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 05:58:26 PM EST

    That's my diary, btw. I didn't find the discussion  that ensued very enlightening in either direction (which may be the fault of my writing and choice of excerpts), but judge for yourself. I just wanted to direct some Orange Satanites to look at Eriposte.

    Missing the point (none / 0) (#13)
    by koshembos on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:37:22 PM EST
    Jeralyn makes clear that she's looking for substance; the comments talk everything else.

    The initial assumption is dead wrong. Bill the triangulator is a four letter word used by the MSM and enemies of Bill. It misses the main issue that both GW Bush and Obama are working hard to hide. In the words of the great white hope, Reagan, were we better off after Bill's two terms or were in the dumps?

    Obama is a semi-Republican in substance. He is for vouchers, wants to talk with the fascists and worried about social security instead of health care into which he was dragged kicking and screaming. Initially, I mistakenly believed in Obama and gave money to his campaign.

    Now, Obama's evolution, even before it started to be really Rove-like, is almost seeing Bush win in 2000.

    So (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jgarza on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 06:39:51 PM EST
    If you are for hillary its ok to attack form the right now?

    wants to talk with the fascists

    more name calling.


    Note to non-regulars here (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 08:28:20 PM EST
    links must be in html format or they skew the site. Please use the link button on the top of the comment box. Thank you. Otherwise I have to delete the comment entirely since Scoop doesn't allow comments to be edited, only deleted.