The Right Wing Critique Of Obama

I do not and have never doubted that Barack Obama is a committed progressive. My problem has always been with his political style - the Unity Schtick. Because in the real world of DC politics, it will not work. Barack Obama will be savaged by the Right Wing just as would any Democratic nominee. Charles Krauthammer provides a preview of what Republicans would say about Barack Obama should he be the nominee:

. . . Obama's media acolytes wax poetic that his soaring rhetoric and personal biography will abolish the ideological divide of the 1960s -- as if the division between left and right, between welfare statism and free markets, between internationalism and unilateralism, between social libertarianism and moral traditionalism are residues of Sgt. Pepper and the March on Washington. The baby boomers in their endless solipsism now think they invented left and right -- the post-Enlightenment contest of ideologies that dates back to the seating arrangements of the Estates-General in 1789. The freest of all passes to Obama is the general neglect of the obvious central contradiction of his candidacy: The bipartisan uniter who would bring us together by transcending ideology is at every turn on every policy an unwavering, down-the-line, unreconstructed, uninteresting, liberal Democrat. . . .

(Emphasis supplied.) And apart from the ideological attacks, this would lay down a character attackas well - to wit, Obama is a disinegenuous phony, who at best believes in nothing and does not stand for anything or, at worst, is a liar. This would not be a new attack on a Third Way politician. As I have written before, this was exactly how Republicans reacted to Bill Clinton's attempts at post-partisanship.

And say what you will about Bill Clinton, he was at the least the equal as a politican in 1992 as Barack Obama is now. Bill Clinton learned in his Presidency there was no post-partisanship and there never will be. Barack Obama, should he be the nomineee, will learn that lesson as well.

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    Bill Clinton's attempts at post-partisanship (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by commissar on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 09:36:19 AM EST
    I voted in 1992, and don't recall such attempts.

    I'd like to read your links.

    Clinton (none / 0) (#12)
    by eric on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 10:43:19 AM EST
    Off the top of my head...

    Welfare reform.  He let the rabid right-wingers have some welfare reform because he thought it would appease them or at least shut them up.  It didn't.

    Don't ask, don't tell.  He wanted gays to serve in the military, but thought that compromise might be the best way to accomplish it and shut up the screaching from the right-wingers.  It didn't.

    Biggest one of all - He dropped the investigations into Iran-Contra, Reagan's secret hostage negotiations with Iran to undercut Carter, the Iraq-gate scandal, and general coruption by Reagan and Bush.  Clinton thought that if he just cancelled all of the investigations he would build some goodwill with the Republicans.  It didn't.

    I read more about the failure of this post-partisanship HERE.


    I'm Not Sure About Those (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by BDB on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:40:00 AM EST
    Clinton only signed up for Welfare Reform after losing the Congress in 1994.  He was trying to save his skin for the 1996 election.

    Don't Ask, Don't Tell - that's not what he campaigned on.  He campaigned on letting gays be in the military and then when he took office, took steps to make it happen.  Then he was knee-capped by Sam Nunn, who was chair of the Armed Services Committee, and other democrats, as well as republicans.  Clinton went with DADT in an attempt to stop the storm he'd stirred up.  

    Iran-Contra - was, to some extent, a lost cause after the Bush I pardons and the rulings that threw out most of the evidence against Ollie North and others.

    Really, the place where I think Clinton thought he could work with Republicans was healthcare reform.  Republicans said all the right things, Bob Dole and others even introduced some bills, but then changed their minds, thanks to Bill Kristol's infamous memo, and rejected all attempts at reforming healthcare.  

    I think the healthcare debacle is when the dominant strain in the Republican party switched from legislators who would make deals, ala Bob Dole, to legislators who cared only about pushing ideology, Newt Gingrich.  Bill Kristol argued in his memo that any healthcare reform was a loser for Republicans on ideological grounds and that position won the day.  


    Yes (none / 0) (#18)
    by eric on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:50:18 AM EST
    Good point on the healthcare reform.  Regardless of whether Clinton set out to compromise or just ended up compromising, I think the general lesson taken away from Clinton's first years was that it didn't get Clinton anywhere.  He was the only one compromising - the only one backing down.  He didn't get the good-faith in return.  Post-partisanship was not - and is not - possible.

    Even Worse (none / 0) (#21)
    by BDB on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:59:09 AM EST
    His knees were cut out from under him repeatedly by his own party.  That's my biggest fear about the next Administration, that even if we get a Democratic president, this weak-willed, lily-livered, everyone out for themselves Congressional delegation will undermine and weaken every single progressive thing the President tries to do.  

    Really, I can't think of legislation that Obama would sign that Clinton wouldn't or vice versa.  The problem is what is the legislation going to look like when it hits their desk.


    The place where Clinton really pissed me off (none / 0) (#24)
    by kindness on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 12:27:49 PM EST
    was doing nothing to remove marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug and not helping out the Medical Marijuana issue.  I understand why he didn't, because he had smoked it when he was younger and didn't want that to come back & bite him in the butt.

    Didn't matter.  Republicans tried to burn him at the stake every day of his term.


    Yeah, Clinton learned the opposite lesson (none / 0) (#45)
    by fairleft on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:59:13 AM EST
    from what BTD tells us.

    He ran as 'fight established power' on health care and NAFTA, i.e. as a partisan Democrat, and betrayed or failed on those promises, finding that the only thing you can accomplish as a non-rabble-rouser get-alonger is 'bipartisan' initiatives like killing welfare and so on. Obama goes in as a 'bipartisan' so he's 'ahead' of Clinton on that curve.

    So the interesting question really is not who Obama is but why the electorate thinks he's not the same old same old DLC Democrat. It's so obvious!


    If that drug-dealing, coke-snorting ... (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by commissar on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 01:11:16 PM EST
    madrassah-attending, Hussein-named, shucking & jiving, Muslim Manchurian candidate Obama survives the smears of the Clinton machine, what has he to fear from the mere Roves & Krauthammers of the GOP?

    Here it comes (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 01:19:43 PM EST
    If you believe that, then there is no talking to you.

    What say you, BTW, about D-Punjab, Donny McClurkin and Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s comments?

    Actually, forget I asked. These issues can notbe discussed with candidates supporters who can not see past their support.  


    Yup (none / 0) (#34)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 02:30:19 PM EST
    Agreed (none / 0) (#35)
    by commissar on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 02:49:31 PM EST
    If you believe that, then there is no talking to you.

    I wasn't sure that any comparison of Clintons to the GOP machine was considered absurd on its face here.  

    I understand your perspective. Thanks.


    these things are not defensible (none / 0) (#36)
    by Jgarza on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 03:00:01 PM EST
    What say you, BTW, about D-Punjab, Donny McClurkin and Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s comments?

    How many Obama supporters have tried to defend that?

    Go look in the latest thread about Cuomo and how many candidate supporters refuse to believe it.

    Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s was inappropriate, yes, was it sexist? I think thats a stretch.  She teared up, if a man had teared up and it was questioned would that be sexist? no, it is inappropriate though.


    Some (none / 0) (#39)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 03:11:34 PM EST
    But that is not my point.

    no saints (none / 0) (#41)
    by Jgarza on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 04:43:45 PM EST
    i completely agree with that. in politics there never are.

    It's about creating "Obama Republicans" (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by mike in dc on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 01:32:50 PM EST
    ...the same way "Reagan Democrats" were created, by putting forth a message and style that appeals to a slice of the electorate that has been voting "red".  
    It is basically dependent on winning big in November, so he rolls in with clear control of Congress and a clear mandate for change.  Anyone who stands in the way of that becomes a target to be taken down in 2010.  It's all about seizing control of the framing.
    Hillary is never going to match the enthusiasm level that existed for Bill in '92.  I shouldn't say "never", but I do think it's highly unlikely.  

    Ah well, the way I look at it, if Obama beats the establishment/machine candidate to secure the nomination, he will have been pretty thoroughly "tested", and as well prepared to deal with the Republican attack machine as Bill was in the 90s(and possibly better prepared).

    Reagan was a partisan Republican (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 01:48:45 PM EST
    He used the paranoid style, especially race, to do that.

    How is Obama going to create Obama Republicans?


    by appealing (none / 0) (#37)
    by Jgarza on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 03:07:27 PM EST
    to many pocket book republicans sense of fairness and racial and sexual equality.  

    by appealing to religious conservatives sense of social justice in regards to poverty, and their new desire to fight global warming.

    by appealing to western conservatives, and hunters need for conservation.

    The old party fault lines are the weakest ever, people are sensitive to other issues and making new compromises(as far as party ID).  Of all the candidates Obama has shown him self to be most able to appeal to people who disagree with him on something by pointing out where they agree.   Hillary would be by far the weakest.  I like her but i think if she is elected we pass up on a big opportunity to bring more people in the party.


    Oxymoron (5.00 / 2) (#38)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 03:10:59 PM EST
     "pocket book republicans sense of fairness and racial and sexual equality."

    I do not recognize the GOP you are describing.  


    No, not the GOP (none / 0) (#44)
    by MetaData on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 08:10:11 PM EST
    The Republican Party is definitely ideological.

    But, the historic supporters of the Party might be more flexible. I'm sure they are, because there is polling that shows many Republicans, and more Independents support liberal (Democratic) positions, even if they shy from the liberal label.


    Would that he would benefit from (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 09:36:32 AM EST
    the example of Rethuglican conduct in re the WJC administration, and came out swinging.  In a nice, unifying way, of course.

    No sense, to me, in having to reinvent the wheel by putting us through 1993-1996 all over again.  Better to cut the Rethugs off at the knees before they and their obstructionism really get a head of steam up.

    The time is ripe. (none / 0) (#4)
    by JayR70 on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 09:45:48 AM EST
    In the 1990's people were sick of the Dems (who had been in power in Congress for decades) but now just a  few years later they've seen that the GOP is incompetent. They don't want an obstructionist Congress and I think that anyone who is seen as obstructing our nation's progress will get voted out asap.

    And who better to explain GOP obstructionism from the bully pulpit than Obama?


    It's not really bipartisan. (none / 0) (#3)
    by JayR70 on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 09:43:03 AM EST
    At least that's not what I'm getting from it.

    I don't think it means that right-wingers are invited to try to force their views on the rest of us. What I think it means is that GOP/indies who share Dem values but because of GOP games have been pushed into the GOP column are invited back into the fold.

    It's clear that a majority of this country believes in progressive dem causes but because of divide and conquer tactics they have been voting against their interests.

    Obama seems to want to end that by changing the way things are framed.

    LBJ says we lost the South for a generation.

    Well that generation is coming to a close and I think Obama is trying to realign the parties to better reflect the population.  

    That will naturally marginalize the right-wingers who are already gasping for air as they've destroyed their own ideology in a short few years.

    I don't think "he's too liberal!" is going to fly  too well anymore. People who fall for that weren't going to vote for him anyway.

    The swell of voters who have been inspired to come out and cross-over will solidly put Congress back into the hands of Dems (not just marginally) and with a Dem in the White House the necessary repairs can get started if not done.

    At least that's how I see it.  

    Guess You Have A Point (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by squeaky on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:05:46 AM EST
    Lieberman, his mentor,  was able to unite himself with the GOP. Too bad it meant becoming a GOP.

    I think that it is all BS. The GOP are alive and well and still hope for permanent party rule. The public is easily manipulated, but by fear not hope.


    I hope you don't think he's like Lieberman. (none / 0) (#26)
    by JayR70 on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 12:46:59 PM EST
    That wouldn't be accurate at far as I can tell. I'd say that his real mentors are the community activists who trained him.

    Not Sure Where He Is (none / 0) (#43)
    by squeaky on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 06:05:00 PM EST
    Regarding being similar to Lieberman. But the point is that there is no unity possible with the republicans today. Lieberman is proof.

    Took the words out of my mouth (none / 0) (#25)
    by MetaData on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 12:32:03 PM EST
    What is the best way to help the Republican coalition to crumble?

    Maybe we will never convince the hard-core conservatives: authoritarians, anti-government, theo-cons and pro-war neocons. But, there are a lot of Republicans (and a lot more independents!) who depend on and trust government programs, like public schools, social security, disaster relief, etc.

    Huckabee is running a populist campaign. What happens to the Huckabee voters if the nominee is McCain or Romney? Some may be Republican religious-right to the core, but a lot of them are liberal on the welfare state and against the Iraq war.

    The latter group may represent the "coming home" of the Vietnam era, pro-war Democrats that gave Nixon and Reagan support. The biggest failure of George Bush has been to relearn the Vietnam lesson on the limits of US military power; maybe this time the lesson sticks.

    Obama pushes anti-conflict, post-partisan rhetoric. It's a schtick, and probably he even knows it. I wouldn't call him stupid, and I'm sure he has focus group polling that supports his positioning. The more I think about it, the more I believe it is intentional.

    (Diclaimer: Obama has not been my first choice).

    Perhaps Obama is the medicine that moves the country past the Vietnam era culture clashes.


    I think the (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jgarza on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 09:55:34 AM EST
    unity schtick is just that, a schtick.  It gives him more power to respond.

    Agreement (none / 0) (#6)
    by BlueLakeMichigan on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 09:58:57 AM EST
    It's an electoral tactic, I believe, to get more political capital in 2009 and beyond if the victory is broader than 50% + 1, which would be disasterous for a new Obama presidency. It's sad, every time I think of a reason to support Obama, and there are reasons, I think of scenarios where Edwards would be more effective...hmmm...

    Unfortunately (none / 0) (#7)
    by JayR70 on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 10:07:01 AM EST
    JRE can't even generate much support within his own party I don't see how he'd have any cross-over appeal.

    And I like the guy and his message.


    Once in power, he'll pursue progressive policies (none / 0) (#8)
    by Geekesque on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 10:21:34 AM EST
    and it will be oh so easy to get people to buy that the Republicans opposing it for ideological reasons are just engaged in the same old partisan, divisive politics.

    Assuming (none / 0) (#9)
    by BDB on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 10:31:12 AM EST
    he's not constantly painted by the media as having failed to bring everyone together.

    I'm in the camp that says whoever the Democratic nominee is will get painted as a liar and worse.  The only good things about columns like this one is that it makes it clear that any Democrat is going to be attacked and smeared.  If the Obama people think he's somehow so special to escape it unscathed and still be as loved as he was before the smearing, they are kidding themselves.  Hopefully, columns like this will help them wake up and prepare for the long, ugly fight if he's the nominee.  Because if he is the nominee, I want him ready and willing to fight.  

    I'm still incredibly disturbed by Obama telling folks before NH that he thought his "vetting" was done.  Someone please tell me that he was just trying to work reporters and doesn't actually believe that.


    Progressive? (none / 0) (#10)
    by koshembos on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 10:31:19 AM EST
    So now it's official, Obama is progressive because Krauthammer said that Obama is a liberal democrat. Well, for all republicans, even Boren and Nunn are  liberals.

    It's my impression that Obama will tell every listening audience exactly what they want to hear. In dictionary this is called, at best, an opportunist, which clearly isn't a synonym for progressive.

    According to the positions Obama takes (soccial security, vouchers, partial health care, attack Pakistan, etc.), he is clearly to the right of Hillary and she is just left of center.

    Any examples? (none / 0) (#11)
    by JayR70 on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 10:40:31 AM EST
    "It's my impression that Obama will tell every listening audience exactly what they want to hear."

    Of this I mean.

    Every Politician Tells His or Her Audience (none / 0) (#17)
    by BDB on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:42:45 AM EST
    what they want to hear.  Obama is no different.  

    To me, this is the dumbest attack used against politicians.  You mean, the person trying to get you to vote for them didn't tell you some of the bad things about them or their policies?  Shocking!


    for a moment there BTD, (none / 0) (#14)
    by cpinva on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:24:04 AM EST
    i thought you were describing krauthammer!

    .....Obama is a disinegenuous phony, who at best believes in nothing and does not stand for anything or, at worst, is a liar.

    if obama's "unity" schtick really is a schtick, i wish he'd stop it, it doesn't resonate with the realists among us.

    congress, most especially the house, hasn't been particularly collegial since the newt gingrich takeover of 1994. before that, the nutjobs of both parties were allowed, by their respective leaders, to rant in public, appeasing their equally nutjob constituents. then, the rest got down to business, making the deals necessary to get things done.

    then they all went home, told the folks how wonderful they were, and how horrible the dem/GOP opposition was. it wasn't pretty, but it seemed, for the most part, to work.

    not so since the gingrich revolution, which introduced extreme, take no prisoners partisanship into the equation. and thus it has been since.

    for the democrats, should they succesfully take both the white house and congress, in 2008, no quarter should or need be given.

    who can get it done? (none / 0) (#15)
    by athyrio on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:28:42 AM EST
    I still don't believe that Obama is electable and I am not willing to "roll the dice" to see if that is true if I can help it. He seems to be a nice man but it will take more than nice to deal with the mess in Washington. I shall vote for Hillary, as I believe she and Bill are tough enough to deal with them.

    But (none / 0) (#19)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:56:31 AM EST
    is Hillary alone tough enough to deal with the evil Republicans?  

    The right-wing narrative (none / 0) (#20)
    by Zeno on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:57:22 AM EST
    Although I'm pleased with the Democratic field and will support any of them who win the party's nomination, I remain concerned with vulnerability to right-wing smear attacks. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I really doubt that Hillary Clinton is the candidate the Republicans are most eager to run against. Sure, they despise her with a deep burning revulsion, but they've also seen her survive their unrelenting attacks. Remember when they chortled there was no way she could win a senate seat as a candidate in her own right? She steamrollered them. What more do they have to throw against her? They've already insinuated that she's a murderer, a lesbian (they think that's really bad, of course), a shrew, and a pimp for her husband. (Contradictions don't bother them much.)

    Obama is an attractive candidate, but he has not yet dealt with a full-court GOP assault. The attack is, however, beginning to take shape. He's a crypto-Muslim, they'll say, gleefully lying; he was brainwashed in madrassas, he's black (some of them think that's really bad), he's not really black (contradictions don't bother them), and he's a militant fill-in-the-blank. Can he withstand the smears? I hope so, but I'd like a higher confidence level.

    Black men have endured (none / 0) (#23)
    by Electa on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 12:24:08 PM EST
    slurs and slander for over 400 yrs.  Today is no exception and we're ready for it.  I think Obama has more than enough stamina and experience to handle whatever manure that both white and blacks will sling his way.

    Unity is NOT impossible (none / 0) (#22)
    by MSS on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 12:06:46 PM EST
    Agreed: Obama should not expect the most rabid neocons to agree with him to create legislation.

    But there are "conservatives" thoroughout the country who are willing to compromise, and that's who Obama's rhetoric is directed.

    There are many who identify themselves as "conservative" who want just what I want:
    *clean environment
    *decent public schools
    *good roads
    *public safety
    *health care at a reasonable price

    If Obama can get the support of all of us for those goals, more power to him!

    I do not agree that such a perspective makes Obama naive or out of touch.

    Does Krautheimer falsely (none / 0) (#27)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 12:53:57 PM EST
    attribute any of these policy positions to Obama?  (Please read link b/4 responding.)

    No (none / 0) (#28)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 01:00:40 PM EST
    Not my point.

    Not your point, but your response (none / 0) (#29)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 01:06:10 PM EST
    makes your point stronger.  

    Excuse me if I find this post insulting (none / 0) (#40)
    by Aaron on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 04:28:34 PM EST
    And your apparent assertion is that the Clintons got things done in Washington.  Sure, they helped hand this country over to people who have no respect for democracy, the American people or the Constitution. All they did was play a holding action, losing the Congress while they were rendered all but impotent in the White House, leaving the American people at the mercy of those who are quite obviously our enemies.

    And Hillary is going to get into the White House and reimplement her husband's programs, and then hand the Congress back over to the Republicans in four to eight years because the American people won't be interested in listening to excuses about how the Republican minority is blocking the Clinton plans and undermining their governance.

    Clinton is not about change, she's about the status quo, and this new populist façade that she's putting on is exactly that a façade.  She knows how Washington works, and she's going to do everything in her power to keep herself in office for the next eight years, and if the American people must continue to suffer so that the Clintons and the Democrats can maintain their hold on power, however temporarily, so be.

    The fact is you can't govern this country with a 51% majority, all you can do is hold onto power and wait until your time is over.  I don't think the Clintons have the slightest idea what they're going to do if and when they get in the White House, but I have little doubt that we'll get to relive a bad approximation of the early 90s, just as we relive a very bad revision of the 80s under George W. Bush.

    This country needs to move forward, and Barack Obama is the only one who offers a fresh approach for doing that, everyone else is just offering us more of the same.

    Obama 08, embrace progress, reject nostalgic stagnation.  

    I tell you what is status quo (none / 0) (#42)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 05:01:31 PM EST
    The nature of your comments.