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January 27, 2008

Comments

I'm about to go out drinking with friends, so I can't fully respond. But I don't think it is really an enemy of enemy thing going on. Obama seems to really 'get' the conservative argument on things about as much as possible and still disagree with it. That suggests that on key areas, even if he is on 'the left' he might still be willing to build in some of the safeguards which can make government action work rather than shove garbage down our throats only to see a result like HUD in the late 1970s or eternal welfare.

Obama seems willing to listen to such concerns more than the 'not at all' we get from Clinton. Maybe it is all an act. Hopefully we'll get a chance to find out.

Um. You hate what you fear – and the Clintons (with a notable exception in 1994) pretty much cleaned the Republicans’ clocks in every major political battle. It seems to me that the opposite is more nearly true: health care, "free" trade, welfare "reform", Supreme Court and other nominees, the legal standing of gays in various contexts...right-wing ranters have always demonized the Clintons as ultra-liberals but the truth is that Bill's record is one that would do many Republicans proud.

There's some of both, I think. That Sebastian & I are leaning towards the same candidate suggests real cross-party appeal (as well as suggesting that things have really gone to hell, of course.) Did you see us in 2004? But Nat'l Review is probably enemy-of-my-enemy shtick & it won't last past the primaries. That doesn't mean it's insincere, but it won't last, any more than the flashes of affection for Mike Huckabee I experienced briefly a few weeks ago.

I think the phenomena that Publius and Sebastian are describing are probably both real, among different groups of conservatives with different levels of thoughtfulness and intelligence.

From my liberal perspective I have a hard time thinking of the Clintons as having cleaned Republican clocks a whole bunch. The defeat of universal health care, the loss of Congress in 1994, spending the next six years playing defense; the Defense of Marriage Act; welfare reform; the curtailing of the appeals of death row prisoners -- all make me think of the Clinton years as basically a time of disappointment and defeat, and that's surely part of the reason why I don't support Hillary.

But I remember reading something recently about how people tend to perceive and remember defeat more intensely than victory. If that's true, then it's plausible that both I and a Republican could remember the 1990s as a time of infuriating defeats.

I'd like to echo the initial comment. I think a great deal of the conservative tolerance/respect/appreciation for Obama is simply that he seems to talk to them with respect and understanding for their ideas, which is predicated on the admission and belief that they have ideas and not merely prejudices or biases.

There's a sense that Obama begins with goals or ideas and moves to means, and Clinton begins with party and power and moves to justifications; the former can be discussed with, persuaded, or persuaded by while the latter seems always an enemy. There's certainly room to disagree with that understanding, but I wouldn't dismiss it as contemptible gut-level emotion alone. Not every Republican or conservative is enamored of perpetual Rovian political knife-fights.

I don't understand how this theory would be good for Obama in the GE. To me it says there are a lot of conservatives who like Obama because right now he's fighting the hated Clintons. Once the Clintons are out of the picture, that's not going to translate into preferring Obama over the Republican candidate.

My belief from chatting with white swing voters, and this is just Tom Friedman talking to the taxi driver here, is that Obama's support among these folks is VERY VERY SOFT. I feel they are attracted to the idea of what he represents, but it only lasts for so long as he remains mostly undefined for them.

I think Obama offers the most upside but also the most downside for the GE. The GOP will obviously go very hard after any nominee. If the media and the voters sort of wrap him in a protective cocoon because he's the new JFK and the hope of unity and all that, there could be a massive backlash and he could sweep to glorious victory. On the other hand, if those attacks do take hold, and lord knows there's plenty of fertile ground, he could wind up getting crushed. It's really so hard to predict.

I think Obama offers the most upside but also the most downside for the GE. The GOP will obviously go very hard after any nominee. If the media and the voters sort of wrap him in a protective cocoon because he's the new JFK and the hope of unity and all that, there could be a massive backlash and he could sweep to glorious victory. On the other hand, if those attacks do take hold, and lord knows there's plenty of fertile ground, he could wind up getting crushed. It's really so hard to predict.

Probably means you shouldn't try to predict, because there are so many variables that you know that you don't know about.

Uncertainty is not evil. In this case, vote your heart. It'll do just as well as trying to figure this out from a left brain perspective, I think.

There's a sense that Obama begins with goals or ideas and moves to means, and Clinton begins with party and power and moves to justifications

Very well put. I'd only add that he also seems to start with areas of agreement--whether means or ends, process or outcomes--and tries to build from there.

And perhaps best of all, he attempts to persuade. I'm not sure we've had a president try to do that since Reagan; on the Democratic side, FDR might have been the last one. This is what moderate Republicans--especially those with enough objectivity to grasp how badly we've gone astray in the Bush years--grasp and respond to. The conservative elites wouldn't stay on board in a November contest (though, then again, they do really seem to hate McCain...) but a lot of voters might.

"My belief from chatting with white swing voters, and this is just Tom Friedman talking to the taxi driver here, is that Obama's support among these folks is VERY VERY SOFT. I feel they are attracted to the idea of what he represents, but it only lasts for so long as he remains mostly undefined for them."

For whatever it's worth, I am a white swing voter (registered independent, highly interested). I intend to vote for Obama over anyone, McCain over Clinton, and Clinton over any other Republican. I may be an extreme outlier, or I may not.

From my perspective, I am aware that these two candidates, McCain and Obama, represent divergent policy approaches; I also believe that they are 2 of the 3 candidates on either side who actually believe what they say and say what they believe at a reasonably high percentage (Huckabee is the third, for better or, as I believe, worse).

Personally, many of my policy sympathies are with Obama and, by extension, Clinton. But after 8 years of Bush, and with my major issues being abhorrence of the present torture regime and a demand for someone of a reasonable degree of honesty with a willingness to not overstretch the bounds of the executive office, I can't accept Clinton as an option after her and her campaign's actions of this primary season. Most years this would not be a primary concern; after Bush, it is for me.

I suppose the flip side of the question of how strong Obama's appeal to white swing voters is, is- how hard are Clinton's negatives? The more Bill talks and the longer the contested portion of the primaries is, the harder they are I believe. 6 Months ago I'd have supported her over anyone.

I also think -- based on conversations I've had, the usual, though I'm probably more likely than your average person to try to get random strangers into conversations about politics in which I spend most of the time listening -- that a lot of the appeal, for conservatives, is the sense that Obama would actually listen to them. My sense is that a number of people who identify as conservatives actually want things like some real solution to the increasing unavailability and/or unaffordability of health insurance, the environment, etc., but have a hard time bringing to vote for "liberals" because they do not trust us, and also because they think we regard them with contempt.

To get around that, I think, we need someone who advocates straight Democratic policies, but whom people do not instinctively distrust, or identify as just another one of those people Rush Limbaugh is forever railing against, and who they think might actually listen to them.

As I've said before, I favor Obama on straight policy grounds, and also (now) on the basis of Clinton's electoral tactics. But I also think he'd be by far our strongest candidate against the Republicans, and this is mostly why.

Steve wrote: " On the other hand, if those attacks do take hold, and lord knows there's plenty of fertile ground, he could wind up getting crushed. "

Given the turnout figures for Republicans vs. Democrats so far, it could be hard for them to 'crush' Obama.

Obama got more votes tonight than the top three Republicans got in South Carolina, combined.

This suggests that Republicans aren't terribly interested in the election.

Republicans who are interested in Obama now but whose attraction fades by November aren't necessarily going to vote for the GOP candidate. They may not vote for the Republican either.

Clinton, on the other hand, might well get people out just to vote *against* her.

If Obama could manage to get through to November without garnering that level of Republican animosity, it would help him a great deal.

Another thought : Republicans who like Obama, but not enough to vote for him, are more likely to be annoyed by Republican slime against Obama, which would likely reduce Republican votes.

I certainly agree that Obama has an air of reasonableness about him, and that he comes across as the sort of person who would try to persuade, rather than simply resort to raw power.

But can anyone point me to an example - and I'm not being flip here - of Obama actually persuading voters to do anything specific, other than to vote for him?

I remember Reagan very well and I remember how he persuaded people, although I personally wasn't buying. But I've just never seen Obama do anything comparable. It certainly seems like he OUGHT to be the man for the job, but I'm at a loss for actual evidence. And Reagan had a long, long track record by the time he actually became President.

I feel a bit churlish asking these questions because it's like, if you question it you're basically asking for reasons not to hope. But the whole phenomenon just seems so faith-based to me and I'm totally not into faith.

Steve wrote: "But can anyone point me to an example - and I'm not being flip here - of Obama actually persuading voters to do anything specific, other than to vote for him?"

Obama's Illinois law to require videotaping of police interrogations, to prevent coerced confessions, torture, etc, which faced bipartisan opposition.

Steve: there are a lot of examples, like the one Jon H just gave, of his persuading legislators to do things. Likewise, there are examples of his persuading ordinary people to do things from his days as an organizer and leader of voting drives, etc. Also, he was (I think) one of the most requested speakers by other candidates for Congress in the last election, and presumably he was asked because people thought he could persuade voters to vote for someone else. But I'm not sure what else he would have had occasion to persuade voters to do.

I feel like I framed the question wrong or something. Reagan persuaded people to buy into an ideology; I don't see evidence of Obama having the same gift from getting people to show up for a canned food drive. If he hasn't had occasion to show more, it's precisely because his record is so short.

With all the important issues that have come before the Senate since 2004, Obama hasn't taken the lead in shaping public opinion on a single one, even as the Democrats get rolled over and over again. It would have been a great time to showcase this gift of his, if it actually amounts to something real.

On everything from national security to trade to domestic economics, I suspect a Clinton administration would be far more to their liking than an Obama one.

And a McCain one far more to their liking still, but I've seen a number of right-wing bloggers (and blog commenters) insist that a McCain nomination would make them either stay home (if HRC is nominated) or vote Democratic (for Obama).

a lot of this hostility stems from the Clintons’ political success -- and, more precisely, from conservatives’ fear of losing to them again.

Uhh... I totally disagree. I wouldn't call myself a real dyed-in-the-wool conservative, but I've always disliked the Clintons because, to me, they've always oozed sleaze from their pores. I actually agreed with a lot of Bill's policies, but he and his wife both just strike me as narcissistic, cynical, paranoid, and just a bit too hungry for power. I don't want people like that in office.

You hate what you fear – and the Clintons (with a notable exception in 1994) pretty much cleaned the Republicans’ clocks in every major political battle.

Bill Clinton never won a majority of the vote and may not have even been elected if not for Perot. His party lost control of Congress in the first midterm election of his Presidency and never got it back. Almost every major liberal policy initiative he launched failed, and as has already been noted, many of the things he did accomplish were actually ideas he took from the Republicans. As for Hillary, she won in a liberal state with an overwhelming advantage in name recognition, money, and institutional support against a lightweight opponent who was a last minute pinch-hitter, then got re-elected essentially unopposed. How, exactly, have the Clintons' "cleaned Republicans' clocks"?

I wish it weren’t so, but gut-level impressions of a candidate are very important in national presidential elections. Likeability does matter, even if it shouldn’t.

It does matter - and I don't see why you think it shouldn't. Likability helps you not only accomplish your agenda, but also project a better image to the rest of the world. Remember that the President is the Head of State as well as the head of the executive branch - the office has a great deal of symbolic importance as well as legal power.

Here’s the point (and I'd welcome conservatives' thoughts on this) – Obama seems to be steadily gaining likeability points on the other side just because he happens to be fighting the Clintons.

That's part of it, but I've liked him ever since I watched his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, long before he was fighting the Clintons. The man has integrity and intelligence and believes in the American democratic ideal. I can respect that, even if I don't agree with him on policy.

how happy they are to see Obama – and his campaign’s progressive supporters – increasingly turning on the Clintons. Some of this support is of course rational – many conservatives are receptive to Obama’s post-partisan schtick. But there’s more than a little Clinton Schadenfreude too.

As irrational as some Clinton hatred is, liberals' willingness to defend them come hell or high water was often equally irrational. One of the primary reasons I've always disliked the Clintons was my sense that they would do anything, including lie, smear, manipulate, put their own interest above those they were elected to lead, etc., to gain and hold on to power. Seeing the scales fall from liberal eyes as they recognize the truth of some of these misgivings provides an enormous sense of vindication.

All that said, whatever likeability points he’s gaining now may not matter as people fall back into party lines for the election.

I suspect it will matter electorally, particularly if the Republicans nominate a lousy candidate. But even if it doesn't, I'd much rather have a thoughtful, scrupulous liberal like Obama as President than a moderate but ethically challenged political street brawler like Hillary.

Obama's Illinois law to require videotaping of police interrogations, to prevent coerced confessions, torture, etc, which faced bipartisan opposition.

This was, by the way, an excellent bill -- and one that incorporated conservative and libertarian ideas.

And that's one reason why a lot of conservatives and classic liberals -- I count myself among the latter -- support Obama over Clinton. I have no illusions that an Obama administration will pursue policy objectives different from mine. But Obama's record has been one of listening to the other side, and improving his bills to reflect reality (even when voiced by a conservative). Moreover, Obama has refused to dip into the standard Democratic playbook for policy solutions. Only the most recent example of this was his proposed stimulus package: it beat the packages of his rivals by a country mile because Obama's package better reflected sound economic theory -- even where it was not in tune with typical Democratic talking points. (See Reich's praise: http://robertreich.blogspot.com/2008/01/we-need-stimulus-now-but-what-kind.html).

So, yes, I'll take the thoughtful guy who's willing to reach across the aisle over a Clinton campaign that has declared war on its opponents, played to the base instincts of the Democratic party, and surrounded itself with cronies and characters who cause even many Democrats to shudder. If you were in my position, wouldn't you as well?

As for foreign policy: Talk aside, I do not believe that an Obama administration will be materially different from a Clinton administration.

I'm a lifelong Rep., but after Bush & Iraq, I voted Dem in 2006 including, since I live in NY, a vote for Hillary Clinton for Senate. I voted for her with few, if any, reservations.

Now, I am an Obama supporter, and am repulsed by the Clintons' race-baiting.

Or, maybe, possibly, at hearr, I am simply a die-hard Conservative CDS type. I dunno.

If the issue is 2008, obviously I'd vote for Obama as the nominee. As of 2007, I would have said that I would certainly vote for Clinton too; but all their B.S. is making me waver. I'd have to consider Romney or McCain.

Also, to second Xeynon regarding this point by Publius:

"I wish it weren’t so, but gut-level impressions of a candidate are very important in national presidential elections. Likeability does matter, even if it shouldn’t."

Of course likeability matters. The current President Bush is despised around the world: Do you think it doesn't influence the range of policies that he can pursue? More importantly, however, is what likeability signifies. Rather than assume that the stereotypical Republican dislikes the Clintons because of some unspoken fear of failure, perhaps one should consider the actual reasons that such a Republican gives. There are quite a few.

ather than shove garbage down our throats only to see a result like HUD in the late 1970s

Was 1966 in the late 1970s now? I need the adjusted calendar so I know what year was when.

And all this talk from Republicans about "I really like Obama because I feel like he listens to us, maaaaaaan, and he works across the aisle!" . . . if I hear this from anyone who voted for Bush in either of the general elections, I swear I'm going to kick them in the crotch. Because it's then painfully apparent that it's not a principle you admire in isolation, it's something you think will work to your advantage in continuing to get your own agenda advanced.

The current President Bush is despised around the world: Do you think it doesn't influence the range of policies that he can pursue?

Oh, for Christ's sake, he's despised here, and it has never stopped him from getting a single thing that he's wanted. The only thing that has ever stopped Bush from getting something he's wanted is when his own party ideologues jerk back on the chain (e.g., Harriet Miers).

Von: The current President Bush is despised around the world: Do you think it doesn't influence the range of policies that he can pursue.

In case you've forgotten, Von - which it appears you have! - Bush took the worldwide sympathy and support which was felt for the US after 9/11 and poured it down the drain. We know what "range of policies" Bush would pursue if he were not "despised around the world", because we have seem him do it - and it's because of that range of policies, and the manner in which he has pursued them, that he is despised around the world.

Thank you for bringing people back to the point: whoever wins in November, the real disaster will be if the Republicans get to rig the election again so that, once again, the non-winner is crowned.

Oh, for Christ's sake, he's despised here, and it has never stopped him from getting a single thing that he's wanted.

Social security reform? A continuation of the Rumsfeld "light footprint" Iraq strategy? C'mon now.

whoever wins in November, the real disaster will be if the Republicans get to rig the election again so that, once again, the non-winner is crowned.

How's that tinfoil hat fitting you?

I should clarify a little, Xeynon: The lone fact of Bush being despised has rarely if ever been the driving force behind his administration's failures. It's not that he's never gotten rejected on anything, but those rejections have never been a result of his dislikability.

Check out my interview HERE with a former Republican who not only changed his party affiliation just for Obama, but drove all the way from Maryland to Iowa to South Carolina to volunteer for his campaign.

I must admit though, that I convinced my Republican parents to vote for Obama in SC in part because they hate Hillary Clinton. Also in part because they aren't big fans of any of the Republican candidates. And they would probably vote for Obama in the general, where they would never vote for Clinton.

Again, unscientific, but that's my experience with the 'swing' vote.

I should clarify a little, Xeynon: The lone fact of Bush being despised has rarely if ever been the driving force behind his administration's failures. It's not that he's never gotten rejected on anything, but those rejections have never been a result of his dislikability.

You may be right. It's quite possible that even if his administration hadn't acted with such arrogant contempt for world opinion, the Europeans might not be inclined to help at all with Iraq, or Iran. Certainly, though, the cowboy diplomacy didn't help.

Xeynon: It's quite possible that even if his administration hadn't acted with such arrogant contempt for world opinion, the Europeans might not be inclined to help at all with Iraq, or Iran.

Thank you so very much.

Moving on from your losing track of a mere 607 dead, the reason most UN countries had for not wanting to "help" with Iraq initially was that the US/UK attack on Iraq was illegal. Also, what Americans tend to lose track of is that Europeans have, within living memory, had two major wars fought in Europe - and have a much better notion of why it's a bad idea to start a war of aggression than most Americans do.

The US/UK occupation was taken cognization of and legalized, but the Bush administration's notion of "diplomacy" was not a major factor in other countries not wanting to send "help": the occupation was, it was clear from very early on, being run primarily for the profit of major Republican donors in the US, and was a financial and bloody boondoggle that no government ought to want to be involved in: there was no intent to allow the Iraqis to elect their own government (and, indeed, Iraqis were not permitted to do so until January 2005) and there was no clear structure or plan for other countries to help with.

That Bush & Co had apparently no notion that there was any other way to get people to do things they wanted but to buy them or bully them, wasn't the key factor. Their criminality and incompetence was key.

As for "helping" with Iran: several European countries have in fact helped with Iran. That this help consisted of cooling the situation down rather than offering more soldiers and money for the Bush administration to waste in another pointless war of aggression, also has little to do with Bush's notions of diplomacy.

Undercutting my previous comment with mere facts: 174 UK troops have been killed, 101 either seriously or very seriously injured (295 wounded in action), and 4 British media workers have been killed: also 22 Polish soldiers have been killed and 2 Polish media workers. Where my subconscious pulled the number "607" from I don't know, but it didn't actually bear any relation to UK killed/casualties. (I do, in fact, prefer facts to rhetoric, when I have to make a choice, and wish I could tell my subconscious that.) The number should have been 196 European soldiers killed in Iraq: more if we count in all of the European journalists and media workers who have been killed by either side.

Because it's then painfully apparent that it's not a principle you admire in isolation, it's something you think will work to your advantage in continuing to get your own agenda advanced.

Obviously true, to a certain extent, although my preferred R (McCain) also has a history of working with Ds -- and even adopting their ideas, where reasonable and correct.

Jes, I have no idea how your comment relates to mine.

Well, let's remember Von voted for John Kerry, which has always been good enough for me, regardless of other considerations or motives.

I've been hovering between Obama and Clinton, trying to keep my rhetorical trouser legs above the current muck, but after watching Obama's S.C. victory speech, he's got me.

Now, at some point, the "Change" and "Yes, we can" mantras will need to be fleshed out (by Obama and not just by Hilzoy) and an object supplied to go with the verb, but I'm moved.

Not very many people can do that to me any longer. Andrew Olmsted and Obama -- two in one year.

So Obama gets Sebastian's and Von's vote and my vote. McCain gets Von's vote as well.

By my count, if we count Hilzoy, that's a 4 to 1 landslide for Obama, if Von votes twice.

Hillary still ties, he reminded everyone.

Von, my last two comments were directed at Xeynon, not at you.

If you meant my first comment: you appeared to be trying to argue that Bush being "despised round the world" had come first, and then the limited range of policies he could pursue. Not so: he chose to pursue a limited range of policies, and this and the way he pursued them led him to being despised round the world. You had cause and effect completely mixed up.

von, I should've been more specific in excluding you from my comment, remembering that you did vote for Kerry. I was using you as a jumping-off point without elaborating.

If you meant my first comment: you appeared to be trying to argue that Bush being "despised round the world" had come first, and then the limited range of policies he could pursue. Not so: he chose to pursue a limited range of policies, and this and the way he pursued them led him to being despised round the world. You had cause and effect completely mixed up.

We're talking past each other. My point with Hillary is that those who wonder why she is despised so much are overlooking the fact that there may be a factual cause for the dislike -- much like your hypothetical Republican who wonders why the world fails to realize that Bush isn't the next best thing since sliced bread.

von, I should've been more specific in excluding you from my comment, remembering that you did vote for Kerry

That was an election in which I sincerely hoped that everyone would lose. Sadly, it did not come to pass.

Oh, and don't worry about it, Phil.

Thullen: after watching Obama's S.C. victory speech, he's got me

Yeah, he can definitely give a speech…

So Obama gets Sebastian's and Von's vote and my vote.

It seems more and more likely that if he gets the nod I will vote for him. A lot can happen as November is miles away, but if I voted today it would likely be for him.

Here’s the point (and I'd welcome conservatives' thoughts on this) – Obama seems to be steadily gaining likeability points on the other side just because he happens to be fighting the Clintons.

Forgot to address this…

There is some truth to that. As I’ve stated I have a visceral dislike of HRC. So I do get a fair amount of joy out of the trouble Obama seems to be causing her.

But, if you took her out of the race completely, all things considered, Obama would still look pretty good to me. For me, I think it is the fact that he seems to have an optimistic attitude – we can fix things vs. OMG it’s all a mess…

My point with Hillary is that those who wonder why she is despised so much are overlooking the fact that there may be a factual cause for the dislike

Given that if there had been, I'm sure it would have come up at some point, no, I don't think it's been overlooked.

Since 1992, Republicans haven't needed any factual cause to loathe either of the Clintons, and, though they spent millions trying, didn't manage to find one.

"Yeah, he can definitely give a speech…"

I expect you've heard the whole thing, not just an excerpt, but I believe in this man.

It's that simple.

I’m getting there Gary…

"I believe in this man."

I'm not directing this at Obama in particular, but I don't think it's a good idea to believe in any politician--it's not just a mistake, it's almost a category error.

I know you're a big fan of Garry Wills, Gary--in particular, did you read "The Conscience of a Conservative"? He has chapters on "saints" (people like MLK) and politicians, and the lesson I took away from that is that you believe in "saints", but you put pressure on politicians.

Obama can give a good speech, but if he feels enough pressure he'll toss some of his principles overboard to get elected. Case in point

here

trying to keep my rhetorical trouser legs above the current muck

As we used to say, take off your shirt, it's too late to save the pants...

I should add this isn't directed at Phil, but at the current situation.

That was an election in which I sincerely hoped that everyone would lose. Sadly, it did not come to pass.

I dunno, if feels like everyone lost...

"I’m getting there Gary…"

My guy says: "But now it is up to us to help the entire nation embrace this vision. Because in the end, we are not just up against the ingrained and destructive habits of Washington, we are also struggling against our own doubts, our own fears, and our own cynicism. The change we seek has always required great struggle and sacrifice. And so this is a battle in our own hearts and minds about what kind of country we want and how hard we’re willing to work for it."

Also, we're all for the whole USA thing.

;-)

Also, change is possible. Just saying.

"I know you're a big fan of Garry Wills, Gary"

True.

"--in particular, did you read 'The Conscience of a Conservative'?"

Yes. Fair and good points, Donald, and thanks.

But I wasn't saying that I was signing up to worship Obama.

Neither do I think that he could somehow, as president, miraculously cure all of America's ills, either domestically or in foreign policy.

But, y'know, given the alternatives available in my lifetime, I think I, and folks who think like me, are entitled to a little enthusiasm without it being completely stepped on because, gosh, the guy is human and not going to overthrow our entire political and social system. I actually do get that point.

Fair enough, Gary. But I in turn feel that I am entitled to step on people's enthusiasm for politicians, based on my belief that a politician is not the kind of thing that should inspire too much enthusiasm. People are, of course, free to ignore me, and will do so.

I

I think the category error is to decide that because all presidents will inevitably disappoint you, they are all "just politicians" & it's never worth enthusiastically supporting them.

Also -- and this shouldn't surprise you -- I'm not impressed by this: "Among his early backers was Penny Pritzker -- now his national campaign finance chair -- scion of the liberal but staunchly Zionist family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain."

This is presented as something negative. That it is so isn't clear to me.

Possibly you might explain the reasoning to me?

Katherine: Seconded. The idea that politicians are all corrupt and will inevitably disappoint is a self-fulfilling prophecy if I ever heard one. I think it has been one of Obama's biggest obstacles this year.

I do not think he's a saint, or perfect, or anything. I really, really wish he had done more on civil liberties. I have roughly no respect for his votes on liquified coal, etc. But I do think -- based not primarily on his rhetoric, but on his ethics legislation -- that he's genuinely committed to more decent and honest politics, and -- crucially -- to putting procedures and incentives in place that will make that more likely. (E.g., the searchable database of recipients of federal spending.)

When someone stands up for that sort of thing -- and assuming that person is not completely hateful on some other count -- I've always thought I have an obligation to help. Because if we don't both demand more and try to support more when it appears, our politics will never change.

In this particular case, it's all very easy for me: I support Obama on issues, tactics, character, and electablity. No hard choices for me. *grins*

"He has also appointed several prominent pro-Israel advisors."

This is also completely vague. Who, specifically, are we intended to be concerned about, Donald?

So Obama gets Sebastian's and Von's vote and my vote.

Just for clarity: at this point, I would consider voting for Obama only if McCain is not the Republican nominee.

Since 1992, Republicans haven't needed any factual cause to loathe either of the Clintons, and, though they spent millions trying, didn't manage to find one.

This is going to take us off-topic, Jes, but there are a lot of people who would dispute this statement -- and also have legitimate concerns regarding the people who will be returning if/when the Clintons return to power. (Reich is a standout guy & I'd have no problem with him coming back but he's only one guy,* and the rest -- Sandy Berger, James Carville, etc. -- should not be appealing to anyone.)

I do not think he's a saint, or perfect, or anything. I really, really wish he had done more on civil liberties. I have roughly no respect for his votes on liquified coal, etc. But I do think -- based not primarily on his rhetoric, but on his ethics legislation -- that he's genuinely committed to more decent and honest politics, and -- crucially -- to putting procedures and incentives in place that will make that more likely. (E.g., the searchable database of recipients of federal spending.)

I think Hilzoy's comment may shed further light regarding why many people who disagree with Obama on the issues are still inclined toward him. Could anyone make a similar statement about Hillary -- or anyone else, for that matter (save McCain**).

*Given this, you might note that Reich has been much more favorable inclined towards Obama's economic policies this time around. If the remaining "good Clintonites" are drifting toward Obama, who is left with Hillary?

**Yes, yes, I know the meme on McCain in some circles is that he sold out. I'm not going to convince anyone who has made up their mind on the subject, but I will confess that I don't know how the meme gets squared with McCain's decision to take on most of his party on immigration reform during his presidential campaign -- thus costing him his front-runner position. Moreover, although he's now come out in favor of "enforcement first," he's never wavered from a path to citizenship, thus earning the permanent emnity of at least 25-30% of the Republican electorate. Similarly, although the bill he passed on waterboarding was watered down (pun not intended), his statements on the subject have never waivered and he achieved exactly zero political gain from the move. Perhaps it was a bad deal, but it wasn't pandering (and I personally believe that he did it because it was the best he could get at the time). If you're still confused on the subject, contrast him with Mitt "double Guantanamo" Romney.

Von: but there are a lot of people who would dispute this statement

I know there are. I refer you to the Best Ad Ever thread. Suffice it to say: there is no doubt that lots of people will believe exactly what they want to believe about the Clintons: and if you're prepared to support John McCain, you really have no moral high ground to complain about Hillary Clinton.

Von: Similarly, although the bill he passed on waterboarding was watered down (pun not intended), his statements on the subject have never waivered and he achieved exactly zero political gain from the move. Perhaps it was a bad deal, but it wasn't pandering (and I personally believe that he did it because it was the best he could get at the time). If you're still confused on the subject, contrast him with Mitt "double Guantanamo" Romney.

Ah, the old "Not As Bad As" argument. I'll certainly concede that McCain would be a better President than Romney. But the thought of another 8 years of war-mongering, pro-torture, anti-law Presidency, is really sickening: to me, if not to you.

Clinton and Obama both voted Yea on restoring habeas corpus rights to the Guantanamo Bay detainees. McCain voted Nay. You want to support someone who opposes the most basic principle of justice? You've got nothing.

...then again, I think the Romney family dog would make a better President than Romney. So that's damning with faint praise indeed.

I just hope to god that the Republicanns nominate Romney because I am afraid that we are going to nominate Hillary annd she really can't win unless her Republican opponent has disapproval ratings similar to hers.

Clinton's problem is that she can't go up very far from her currennt level of support. Forty eight percent of the voters disapprove of her. That leaves very, very few voters who aren't already her supporters and who might be won over. And she is not inn a good positinto win them over unless her opponent is really unpopular, too.
1. The press hates her.
2. She isn't "likeable".
3. She can't draw in new voters.
4. The slime machine has succeeded against herr in thhe past and there is no reason to think it will suddenly stop workinng.

It really amazes me that some peole think she can beat McCain. That's a fairytale, if you liike. The triumph of hope over common sense.
So if we nominate her we'd better hope and pray that thhe Republicanns will join us inn foolishness and nominate their weakest candidate.


Rather than assume that the stereotypical Republican dislikes the Clintons because of some unspoken fear of failure, perhaps one should consider the actual reasons that such a Republican gives. There are quite a few.

The problem is, bluntly, that most of them are crap. Demonstrably crap, at that.

Which isn't to say that there aren't legitimate reasons to dislike the Clintons -- several of which having been enumerated here -- but the idea that the source of the Republicans' animus towards liberals and the Clintons is that we fail to listen is pernicious, self-involved and generally fatuous.* We do, all too often, listen; we just, all too often, find it risible. Because it usually is.

* To avoid the mistake made upthread, von, I'm not referring to you here. I'm recalling a thread some years back with a notable ex-Tacitan conservative who said, essentially, that because his party was in power we had to accept that his grievances were legitimate. The combination of petulance and self-righteousness is something I've never forgotten, and it has (regrettably) colored my perceptions ever since.

Hilzoy: My sense is that a number of people who identify as conservatives actually want things like some real solution to the increasing unavailability and/or unaffordability of health insurance, the environment, etc., but have a hard time bringing to vote for "liberals" because they do not trust us, and also because they think we regard them with contempt.

Phil: if I hear this from anyone who voted for Bush in either of the general elections, I swear I'm going to kick them in the crotch.

Gee Hilzoy, wherever did you get that idea? ;-)

For me, I think it is the fact that he seems to have an optimistic attitude – we can fix things vs. OMG it’s all a mess…

Me too Steve.

The US/UK occupation was taken cognization of and legalized, but the Bush administration's notion of "diplomacy" was not a major factor in other countries not wanting to send "help":

I wasn't referring to the initial invasion - I agree with you that there was no way most of western Europe was going to help with that, though I'm a bit more cynical than you about the reasons - I think the fact that France, Germany, etc. benefited from the status quo antebellum had as much to do with it as Europe's high-minded pacifism did.

What I meant was that, after the U.S. invaded and made a complete hash of Iraq, Bush might have been able to get a bit more help cleaning up the mess he'd made if his administration hadn't 1.)sowed so much unnecessary bad will before the war (e.g. Rumsfeld's "we don't care what 'old Europe' thinks statement"), 2.)remained defiant about the justifications for the war, and 3.)refused to allow European companies the opportunity to compete for reconstruction contracts.

As for "helping" with Iran: several European countries have in fact helped with Iran. That this help consisted of cooling the situation down rather than offering more soldiers and money for the Bush administration to waste in another pointless war of aggression, also has little to do with Bush's notions of diplomacy.

What concrete evidence do you have that the Bush administration has ever intended to invade Iran? I'm talking about help in applying diplomatic pressure to resolve the nuclear program issue - sanctions, etc. Resistance to these has come more from China and Russia, certainly, but if western Europe was more solidly behind Bush he might have better luck pushing for a stronger deal. At the very least, with the option of doing so he'd have an additional diplomatic arrow in his quiver. But again, pissing off Europe hasn't helped him.

I also think . . . that a lot of the appeal, for conservatives, is the sense that Obama would actually listen to them. My sense is that a number of people who identify as conservatives actually want things like some real solution to the increasing unavailability and/or unaffordability of health insurance, the environment, etc., but have a hard time bringing to vote for "liberals" because they do not trust us, and also because they think we regard them with contempt.

After 15 years of trashing the Clintons as wild-eyed left-wingers, conservatives are shocked, shocked, that Hilary has become embittered. After years and years of the rantings of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and the rest calling liberals the devil incarnate, conservatives are shocked, shocked, that liberals don't listen and hold conservatives in contempt.

After 15 years of trashing the Clintons as wild-eyed left-wingers, conservatives are shocked, shocked, that Hilary has become embittered.

There's enough blame on both sides of that divide to go around. Hillary was the one lumping anyone who had any questions at all about her husband's conduct in office into a "vast right-wing conspiracy".

After years and years of the rantings of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and the rest calling liberals the devil incarnate, conservatives are shocked, shocked, that liberals don't listen and hold conservatives in contempt.

Like the rantings of Daily Kos, Michael Moore, and Alec Baldwin about conservatives are any better?

Civility and respect for those with whom you disagree are two-way streets.

I think, Publius, that you don't get it because you demonize Repubs. They like him because he does not demonize them. He assumes good faith on their part, this is very disarming to them because they reflexively brace for the namecalling and he does not do that, and listens to what they say and addresses it. They are people too, and people like to be listened to and don't like to be demonized. It's a bigger thing than you think. It's not all about the fight.

And the Clintons are also big fat liars, and many many people care about that more than they care about policy. These same people, on the R side of the fence, will cross over to O partly because they want to punish the lying liars on their own side. It's why I, in fact, am voting for whatever crazy R wins the nomination if Clinton is the D nominee. I want the D's to be punished for their endorsement of her when they could have done so much better.

Xeynon: There's enough blame on both sides of that divide to go around.

No, there's really not. Republicans have tried to present this as a "they hated us, we hated them" thing, but it simply isn't true, and anyone old enough to remember 1992 and onwards should know that: the demonizing and attempted destruction of Bill and Hillary Clinton began with the Republicans, in response to the provocation of Clinton having won the 1992 election, being a popular President, and winning the 1996 election.

Phoebe: They like him because he does not demonize them. He assumes good faith on their part

If true, then that is actually a real count against him. "Assuming good faith" against people who do not hesitate to dive to the filthiest depths to smear and slime their opponent, is simply not good tactics.

the demonizing and attempted destruction of Bill and Hillary Clinton began with the Republicans, in response to the provocation of Clinton having won the 1992 election, being a popular President, and winning the 1996 election.

I actually do remember the 90's, young as I was, and as far as I can recall, dirt on the Clintons began bubbling up during the '92 primaries - i.e., before he ever became the Democratic nominee, much less President, much less a popular President who got re-elected. Ref: Gennifer Flowers.

He wasn't a particularly popular President during his first term, seeing his healthcare initiative fail and losing control of Congress in a landslide in 1994. He was re-elected without winning a popular majority of the vote against what most observers felt was a weak opponent. His first term also saw the emergence of Whitewater, Filegate, etc.

His approval ratings did go up significantly in his second term when the dot.com boom fueled unprecedented economic growth, and his popularity at this point may have contributed to the derangement of some of the more unhinged elements of the Republican party. But with the exception of the Lewinsky affair, the major scandals of his administration had all already emerged long before by this point.

You're engaging in some serious revisionist history here.

"Assuming good faith" against people who do not hesitate to dive to the filthiest depths to smear and slime their opponent, is simply not good tactics.

That's a bit rich coming from you of all people.

Obama's Illinois law to require videotaping of police interrogations, to prevent coerced confessions, torture, etc, which faced bipartisan opposition.

This was, by the way, an excellent bill -- and one that incorporated conservative and libertarian ideas.

What conservative and libertarian ideas were in the bill? Not picking a fight here, just curious.

Thanks!

What conservative and libertarian ideas were in the bill?

Conservative: my understanding is that Obama convinced the police and other law-and-order interest groups of the value of the measure by arguing that it could be used to prove that confessions hadn't been coerced or manipulated if the defendants tried to claim so in court after having made them. I don't know if it's a conservative idea as such, but it certainly framed the issue in a way such that conservatives could see the value of it.

Libertarian: the central importance of civil liberties is a libertarian idea - in fact, I'd say it's a principle more important to libertarians than it is to either conservatives or liberals as those terms are usually understood in U.S. politics. So I imagine any libertarian would be in favor of a bill intended to prevent the government from abusing them.

All that said, whatever likeability points he’s gaining now may not matter as people fall back into party lines for the election.

That strikes me as an absolute truism -- there are now, always have been, and always will be people who'd accept a pot luck dinner invitation vote for Hannibal Lecter as long as he had the right party registration. And a goodly proportion of those hardcore partisans want to make this election all about Bill Clinton's penis and getting closure for post-90's political stress disorder. Any thoughts on how representative that attitude really is?

Here's what really gets sticks in my mind about the South Carolina primary -- that radio ad. Apart from the fact it was outright deceptive - and not even very subtly so - but sent the clear message that Clinton actually thinks "the base" will respond to the idea that any mention of "the other side" that isn't dripping with venom is proof of moral delinquency.

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I think there are people on all sides of the political spectrum who are soul-sick of the way politics has been turned into a secular religion - and a rather ugly fundamentalist cult at that.

As someone on the center-right, I'm certain that I won't see eye to eye with an Obama Administration more often than not. But I do think that the kind of leadership that is going to de-tox politics -- turn Washington into a place where people of good will can passionately disagree and fight for every piece of legislation, while still respecting each other's fundamental decency -- has to come from the top.

I think Obama really believes that can happen. Clinton's proxies just make patronising little sidebars about "choruses of Kumbaya around the camp fire".

Much as I hate to say this, the legacy of Rove Republicanism is going to be the brutal reality check of a rout in November -- no matter who wins the Democrat nomination --, and a very long time in the political winderness until the GOP gets it soul back from the theo-cons.

Conservative: It's okay to have your civil liberties taken away if you're poor or black or gay or a woman, because you won't make use of them sensibly.

Liberal: It's okay to have your civil liberties taken away if you use them to hurt other people.

Libertarian: It's okay for corporations to take your civil liberties away if it's profitable to them.

Civility and respect for those with whom you disagree are two-way streets.

Boy howdy, they sure are. And you know what? There's a nontrivial -- in fact, I'd say an overwhelmingly large -- segment of the Republican voter base and political class who spent the last seven years smugly and contemptuously lecturing Democratic voters that "elections have consequences" and that if they wanted their ideas listened to they'd have to win some.

Upon losing control of Congress in the 2006 elections, they promptly turned around and engaged in every bit of obfuscation and obstruction that they could in order to ensure that they themselves didn't have to suffer any of those consequences.

So frankly, if there's a Democratic candidate who, upon winning in 2008, is willing to make all those people go sit in the corner and stew for a while, I'm fine with that. They need to go a long, LOOOOOOONG way towards earning back that civility and respect back after showing Democrats the back of their hands for seven years.

Xeynon: and as far as I can recall, dirt on the Clintons began bubbling up during the '92 primaries

As you'd expect: fake dirt gets flung at popular Democratic candidates, even before they get elected. See: Al Gore, John Kerry.

You're engaging in some serious revisionist history here.

Hardly. Clinton won in 1992: that was the first, last, and only crime he needed to commit to have Republicans loathe him. That he continued to be popular - he won again in 1996 - and that their screaming attacks on him and vast waste of public money trying to dig up something, anything, to use against him, did not impact significantly on his popularity, was yet another strike against him. You are trying to create a revisionist history in which this was somehow something the Clintons were equally responsible for.

That's a bit rich coming from you of all people.

When I say "filthiest depths" I mean things like Rove slandering McCain to help get Bush the nomination, by convincing voters that the McCains' adopted daughter was the illegitimate child of an interracial affair he had had. Or the entire RNC wearing Purple Heart bandaids, mocking all decorated Vietnam veterans in order to attack a Presidential candidate whose war record was far better than that of their chosen President or Vice President. Or even the slime that got poured as soon as Bush & Co entered the White House, stories being spread that the departing Clinton staffers had wrecked the place. That's filth, Xey - far worse than any regular here has ever said to anyone else here.

So frankly, if there's a Democratic candidate who, upon winning in 2008, is willing to make all those people go sit in the corner and stew for a while, I'm fine with that.

Meanwhile, President-fricking-Bush has better approval ratings than Congress. Methinks Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike might ask themselves whether tit-for-tat 'screw you' is any way to win back the 'civility and respect' that really matters -- that of citizens.

As you'd expect: fake dirt gets flung at popular Democratic candidates, even before they get elected. See: Al Gore, John Kerry.

Two points:

1.)the Flowers scandal, regardless of whether you think a candidate's sexual propriety is relevant (personally I think there are a lot of other things which matter more), was not "fake dirt". Bill Clinton had a long and well-documented history of not being able to keep his pants on.

2.)it wasn't Republicans flinging the dirt.

That he continued to be popular - he won again in 1996

Except he wasn't popular during the majority of his first term.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Clinton_approval_rating.png

His approval ratings were below 50% for the majority of his first time - well below 50% for a good portion of it. He edged above 50% around the time he was re-elected, and then went significantly higher in his second term - during the tech boom. He was a popular President, and personally I approved of a lot of the things he did while he was in office, but to argue that he was popular from the beginning is, I'm afraid, factually incorrect.

You are trying to create a revisionist history in which this was somehow something the Clintons were equally responsible for.

I never said "equally responsible for" - what I said was "there's enough blame on both sides of that divide to go around." That is not logically equivalent to "equally responsible for". I think some of the Republicans - not all of them, unlike certain people I'm capable of seeing the trees for the forest - bear more of the blame, yes. But if Clinton had fessed up about cheating on his wife instead of outright lying and parsing the meaning of the word "is", he couldn't have been charged with perjury - even a completely trumped up charge of perjury. There was a lynch mob out to get him - but he not only handed them the rope, he as much as tied the noose before he did so.

That's filth, Xey - far worse than any regular here has ever said to anyone else here.

Agreed. In no way did I mean to compare you to Rove. You do, however, have an unfortunate habit of misrepresenting peoples' positions and attempting to discredit ideas you disagree with through guilt-by-association. Since I've started debating with you on this blog, you've insinuated at various times that I am racist, misogynist, fascist, militarist, etc. just because I've made statements which, taken out of context, sound similar to statements made by others who do fit those descriptions at other times in completely different contexts. I've watched you do the same thing to (and be called on it by) other people. So while no, in no way do you slime or slander your opponents like Rove, I do find it a bit risible to hear you denounce misrepresentation and arguing in bad faith.

Sorry I'm back a day late.

Katherine--"I think the category error is to decide that because all presidents will inevitably disappoint you, they are all "just politicians" & it's never worth enthusiastically supporting them."

I don't have a problem with supporting Obama or the better sort of politician--it's the enthusiasm that worries me in general, though not in you. Obama's < a href="http://www.nysun.com/article/69154">stand on the war in Lebanon was disgraceful and calculated, IMO, and so I'm not going to be enthusiastic about supporting him. You expect this from politicians, and so one holds one's nose and supports the best one likely to win, but all the same, he's making excuses for war crimes. It's hard enough to have a sensible public conversation on the subject of war crimes committed by the US or a close ally and it's that much harder when the best of the leading Democratic candidates on human rights takes a stand in opposition to the findings of Human Rights Watch.

Gary--

""He has also appointed several prominent pro-Israel advisors."

This is also completely vague. Who, specifically, are we intended to be concerned about, Donald?"

I don't know, Gary. "Pro-Israel" covers all the territory from someone who'd write for Tikkun to someone who'd write for Commentary. I assume that was in the Ali Abunimah article, but I only have time to skim at the moment and I didn't see if he provided a list.

Messed up the link. I'll try again

< a href="http://www.nysun.com/article/69154">Link

I'm a total idiot today. Just cut and paste.

I don't know if it's a conservative idea as such, but it certainly framed the issue in a way such that conservatives could see the value of it.

It's neither. It's a rule of law issue, neither liberal or conservative.

The "framing" thing is, I think, the essence of Obama's genius.

Methinks Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike might ask themselves whether tit-for-tat 'screw you' is any way to win back the 'civility and respect' that really matters -- that of citizens.

Lots of folks are angry about the last 7 years, and some of those folks are occasionally vocal on blogs.

Beyond that, I can't think of any examples of conservatives actually being screwed over by liberals. It doesn't seem to be a big part of the liberal DNA.

For better or worse, I think the world is safe from a wave of Democratic political revenge post '08. There will be, and already is, a lot of rats fleeing the sinking conservative ship, but that's really not the same thing.

Thanks -

Xeynon: But if Clinton had fessed up about cheating on his wife instead of outright lying and parsing the meaning of the word "is", he couldn't have been charged with perjury

And if there hadn't been a Republican investigation that was out to find something, anything, to charge Bill Clinton with, he would never have been asked under oath if he'd had sex with Monica Lewinsky - a matter which was between himself, Lewinsky, and Hillary Clinton. Give it up, Xey. Trying to make the Republican attacks on the Clintons somehow also the fault of the Clintons just makes you look like the kind of person who'll defend a bully by saying the victim provoked him.

Probably it is unwise for me to step into this discussion, but fools rush in...

Jesurgislac: Clinton won in 1992: that was the first, last, and only crime he needed to commit to have Republicans loathe him.

I agree, though there were those who loathed him even before he won. I guess they saw it coming.

Xeynon: There was a lynch mob out to get him - but he not only handed them the rope, he as much as tied the noose before he did so.

I agree, and this is what I can't forgive Bill Clinton for -- how different things might have been.

Of course, when comparing the lost opportunities of the Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, there's no contest -- George W. Bush is a world class squanderer, Bill Clinton is not in the same league.

But why are we even talking about Bill Clinton? [I know, I know... what I mean is ... well, see Paul Krugman today.]

ral, we've seen with Gore and with Kerry that if the Republican attack dogs can't find anything, they'll make it up. True, Bill Clinton's sex life was a route to attack him. But when you say "how different things might have been" - think of what happened to Gore, who was attacked for his accomplishments (Xey and I had a recent set-to because Xey objected to Gore's mentioning his political accomplishments with regard to the creation of the modern Internet) and to Kerry: do you suppose the Swift Boat Liars would just have gone away if Kerry had got into the White House?

do you suppose the Swift Boat Liars would just have gone away if Kerry had got into the White House?

Oh, no, I don't mean to discount that at all.

It's hard to know what an alternate universe would look like -- my only guess is that if it hadn't been for the impeachment Bill Clinton could have accomplished more. Beyond that, I don't want to speculate.

Xeynon: don't personalize the argument if you don't need to. And you didn't. Thanks.

As someone on the center-right, I'm certain that I won't see eye to eye with an Obama Administration more often than not. But I do think that the kind of leadership that is going to de-tox politics -- turn Washington into a place where people of good will can passionately disagree and fight for every piece of legislation, while still respecting each other's fundamental decency -- has to come from the top.
A more wonkish angle on this is that there's an enormous amount of legal repair work that needs to be done on the Executive branch, and it'll likely require some reconciliation -- however fleeting -- which I don't expect that Hillary would either offer nor be met halfway on, despite that many people in DC understand the need to put the brakes on the the continual stakes-raising of the recent election cycles.

Obama's approach at least seems to open a door for the GOP to step back from the brinksmanship without losing face, which I think is key. They're not really in a position to make terms right now, but they have nothing to lose -- the main obstacle will be disarming the radical conservative wing's cries of appeasement. (And I have no doubt we'll hear similar screams from the partisan left -- lots of people are, unsurprisingly, out for blood after the last 8 years.) The fact that Obama's a constitutional law scholar doesn't hurt either. More than anything else, I worry about rolling back the "VP as superbranch theory," signing statements for everything, invoking executive privilege in instances where it clearly wasn't intended to be used, abusing interim appointments, politicizing the DoJ and the other "professional" agencies...

I could go on, but my point is that these changes are already making the government dysfunctional, and the pattern I see for the near future is that the next President will happily accept all these neat new toys and use them to abuse the GOP for a few years -- which has a certain appeal to it, of course -- but that once that happens, there's no going back. The next Republican President will come in and do the same, and by then the new, all-powerful Executive Branch will be institutionally entrenched in our political system and nearly impossible to dislodge. If these changes aren't confined to aberrations of the Bush WH, I think they'll likely become the tacitly-accepted norm instead, and that's a scary thought.

The hidden cost here goes way beyond nepotism and gamesmanship, I think. To my mind, one of the worst legacies of the Bush years has been the way the politicization of the branch has hamstrung critical Executive agencies by chasing away or marginalizing so many of the career officials who have been the heart and soul of those agencies through Republican and Dem administrations. Daniel Metcalfe is the person who represents this problem for me, but the problem reaches all the way to the top -- I'm thinking of people like Pat Fitzgerald, James Comey, Richard Clarke, the fired US Attorneys, etc. It's worth noting that these people were, for the most part, a much more effective bulwark against the Administration's abuses than our elected Democratic officials.

The most horrible thing the Bush Administration has done (in my current opinion) is destroy whatever hint we had of a professional government run in large part by career civil servants. If we don't do something to reverse that process, we might get some schadenfreude over the next four years, but we'll more or less be guaranteeing that the next Republican president will screw us right back. I've seen nothing to indicate that Hillary, nor any of the GOP candidates, would do anything to step back from the brink, or that any olive branch extended would even be accepted. Obama has a long history of doing just such rebuilding (see, e.g., Harvard Law Review, Illinois Senate career, Senate term, etc.), and that by itself is probably enough reason for me to support him. I support him on policy grounds as well, but ff we don't get these basic structural problems fixed, I don't have a lot of confidence than any policy gains we make in the next 4 years will last.

As someone on the center-right, I'm certain that I won't see eye to eye with an Obama Administration more often than not. But I do think that the kind of leadership that is going to de-tox politics -- turn Washington into a place where people of good will can passionately disagree and fight for every piece of legislation, while still respecting each other's fundamental decency -- has to come from the top.
A more wonkish angle on this is that there's an enormous amount of legal repair work that needs to be done on the Executive branch, and it'll likely require some reconciliation -- however fleeting -- which I don't expect that Hillary would either offer nor be met halfway on, despite that many people in DC understand the need to put the brakes on the the continual stakes-raising of the recent election cycles.

Obama's approach at least seems to open a door for the GOP to step back from the brinksmanship without losing face, which I think is key. They're not really in a position to make terms right now, but they have nothing to lose -- the main obstacle will be disarming the radical conservative wing's cries of appeasement. (And I have no doubt we'll hear similar screams from the partisan left -- lots of people are, unsurprisingly, out for blood after the last 8 years.) The fact that Obama's a constitutional law scholar doesn't hurt either. More than anything else, I worry about rolling back the "VP as superbranch theory," signing statements for everything, invoking executive privilege in instances where it clearly wasn't intended to be used, abusing interim appointments, politicizing the DoJ and the other "professional" agencies...

I could go on, but my point is that these changes are already making the government dysfunctional, and the pattern I see for the near future is that the next President will happily accept all these neat new toys and use them to abuse the GOP for a few years -- which has a certain appeal to it, of course -- but that once that happens, there's no going back. The next Republican President will come in and do the same, and by then the new, all-powerful Executive Branch will be institutionally entrenched in our political system and nearly impossible to dislodge. If these changes aren't confined to aberrations of the Bush WH, I think they'll likely become the tacitly-accepted norm instead, and that's a scary thought.

The hidden cost here goes way beyond nepotism and gamesmanship, I think. To my mind, one of the worst legacies of the Bush years has been the way the politicization of the branch has hamstrung critical Executive agencies by chasing away or marginalizing so many of the career officials who have been the heart and soul of those agencies through Republican and Dem administrations. Daniel Metcalfe is the person who represents this problem for me, but the problem reaches all the way to the top -- I'm thinking of people like Pat Fitzgerald, James Comey, Richard Clarke, the fired US Attorneys, etc. It's worth noting that these people were, for the most part, a much more effective bulwark against the Administration's abuses than our elected Democratic officials.

The most horrible thing the Bush Administration has done (in my current opinion) is destroy whatever hint we had of a professional government run in large part by career civil servants. If we don't do something to reverse that process, we might get some schadenfreude over the next four years, but we'll more or less be guaranteeing that the next Republican president will screw us right back. I've seen nothing to indicate that Hillary, nor any of the GOP candidates, would do anything to step back from the brink, or that any olive branch extended would even be accepted. Obama has a long history of doing just such rebuilding (see, e.g., Harvard Law Review, Illinois Senate career, Senate term, etc.), and that by itself is probably enough reason for me to support him. I support him on policy grounds as well, but ff we don't get these basic structural problems fixed, I don't have a lot of confidence than any policy gains we make in the next 4 years will last.

Sorry, can someone delete that double?

"He has also appointed several prominent pro-Israel advisors."

This is also completely vague. Who, specifically, are we intended to be concerned about, Donald?"

I don't know, Gary. "Pro-Israel" covers all the territory from someone who'd write for Tikkun to someone who'd write for Commentary.

Exactly. This is why I don't take dire accusations that someone is "pro-Israel" as a charge, in itself, to be taken seriously.

There are plenty of specific criticisms that one can make of a candidate supporting a specific Israel policy they feel is wrong, or a war crime, be it a Lebanon war (pick one, or include them all), a bombing policy, the course of the wall, any of a nearly infinitely long list of categories of treatment of Palestinians, or of discrimination against Arab Israelis, and on and on on and.

That's all absolutely fair game, and fine, of course. And it's useful whenever candidates get specific about what policies they think are wrong and right and why, whether it's of another country's policies, or our own.

But alleging that a candidate is questionable, if not outright wrong, because they are "pro-Israel," which is no more meaningful or wrong than being "pro-American," is so very wrong in my eyes that it's in the vicinity of the border with offensiveness. It seems to unavoidably imply that Israel is, per se, instrinsically an evil, such that viewing the Jewish State positively is itself so wrong on the face of it that it constitutes a stance that tars a politician or person irrevocably.

I don't see the justification for that. Israel has done wrong, but other nations that have committed massive evils and war crimes range from Russia to China to Germany to France to Great Britain to the U.S. and on around the world, and while condemnation is always in order, no one calls for the elimination of these states, or regards holding any positive view whatever as anathema.

This one also fascinated me, though: "Among his early backers was Penny Pritzker -- now his national campaign finance chair -- scion of the liberal but staunchly Zionist family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain."

This is presented as something that should frighten and bother us about Obama.

What is it that we should be bothered by? The service at Hyatts? Probably not. The liberalism? Probably not.

What does that leave us with as this sentence's point?

That she's a "scion of the [...] staunchly Zionist family."

I see two ways to take this. One is direct anti-semitism. The simpler version is simply that Zionism alone is inherently evil.

Being anti-Zionist is certainly a legitimate political position, absent anti-semitism.

But while I certainly agree that it's a legitimate position, I do like to see it for what it is: a statement opposing Israel's right to exist, a call for the elimination of the Jewish State.

It's fine for someone to believe that, if they believe in non-violent change, and I certainly also see the argument in defense of armed struggle in support of that position.

But it's not one I'm apt to support myself, after all, and it should hardly surprise you if I don't find accusation that Obama has supporters who are "pro-Israel" and "Zionists" to be a persuasive reason to be concerned about Obama.

And it has to be noted that "behind the scenes, X is highly influenced by his wealthy secret Jewish financial masters" isn't exactly a new suggestion, presented in vacuo, outside of history.

This probably sounds crankier than I am, which is really not at all. So please don't think I'm annoyed with you in any way, Donald, since I'm not. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you bring to these topics, regardless of where we agree or disagree, and I always find thoughtful comparison of views different than mine to be enlightening.

I do have some firm opinions of my own, of course, as well as many not-so-firm, and thus my presenting the firm ones firmly.

But no offense taken or intended.

No offense taken. You weren't nasty there at all, so it wasn't necessary to point that out, though of course this topic often does bring out people's anger.

Ali Abunimah is a one state solution guy. So is this person--

Link

I don't think either is antisemitic. If I'd seen "the magnes zionist" post first I might have used him instead. His "pro-Obama" stance is one that I feel comfortable with. Anyway, Ali Abunimah is anti-Zionist for a straightforward reason--he's Palestinian and I doubt there are many Palestinians who think Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, given that this would mean endorsing their own expulsion, though they may give up on the right of return on pragmatic grounds in order to get the best peaceful solution possible. What Abunimah wants, though, is one man one vote and a right of return for all Palestinians. He's not pragmatic. If Ali Abunimah was entirely vague in his complaints, I probably would have chosen a different person to cite, but he does mention the Lebanon War and he knew Obama when he was apparently more explicitly sympathetic to the Palestinian side, so I chose him. This post made the rounds on the internet many months ago, in fact, even being referred to by conservatives (presumably trying to discredit Obama, but I don't recall exactly).

As for whether American politicians go soft on Israel because of campaign contributions, I avoid taking a stand on the mechanism involved because I don't know and it's a touchy issue for the reasons you mention. On blogs where the issue is raised I see it sometimes brings out the neo-nazi contingent in the comments section, so I try to avoid that kind of company when I don't know the facts. The Miami Cubans seem to have strong influence on our Cuba policy and that is apparently based mainly on votes, not campaign contributions.

As for the family he mentions, I'd never heard of them before--if they built on a hotel on expropriated Palestinian land then I think it's fair game to point this out, but I know nothing about the accuracy of this charge or what positions they take on the I/P conflict or whether these people played a role in Obama's shift. What I see in Ali Abunimah's post is a lot of bitterness about how much more influence "pro-Israel" lobbyists have than "pro-Palestinian", and by "pro-Israel" he doesn't seem to mean the kind of people who'd pal around with Michael Lerner, but the kind who object to describing Israel's actions in Lebanon as war crimes.

And then, at the end, he points out that the moral is that politicians yield to pressure, so if you want favorable outcomes on a given issue, learn how to exert pressure yourself. Which was my original point about politicians, even the better than average ones.

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