Obama Wakes Up


This is surely overdue:

Asked in the interview on Friday if Mrs. Clinton had been fully truthful with voters about what she would do as president, Mr. Obama replied, “No.”

“I don’t think people know what her agenda exactly is,” Mr. Obama continued, citing Social Security, Iraq and Iran as issues on which she had not been fully forthcoming. “Now it’s been very deft politically, but one of the things that I firmly believe is that we’ve got to be clear with the American people right now about the important choices that we’re going to need to make in order to get a mandate for change, not to try to obfuscate and avoid being a target in the general election and then find yourself governing without any support for any bold propositions.” …

“There is a legacy that is both an enormous advantage to her in a Democratic primary, but also a disadvantage to her in a general election,” he said. “I don’t think anybody would claim that Senator Clinton is going to inspire a horde of new voters,” he said. “I don’t think it’s realistic that she is going to get a whole bunch of Republicans to think differently about her.”

There are, to me, three core issues in this election: the Constitution, the war and the environment. All three are urgent, and the need for deep, radical change overwhelming. It’s vital that the next president not assume and inherit the kind of extra-legal powers that Bush and Cheney have acquired as part of what amounts to a protectorate, not a presidency. The rule of law must be clearly re-established. Only Obama has the integrity to be trusted on that matter. Clinton will never have it. It’s vital also that the next president be committed to withdrawal from Iraq as swiftly and as cleanly as possible. Again: the difference between a triangulating shell of a politician and an actual human being who was right about this war in the first place is completely clear. And we need someone in the administration – Al Gore obviously springs to mind – who can marshall the country’s resources to tackle climate change and the urgent necessity for new energy sources. Gore loathes the Clintons as much as anyone, because he saw them close-up, and knows what their cynical, ruthless machine is really about: them. On those three issues, Obama is vastly superior to Clinton, whose history of executive secrecy and privilege, whose constant triangulation on the war and whose polarization of the country would make difficult and real change impossible.

Obama needs to be far more aggressive – but not hostile to Clinton. She just isn’t right for this critical moment in American history, too inherently divisive to bring this country back together in an extremely perilous time, too cautious to effect real change, and still too spooked by Republicans to do what is needed in Iraq. There’s still time to stop her. But it’s running out.

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty)

Why Obama Still Matters

A reader reminds me of that Petraeus hearing. An Obama supporter writes:

This YouTube must be watched. Watch Obama in what is a (long) but phenomenal delivery. He has the classical combination of pathos and logos. Just get past the initial obligatory lapel-pin intros and he begins relating immeasurable urgency with an almost hurtful touch of frustration, and remains a civil questioner.

We need to channel abiding anger at the awful mismanagement, betrayal of our ideals and blind arrogance that has led us into a nightmare without end in Iraq, and that now seeks, having lost Turkey as a solid ally, to take the war to Iran as well. Yes, we are doing better at tamping down violence in Iraq, thank God and the troops. No one is in any way disputing the heroic job the troops and Petraeus are doing in preventing a full-scale plunge into the abyss of regional warfare. But there is still no strategy for meaningful success or exit, and a huge potential for more, and more dangerous, war in the future, involving Iran and Turkey. And the costs keep escalating. In this awful impasse, we need a president all of us can trust. We need exactly the blend of passion and reason that Obama offers. Yes, he needs to prove himself more as a campaigner. Yes, he’s not perfect. But I still think he’s the best feasible hope in a rapidly gathering storm.

The Case For Obama – Please

A reader writes:

At some point, can you lay out on your blog a comprehensive, substantive, issues-based argument for Obama? Thus far, you have touted him as the embodiment of a "new kind of politics," and I honestly do not know what you mean, beyond his platitudes. I also, for the life of me, am still having trouble understanding how a conservative like yourself would rally around a liberal like Obama? I could see you liking a more conservative Democrat, but Obama?

This is all reading very vague and squishy to me. We, regular readers of your blog, are somehow supposed to take it on faith that Obama "represents" change. But you have never really laid out a cogent — again, issues-based — argument for the man. You seem merely to be recycling his platitudes.

I mean, people who support Hillary or Edwards can spell out, in clear and comprehensive terms, why they like those candidates and their positions. With Obama, all we seem to get is mush, which is a HUGE reason why he is sinking in the polls and doing little more than drawing nice crowds.

The next issue of the Atlantic. The cover-story.

Ron Paul and Barack Obama

Larison doesn’t see any overlap:

Sure, superficially Obama and Paul might seem to offer some similar themes, and both did oppose the Iraq war, but Obama is essentially an interventionist at home and abroad and Paul is diametrically opposed to both.  One invokes JFK, the other invokes Robert Taft.  Obama thinks everything on earth is tied to our national security; Paul thinks that there are very few things overseas that are tied to our national security.

That’s fair enough. What both do share, though, is a sense of being outside the establishment of their respective parties. They both sound as if they are saying things they actually believe and have thought about at some length. I wonder if Obama can keep this up, given what national politics does to people. But those of us happy to see both parties shaken up by insurgents wish them both well.

Obama and the Black Vote

One reason he has not wrapped up the black vote is because of readers like this one:

Obama will not be the Democratic Nominee, so this is probably a moot point. Too many of us do not believe America will elect him. That’s why he’s stuck in the polls, despite being so good in so many ways, despite his fundraising.  Or as some of the cynics among us note: "Yeah, America loves white liberals so much, let’s give ’em a Black liberal."

The "Bradley effect" is for the late Tom Bradley, former mayor of LA and two-time Dem. Governor nominee. And Black. Going into the 1982 election, he led in the polls, only to lose by less than 1%. It has been traced to white voters who said they would vote for Bradley, only once they were in the voting booth, pulled the lever for the white guy, the inferior George Deukmejian. (One can ruminate how different America might have been had Colin Powell decided to run in ’96 …)

You would gain tremendous insight by talking to some Black, middle age folks.  You will gain insight as to why this group favors (rightly or wrongly), Hillary.  And they will tell you that (1) Obama is not ready; (2) He will be assassinated if he gets within striking distance of the White House. Middle-age Blacks know a thing or two about how America really is. One does not hear these insights from younger white folks.

Many African-Americans simply do not believe that a black man will ever be allowed to be president. They’re sticking with Clinton because she’s the strongest non-black Democrat. And so racism perpetuates itself through the fears and alienation of its victims. Call it the audacity of hopelessness. And Clinton needs it.