Sunday, March 30, 2008

Words and Deeds

Something that pundits and bloggers who are tepidly supporting Obama claim (probabaly to cover up their increasing embarrassment at having made the wrong choice) is that there really isn't that much difference between the candidates, so why is everyone getting exercized about the choice of one over the other? We'll get the same results no matter which one is elected. A stronger version of this, addressing campaign tactics, is that if their positions were reversed, Hillary would be acting the same way Obama is doing, right down to obstructing voting in Michigan and Florida.

Neither of these claims are true.

At the beginning of the campaign, if you didn't ask too many questions, you could say that the top three Dem contenders had roughly equivalent policy stances. Paul Krugman said this, for example. Since then, because he has looked closely, he has retracted this statement and said that HRC and Edwards have strongly progressive platforms, while Obama has a decidedly weaker one. Thus, while it may be true that, on paper, all Dems have better prospective policies than any Republican (Why should this be something to praise? That's a hell of a low bar.) , it matters whose policy actually advances Democratic positions. This is what Krugman was saying before the campaign began, in The Conscience of a Liberal, where he pushed for the Dem nominee to take advantage of the falling fortunes of the Movement Conservatives to get universal health care passed. It is what he said in his Friday opinion column on the candidates' positions on the economy and managing the coming fiscal crisis. Thus, even in formal policy statements, there are significant differences between Hillary and Obama, and not to Obama's advantage. At best, his policies are wishy-washy, milquetoast, poorly done copies of Clinton and Edwards much more progressive papers.

Moving beyond formal policy papers to actual performance, both in his actual legislative performance and even more in his speechees, Obama shows he is not in the same league as Hillary. What on the surface appeared to be a decent legislative record in Illinois is now being shown to be a sham. He is lauded for a single speech given at a local rally before a strongly anti-war audience, and himself claims that this one public statement is a stronger indicator of his political judgment than anything else either he or Hilalry have ever said or done. That he has distanced himself from these words, that he is on public record saying he could very well have voted for AUMF, that his recorded votes on Iraq are identical to hers, that he has a history of ducking controversial votes, seeing which way public opinion is trending, then claiming that he would have voted this way or that, all of this undermines any claim to judgment and even more so to having political courage.

Then there are his many, many statements praising Republicans, trashing Democrats (especially the Clintons), and comparing himself to Reagan. He has said he will consider Republicans in his cabinet and has made recent statements about how marvelously bipartisan he will be in foreign policy. Great, he puts himself on the side of the guys behind Iran-Contra, death squads, circumventing rule of law and expanding the imperial presidency. That's so reassuring.

As for the canard that Hillary would be running the same campaign were she in Obama's place, uh, no. She was in Obama's place, the front runner, earlier on and she did not try to prevent primaries from happening. She did not create training camps to to teach outsiders how to interfere with caucuses and intimidate voters. She did not go around speaking of her opponent as a monster. She did not tell him to drop out because she had it all sewn up. She did not say he was only driven by a lust for power, even as we who watch are increasingly seeing how accurate a description of Obama that is. Not at all. She praised him and all of her opponents. She urges all Democrats to this day to stay with the party, regardless of nominee. She speaks respectfully of Obama as a person even as she criticizes his policies and statements. She pledges to support him as nominee should she not be the voters choice. In short, she is running a strong, pro-Democrat and pro-Hillary campaign.

While she did not strongly support revoting Michigan and Florida at the start, it was not merely that she was ahead in those states. It was because those states had already held objectively valid elections. Michigan's incomplete candidate slate was due to the acts of the candidates who removed themselves, not because they were blocked. The prohibition on campaigning in those states applied equally to all candidates, and Obama broke that rule in Florida with cable ad buys. At no time did she ever say these states should be included because I'm ahead and not including them would change the outcome of the race. At this time, Hillary is strongly demanding either to revote the states or else seat them. She is not blocking the count of their votes.

Obama is campaigning on disenfranchising voters, leaning on an equivocal rule to cover his ass. This is a substantive difference between these candidates - one wants to win election by counting the votes, even if it means doing over the voting, and the other wants to win by disenfranchising voters who might not vote for him. These are not differences of degrees, or matters of opinion. Hillary will take her chances with the voters and abide by their decisons. Obama demands that we not count votes unless they are votes for him. He is arguing that we should not allow these Democrats to participate in anything to do with the party unless it is certain they will not endanger his front-runner status. That they have a right to vote and he has no right to win eludes him.

And then there is all that experience stuff where she's been an actor on the national scene for two decades, knows her stuff inside and out and is putting together teams and programs to address the biggest challenges to the nation, while Obama hasn't even convened his own sub-committee, is taking the cast-offs from previous Democratic administrations, and having losers from previous campaigns bitch about how Hillary is such a meeeaaaannniiieee to him. And then there is that 20 year association with someone who preaches hated of this country.

Words and deeds matter.



No Blood for Hubris said...

Yes, you're right.

Anonymous said...

EXACTLY. I find it sooo funny that I have all of these progressive and anti-war friends who are supporting Obama on the most shallow reasons, mainly his anti-war speech before joining the Senate. They are surprised that I'm supporting Clinton, the candidate these guys have been fooled into thinking is the most conservative Democratic candidate in the race. I just don't understand how these educated elites don't do their homework. If they did they would easily see that Obama is an empty suit who is running on a platform that is less progressive than Clinton and Edwards. Thanks for another great post Anglachel :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think Obama understands the concept of legitimacy, much less how it applies to institutional acceptance of a president's authority. Bill Clinton was hesitant over use of the military for just this reason. McCain has already begun making the case for just how legitimate a c-in-c he will be as president.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - my legitimacy comment should have gone under your legitimacy post.

gendergappers said...

There is also the incident of BO joining a group of US Senators after they had done all the work and associating himself with them.

I'm really pissed again at my Senator Leahy but am not surprised. He's a seeker of publicity and helped put Roberts and Aleto on the Supremes.

Shainzona said...

Cast offs and crooks as advisors for BO....can you imagine...Rezko heading up HUD; Joe Lieberman (BO is a friend of Holy Joe!) as Secretary of Homeland Defense; and Rev. Wright as Secretary of State.

Pity us all!!!