2/19/2008

Obama Wins Wisconsin!

10 comments:

Hope-A-Dope said...

"The Obama Delusion"
By Robert Samuelson

WASHINGTON -- It's hard not to be dazzled by Barack Obama. At the 2004 Democratic convention, he visited with Newsweek reporters and editors, including me. I came away deeply impressed by his intelligence, his forceful language and his apparent willingness to take positions that seemed to rise above narrow partisanship. Obama has become the Democratic presidential front-runner, precisely because countless millions have formed a similar opinion. It is, I now think, mistaken.

As a journalist, I harbor serious doubt about each of the likely nominees. But with Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain, I feel that I'm dealing with known quantities. They've been in the public arena for years; their views, values and temperaments have received enormous scrutiny. By contrast, newcomer Obama is largely a stage presence defined mostly by his powerful rhetoric. The trouble, at least for me, is the huge and deceptive gap between his captivating oratory and his actual views.

The subtext of Obama's campaign is that his own life narrative -- to become the first African-American president, a huge milestone in the nation's journey from slavery -- can serve as a metaphor for other political stalemates. Great impasses can be broken with sufficient good will, intelligence and energy. "It's not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white," he says. Along with millions of others, I find this a powerful appeal.

But on inspection, the metaphor is a mirage. Repudiating racism is not a magic cure-all for the nation's ills. It requires independent ideas, and Obama has few. If you examine his agenda, it is completely ordinary, highly partisan, not candid and mostly unresponsive to many pressing national problems.

By Obama's own moral standards, Obama fails. Americans "are tired of hearing promises made and 10-point plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change," he recently said. Shortly thereafter, he outlined an economic plan of at least 12 points that, among other things, would:

-- Provide a $1,000 tax cut for most two-earner families ($500 for singles).

-- Create a $4,000 refundable tuition tax credit for every year of college.

-- Expand the child care tax credit for people earning less than $50,000 and "double spending on quality after-school programs."

-- Enact an "energy plan" that would invest $150 billion in 10 years to create a "green energy sector."

Whatever one thinks of these ideas, they're standard goodie-bag politics: something for everyone. They're so similar to many Clinton proposals that her campaign put out a news release accusing him of plagiarizing. With existing budget deficits and the costs of Obama's "universal health plan," the odds of enacting his full package are slim.

A favorite Obama line is that he will tell "the American people not just what they want to hear, but what we need to know." Well, he hasn't so far.

Consider the retiring baby boomers. A truth-telling Obama might say: "Spending for retirees -- mainly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- is already nearly half the federal budget. Unless we curb these rising costs, we will crush our children with higher taxes. Reflecting longer life expectancies, we should gradually raise the eligibility ages for these programs and trim benefits for wealthier retirees. Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for inaction. Waiting longer will only worsen the problem."

Instead, Obama pledges not to raise the retirement age and to "protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries." This isn't "change"; it's sanctification of the status quo. He would also exempt all retirees making less than $50,000 annually from income tax. By his math, that would provide average tax relief of $1,400 to 7 million retirees -- shifting more of the tax burden onto younger workers. Obama's main proposal for Social Security is to raise the payroll tax beyond the present $102,000 ceiling.

Political candidates routinely indulge in exaggeration, pandering, inconsistency and self-serving obscurity. Clinton and McCain do. The reason for holding Obama to a higher standard is that it's his standard and also his campaign's central theme. He has run on the vague promise of "change," but on issue after issue -- immigration, the economy, global warming -- he has offered boilerplate policies that evade the underlying causes of the stalemates. These issues remain contentious because they involve real conflicts or differences of opinion.

The contrast between his broad rhetoric and his narrow agenda is stark, and yet the press corps -- preoccupied with the political "horse race" -- has treated his invocation of "change" as a serious idea rather than a shallow campaign slogan. He seems to have hypnotized much of the media and the public with his eloquence and the symbolism of his life story. The result is a mass delusion that Obama is forthrightly engaging the nation's major problems when, so far, he isn't.

Copyright 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

Hope-A-Dope said...

"Obama is peddling hope, but what lies beneath?"
By Charles Krauthammer

February 18, 2008

WASHINGTON - There's no better path to success than getting people to buy a free commodity. Like the genius who figured out how to get people to pay for water: Bottle it (Aquafina was revealed to be nothing more than reprocessed tap water) and charge more than they pay for gasoline. Or consider how Google found a way to sell dictionary nouns -- boat, shoe, clock -- by charging advertisers zillions to be listed whenever the word is searched.

And now, in the most amazing trick of all, a silver-tongued freshman senator has found a way to sell hope. To get it, you need only give him your vote. Barack Obama is getting millions.

This kind of sale is hardly new. Organized religion has been offering a similar commodity -- salvation -- for millennia. Which is why the Obama campaign has the feel of a religious revival with, as writer James Wolcott observed, a "salvational fervor" and "idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria."

"We are the hope of the future," sayeth Obama. We can "remake this world as it should be." Believe in me and I shall redeem not just you but your country -- nay, we can become "a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest."

And believe they do. After eight straight victories -- and two more (Hawaii and Wisconsin) almost certain to follow -- Obama is near to rendering moot all the post-Super Tuesday fretting about a deadlocked convention with unelected superdelegates deciding the nominee. Unless Hillary Rodham Clinton can somehow do in Ohio and Texas on March 4 what Rudy Giuliani proved is almost impossible to do -- maintain a big-state firewall after an unrelenting string of smaller defeats -- the superdelegates will flock to Obama. Hope will have carried the day.

Interestingly, Obama has been able to win these electoral victories and dazzle crowds in one new jurisdiction after another, even as his mesmeric power has begun to arouse skepticism and misgivings among the mainstream media.

ABC's Jake Tapper notes the "Helter-Skelter cultish qualities" of "Obama worshipers," what Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times calls "the Cult of Obama." Obama's Super Tuesday victory speech was a classic of the genre. Its effect was electric, eliciting a rhythmic fervor in the audience -- to such rhetorical nonsense as "We are the ones we've been waiting for. (Cheers, applause.) We are the change that we seek."

That was too much for Time's Joe Klein. "There was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism ..." he wrote. "The message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is."

You might dismiss the New York Times' Paul Krugman's complaint that "the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality" as hyperbole. Until you hear Chris Matthews, who no longer has the excuse of youth, react to Obama's Potomac primary victory speech with "My, I felt this thrill going up my leg." When his MSNBC co-hosts tried to bail him out, he refused to recant. Not surprising for an acolyte who said that Obama "comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament."

I've seen only one similar national swoon. As a teenager growing up in Canada, I witnessed a charismatic law professor go from obscurity to justice minister to prime minister, carried on a wave of what was called Trudeaumania.

But even there the object of his countrymen's unrestrained affections was no blank slate. Pierre Trudeau was already a serious intellectual who had written and thought and lectured long about the nature and future of his country.

Obama has an astonishingly empty paper trail. He's going around issuing promissory notes on the future that he can't possibly redeem. Promises to heal the world with negotiations with the likes of Iran's President Ahmadinejad. Promises to transcend the conundrums of entitlement reform that require real and painful trade-offs and that have eluded solution for a generation. Promises to fund his other promises by a rapid withdrawal from an unpopular war -- with the hope, I suppose, that the (presumed) resulting increase in American prestige would compensate for the chaos to follow.

Democrats are worried that the Obama spell will break between the time of his nomination and the time of the election, and deny them the White House. My guess is that he can maintain the spell just past Inauguration Day. After which will come the awakening. It will be rude.

Hope-A-Dope said...

"Democrats can't wither under attacks"
By JOSEPH C. WILSON IV

February 18, 2008

With the emergence of Sen. John McCain as the presumptive Republican nominee, the choice for the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election shifts to who is best positioned to beat him, in what promises to be a more hard-fought campaign than Democrats had anticipated.

Sen. Barack Obama's promise of transformation and an end to partisan politics has its seductive appeal. The Bush-Cheney era, after all, has been punctuated by smear campaigns, character assassinations and ideological fervor.

Nobody dislikes such poisonous partisanship more than I do. I am one of very few Foreign Service officers to have served as ambassador in the administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, yet I have spent the past four years fighting a concerted character-assassination campaign orchestrated by the George W. Bush White House.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the few who fully understood the stakes in that battle. Time and again, she reached out to my wife -- outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson -- and me to remind us that, as painful as the attacks were, we simply could not allow ourselves to be driven from the public square by bullying. Clinton knew from experience, having spent the better part of the past 20 years fighting the Republican attack machine.

But will Obama fight? His brief time on the national scene gives little comfort. Consider a February 2006 exchange of letters with McCain on the subject of ethics reform. The wrathful McCain accused Obama of being "disingenuous," to which Obama meekly replied, "The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you."

McCain was insultingly dismissive, but successful in intimidating his inexperienced colleague. Thus, in his one known encounter with McCain, Obama failed to stand his ground.

What gives us confidence that Obama will be stronger the next time he faces McCain, a seasoned political fighter with extensive national-security credentials? Even more important, what disadvantages does Obama carry into this contest on questions of national security?

How will Obama answer McCain about his careless remark about unilaterally bombing Pakistan -- perhaps blowing up an already difficult relationship with a nuclear state threatened by Islamic extremists? How will Obama respond to charges by the Kenyan government that his campaigning activities in Kenya in support of his distant cousin running for president there made him "a stooge" and constituted interference in the politics of an important and besieged ally in the war on terror?

How will he answer charges that his desire for unstructured personal summits without preconditions with a host of America's adversaries, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kim Jong-il, would be little more than premature capitulation?

Contrary to the myth of the Obama campaign, 2008 is not the year for transcendental transformation. The task for the next administration will be to repair the damage done by eight years of radical rule. And the choice for Americans is clear: four more years of corrupt Republican rule, senseless wars, evisceration of the Constitution, emptying of the national treasury -- or rebuilding our government and our national reputation, piece by piece.

To effect practical change against a determined adversary, we do not need a would-be philosopher-king, but a seasoned gladiator who understands the fight Democrats will face in the fall campaign and in governing.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly."

If he were around today, Roosevelt might be speaking of the woman in the arena. Clinton has been in that arena for a generation. She is one of the few to have defeated the attack machine that is today's Republican Party and to have emerged stronger. She is deeply knowledgeable about governing, she made herself into a power in the Senate, she is respected by our military and she never flinches.

Obama claims to represent the future, but it should be increasingly evident that he is not the man for this moment, especially with McCain's arrival. We've seen a preview of that contest already. It was a TKO.

Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, is the author of "The Politics of Truth." He wrote this article for the Baltimore Sun.

Hope-A-Dope said...

What's the matter with these guys? Why can't they just get sucked into the Obama Cult like the rest of us 19-year-olds? He's the Real Thing (just like coke - which he admits he's used - just like the rest of us college kids - cool!).

I heard him speak in person once. God, a shiver went up my leg, my eyeballs popped out, my spleen split, and my neurons sizzled like bacon! He's so cute! I've got a mega-crush on Obama!

OK, a couple years ago he was just a state senator (just like Sheila Harsdorf) and now we all want him to be President Of The United States. That's a bit of a jump. But if Obama can do it, so can Sheila.

I think he's got what it takes to beat McCain - no doubt. McCain won't make mincemeat out of him (much). I'm sure McCain won't mention Obama's drug use - nah! Or he won't point out that Obama has absolutely no foreign policy or military experience - nah! And he won't mention that Obama's got the most liberal voting record in Senate (in just two years) and never once joined in any bi-partisan solution - nah! McCain won't go negative (much).

Oh, and I'm sure that the media is going to continue their lovefest for Obama straight through until November. They won't turn on him and start asking hard questions (much), and starting digging (much), and questioning this whole creepy "Cult of Obama" thing (much).

Obama will have a cakewalk against McCain. I'm sure of it.

Thanks for listening guys. Have a nice day.

Obama/Patrick 2008!

Hope Monger said...

Hey speaking of Dope,

Go ahead vote for George M. Bush the Third, if you like what we have now, we'll have even more. A hundreds years in Iraq... Bring it on!

Keep the taxcuts for the rich, NO Problem!

Good luck Dopey, Your're gonna need it.

CANRAC said...

It could be worse, we could have another Clinton in the White House.

Why do people insist on posting articles we can already find and read on the net?

Curt D. Weasel said...

I keep publishing the neocon articles being submitted. It COULD help keep us informed on all points of view. I find it also gives me good practice using the scroll bar.
It is important to remember that there is a vast right wing conspiracy out there. I believe Charles Krauthammer is a member of that group. Diversity of opinion is what makes America such a great place to live. Even fruitcakes and peanut cases get a soapbox to enlighten us on.

Hope Monger said...

Hey Canrac,

Here's a news flash!!!
Ready.

Hope-A-Dope isn't one of us guyz!!!!

Thought you might like to know.

CANRAC said...

hope monger,

here's a flash back.....don't always take me seriously.

It's pretty obvious that hope a dope just paid a visit. It's pretty sad when you need to post other peoples thoughts and work other then your own.

Hope-A-Dope said...

Don't be sad for me Canrac, you will see that the fourth post was all my own work. I didn't plagiarize (a/k/a obamaize) it from anyone.

You will note, though, that 90% of what the ATBL guyz post on this blog is cut-n-paste or links to other people's articles. I just thought us commentors could do a little pasting of some recent articles on Obamamania. Since Mr. Obama is going to be going up against McCain, I think that we need to get away from Hope Monger's Cult Worship and start being realistic about Barack's chances in November.

Speaking of that, here's some thoughts. I'm actually an independent and would look carefully at voting for any candidate - in this case, I am open to Obama, Clinton and McCain (but Ron Paul and Huckabee are out).

As you know the winner in November will be the one who can grab the middle ground. The ultra-conservatives will vote for McCain and the ultra-liberals will vote for Obama. But who gets the middle? Obama has done well with the middle against Hillary, but I think it may play differently in the general election.

Obama's record in the Senate (short as it is) is ultra-liberal. He can't run from that. He has no (and I mean NO) record of any meaningful legislation to his name, and no record of any bi-partisan efforts.

McCain, on the other hand, has laid claim to the independents and bi-partisanship for decades. The Limbaugh/Hannity hatefest for McCain is perfect to support his case. The independents all think "Well, if Rush hates McCain, then he must be OK."

Can Obama grab the middle by saying: "We are the change that we can, yes we can, hope to change in the event that we can and will change the hope that we will find in our souls if we can only find the soul of this country somewhere in the hope of our change!" (and then snort some coke)?

I'm thinking not. He's going to have to come up with something better than that.

So, Canrac. Mr. Smartypants. Debate with me. (And use your own words).