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Posted by on Jul 8, 2008 in Economy, Politics | 19 comments

When the Bloom is off Obama’s Rose

Vacation offers a chance for reflection and introspection, (perhaps too much?) and mine has been no exception. While catching up on the news around the political sphere, I have found a heavy dose of my typical old cynicism sneaking up on me. A major portion of this has come about regarding the shifting tides of the Obama campaign.

While I still swear no fealty to either party, in the early days of the campaign I must admit that I had been swept up in a wave of hopefulness. Upon first hearing Barack Obama’s “Yes we canspeech in New Hampshire, I confess that I found my eyes welling up a bit. I was ready to believe that there was a glimmer of hope for a change in the typical politics which seem to corrupt our government more than helping its citizens. I began to bristle upon hearing the candidate’s detractors calling him “Barry HUSSEIN Obama” and questioning his religion and upbringing. I felt a temptation to overlook his lack of experience and say, “Let’s just give the new kid a chance here.” (Obama is younger than I, so I will take the liberty of calling him “kid.” Please spare me any accusations of racism or ageism.)

However, as time has passed, I have (along with many others, it seems) become dismayed by the seemingly random changes in Obama’s positions as the political winds shifted. I understand that the Obama team refers to these incidents as “refining” the candidate’s policy points, but come on now. If you refined crude oil as often as Obama has refined his policy positions it would long since have turned to high-test gasoline. I no longer have any idea where the Illinois Senator stands on gun control, abortion, public financing, FISA, NAFTA, when and how to withdraw from Iraq or the debate structure for the campaign. I understand that candidates will often “run to the center” after the primaries end, and it’s not uncommon. It comes from an old nautical term, where a sailor on a ship listing heavily to one side will rush to midships to right the vessel. But Obama’s actions have been more like a youth with his finger in a hole in the dike who is suddenly dashing all over as more and more leaks erupt.

Make no mistake, I have not been entirely sold on John McCain’s positions for every area either. I still have major differences with Senator McCain on important foreign policy issues, and am far too uncomfortable with how he might select Supreme Court nominees. On domestic issues, though, I’ve at least found some consistency in sensible proposals. Most recently, McCain put forth a fairly comprehensive economic plan which, while still having some holes in it, addresses many of my concerns. His energy plan, as I have previously stated, is the only one I’ve heard which includes a solid, long range plan while addressing the need for gap filling measures to get us through the rest of this century.

At this stage, neither candidate has closed the deal to pull me off the fence and away from possibly supporting Bob Barr this fall, but I must concede that Obama has launched a general election bid which seems to show him as something less than originally advertised. The bloom is off the rose, and Obama is showing me that, sadly, he really is “just another politician” and if he wants my vote, he will need to put in a lot of work to clarify exactly what I’ll be getting if I help elect him.

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • Guest

    We’re in a similar place, Jazz. Check my post from Sunday, if you haven’t already. Although I can’t say I’d vote for Mr. Barr, under any circumstances. 🙂

  • Neocon

    Barak Obama had no dream that he was going to be the partys nominee when he ran in 2007 and 2008,.

    So the accusations that have been leveled at him have merit. He indeed is going to have OJT.

    Others have said that they would not give a CEO the time of day if they showed up with Barak Obama’s resume has merit.

    Barak Obama did not intend to win. He intended to put his name out there, give America a taste, have us hungering and then he was going to go back to the senate for 4 or 8 years or perhaps become Hillaries Secretary of State or mayhaps a Supreme Court justice.

    His success has caught even himself off guard. His is like the movie in which the comedian runs for and wins the presidency. OH………MY………..LORD…………now what.

  • You know, Neocon, that’s an interesting observation and not one I’ve heard ;put forth widely in the public square. But now that you say it, I wonder if Obama’s actual plan was to use the primary to get his name out there on a national level as a follow-up to his introduction at the convention speech. Maybe he really did intend to go back for either more time in the Senate, or possibly even a run at Governor of Illinois (one choice you didn’t mention) and then come back in four or eight years to run for president. If that’s the case, it’s not hard to understand how he find himself a bit flummoxed and under the gun. I’ll have to consider that some more.

  • djshay

    You’re not really serious about the economic plan, right? There are no specifics. just vague talk about money from our “Victory in Iraq” to reduce the deficit. It’s just as vague and ethereal as his “At the end of my first 4 years” fairy tale. Also, the plan the 300 economists signed off on omitted this plan to balance the budget by using Victory Funds and the completely nonsensical gas tax holiday. He wants to lower taxes, but has no real plan get more money flowing in. Entitlement Program reductions? Great, now my mother who is on social security and medicare can get a reduction in her benefits. Who needs diabetic and heart medicine any way? Just let the weak die off while corporations and the rich are given even MORE tax breaks so they can move even MORE of their businesses overseas where they can pay the workers there less than a third of what they would pay them here. It’s a great theory, but it never works because increased expansion for corporations now just leads to more of the production facilities going overseas.

  • DLS
  • mikkel

    I’m sorry, but to call McCain’s economic plan “comprehensive” is laughable on its face. It is complete fantasy and well….BS. There is no other way to say it. McCain has driven the normally staid Hilzoy into conniptions. “So far, I have argued as though I thought McCain was actually serious about balancing the budget. I was taking him at his word, and giving him the benefit of the doubt. But I do not see how it’s possible to even begin to work through his various proposals and think that he is.”

    As for Obama, he hasn’t really changed his positions at all. What he did change was his emphasis. I’ve been following him extremely closely for a long time, reading a ton of speeches and white papers and his positions are consistent. I’m not sure if you read what I wrote back in the primary but I said I feared that by falling into rhetoric that could be seen as disingenuous that he would get the backlash like you are (IMO rightly) feeling. He turned his positions into simple slogans/ideas that were purposefully designed to obfuscate them a bit.

    Now contra McCain…whenever he was asked explicitly about his position he would explain it with the same details. McCain has often completely shifted 100%, sometimes in the manner of weeks and then pretended like he never held the prior position.

    So I’m indifferent to trying to convince anyone what they should think about his change in presentation, but I do have to point out that behind the scenes they have been trying to actively build consensus on things that haven’t wavered much. Obama is definitely a guy that does 80% of his stuff behind the scenes and then only announces it when he feels there is a good group of support.

  • aba23

    Jazz, the political reporting you’re catching up on seems to consist of a media-perpetuated framework. (You probably realize this because this point–ie, that most of the examples you cite are not changes in position–has been noted as part of this narrative, but since you fail to address it, maybe not.)

    Nevertheless, it is understandable that some voters feel as you describe because during the primaries he sure as hell *exploited* the idea that he was more liberal than his record, stated positions, or policy recommendations indicated. He showcased his more liberal aspects to the electorate he was appealing to at the time. Now, he is appealing to a different electorate, so he’s displaying his more moderate side. But both these sides were there all along for anyone paying close attention. It is not to be expected that the average person was, but political reporters do not have this excuse.

    FWIW, IMO he did step dangerously close to a line of misrepresentation with his NAFTA comments and, perhaps, FISA (I don’t know his specific comments when he said he’d filibuster, so I don’t know if his current reasoning is consistent with them).

    But the rest of his refinements really are just that (and what, exactly, is wrong with refining your position?)–it’s about furthering a laudable goal (eg, less special interest money in campaigns, getting troops out of Iraq as quickly as prudentce allows) in the best practical way available. There are other considerations as well, of course, and some of them are certainly political–but overall they hardly reflect insincerity or fundamental changes in a belief system.

  • Kathryn

    With the exception of FISA (which I admit is a disappointment), there has been no flip flopping at all from Obama. If your only source of information is the MSM I can understand your perception. However, the MSM have only been regurgitating the McCain talking points without looking at Obama’s web-site or reading his books. Obama made the same points about abortion, guns and Iraq this week that he made in his books. His books are a prime draw for moderates. The Republicans are attempting to put him a box where he has to be as inflexible as Bush or be painted as a total flip flopper. The sad thing is, columns like this, that don’t hold McCain to the same standards only play into the hands of those who like Rovian campaigning and governance and wish to see it continue.
    Finally, what issues hasn’t McCain flipped on besides the war? Taxes? The role of the religious right? Off shore drilling? Torture? I loved the McCain of 2000. If the McCain of ’08 was the same person I would gladly support him, but the fact that he could turn to Karl Rove after the stuff Rove pulled on him and his family is really a deal breaker for me.

  • timr

    Jazz, You think that st john’s economic plan is better????? Really. Did you actually take more than a minute to listen to what he said? Gas tax holiday? “some” economists thought it was BS. More like everyone thought it was a bad idea. Remember when HRC tried it? She got hammered. BTW, it is already July, half way thru the summer, and st john has yet to introduce a bill on this-of course he never will because it was just a gimmick when he first said it, never intended a follow thru. Smoke and mirrors is the description that I would give his “plan”. Defict gone by 2013. How, massive savings from Iraq and A’stan. sure. His economic advisor is ex sen. Phil(I got mine when I got the banks deregulated, which led to the sub prime mess-now a VP and lobbyist for UBS) Gramm. And you think its a good plan. Maybe you need to go back on vaction again, this time bring some reality pills. I really think you need a big dose of it.

  • McCain’s economic plan step by step:

    1) Win wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
    2) Stay in Iraq forever
    3) Cut spending on welfare
    4) Cut taxes on the rich
    5) Cut taxes on corporations owned by the rich
    6) Veto stuff
    7) ????
    8) Profit $$$$

    • GreggLD

      I don’t understand, ChrisWWW…is your list supposed to be ridiculing McCain’s economic plan? 1) definitely sounds like a good idea. 2) Isn’t really what you seem to be trying make it out to be–McCain just doesn’t see any problem with having a base in Iraq, if the Iraqi government approves it and if conditions are reasonably safe and stable for our troops. We still have bases in Japan and Germany. 3) sounds like an excellent idea, since welfare is a total failure that has produced generations of unproductive dependents–not good for any economy. 4) sounds like another excellent idea…let the rich keep the money they’ve earned and spend and invest it, thus growing the economy (but cut taxes for the middle class as well). 5) Also sounds like a good idea–let the corporations keep their profits to invest in R & D, modernized plants, new equipment, etc. (but cut taxes for the middle class also) 6) Sounds awesome–cut the pork! 7) Is there something you don’t understand there? 8) Profit $$$$–is that a bad thing?

    • Ricorun

      It reminds me of the Underpants Gnomes business plan:
      http://www.comedycentral.com/videos/index.jhtml?videoId=61733

      1. Collect underpants
      2.
      3. Profits$$$

  • pacatrue

    I’d like to echo mikkel and aba’s posts. You might have a legitimate complaint about NAFTA and FISA, but the other stuff is largely the same positions as they always have been. His refining on Iraq amounts to “a 16 month plan might be a 15 month or an 18 month plan depending on information from the generals,” plus a “10,000 residual troop plan might be a 15,000 residual plan or a 5,000 residual plan.” Do you really want a President who won’t take advice from the field on how to implement a safe withdrawal? The abortion votes were similar. He’s always believed in certain exemptions for a woman’s health in late-term abortions and has had to vote in a couple different ways in order to achieve that. There’s no great inconsistency. (Remember, I agreed with others that the charge could be legit on FISA and NAFTA, though the NAFTA one is probably a pandering charge in Ohio, more than anything else. Fortunately, no other candidates pander.)

  • DLS

    “I’m sorry to tell you, but […] there’s going to be more wars.” — McCain

    And how does the radical fringe respond? PANIC! OUTRAGE!

    And “This is why you need to get The Nation.” as the commercial stated on the following Detroit radio station I was listening to at lunchtime:

    http://www.1310wdtw.com

  • Rambie

    Jazz, I do really like how you’re very analytical, but you continue to have blinders on when looking at McCain and conservatives in general. I really wish you’d rake both sides over the coals equally.

    Obama has shifted slightly on a few issues (outlined above) but he hasn’t shifted far from where it was before and is still well in the ballpark of where I sit.

    McCain has also shifted positions, often much more so than Obama. From where McCain was in 2000 (I still wish he won the 2000 election) he’s moved so far to the right the last 6 months I no longer really see much difference between him and President Bush’s positions.

  • Rambie, I feel I have posted a number of columns about the many shortcomings of John McCain, particularly regarind his foreign policy positions (which I completely oppose) his position on NAFTA and “free trade” and his selection criteria for SCOTUS justices. I just call ’em like I see ’em. This week I was looking more at domestic policy on the economy and energy policy where I think he gets it more right than Obama. You are free to disagree, of course. That’s what makes this country so great. 🙂

  • Rambie

    I didn’t mean any offense Jazz, so I hope none was taken. Like I said, I like your analysis on matters and enjoy reading them even if I don’t always agree.

  • “The bloom is off the rose, and Obama is showing me that, sadly, he really is “just another politician” …”

    Jazz – he is not “just another politician”. He is just another CHICAGO politician…..

    LL

  • Gregg,
    His approach is overly simplistic, and with the exception of #6, every point his plan will increase our debt, not pay it down. Which is a priority according to McCain.

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