Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama's Got Pander!

Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for President last Tuesday.

The very next day, as if to prove that he could pander with the best/worst of them . . . . well . . . .

Jon Stewart on Obama, McClain and Hillary Clinton pandering their little hearts out at the annual conference of AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States.


Liam said...

It didn't mention how Obama talked about Israel having an undivided Jerusalem as capital, which later he had to take back.

I guess when you're competing for Florida, where most people think you're a Black Muslim with a Farrakhan-loving Christian pastor (but that doesn't make sense! So What?) and were educated in bomb-throwing in your Madrassa before you came to the US to become a crack addict, you need to pander more than a wee bit.

But it still is depressing, and I hope Obama remembers his whole message revolves around not being a political whore.

cowboyangel said...

But it still is depressing, and I hope Obama remembers his whole message revolves around not being a political whore.

I think it would be better for your mental health not to expect too much from the guy in this regard. You don't get to be president without being a political whore. Punto. Can he do it with more dignity than Bush Jr., McCain or and the Clintons? That's the question.

Howard Fineman at Newsweek, from his current article, "Getting to Know Him."

"We know John McCain: as formed and familiar as a well-worn boot. But we don't know Barack Obama very well, and getting to know him has been and remains the basic national task of 2008.

With less than five months until Election Day, there isn't much time left for research. And because Obama still is wet clay, not yet fixed in the public mind, every news cycle, speech, sound bite (or nibble) and video stream takes on huge evidentiary significance. Almost everything is, as they say in the law, a case of first impression.

Which is why his relationship—now abruptly ended—with a wealthy Democratic Washington denizen named Jim Johnson is way more than a mere Inside-the-Beltway story. It's a deeply revealing episode from beginning to end.

What we learn is that Obama by instinct is no revolutionary, but rather a soothing semi-insurgent seemingly eager to reassure the very Establishments he claims to be eager to assault."

You should take some time out this summer to read The Audacity of Hope, if you haven't yet. I think you'll realize that Fineman's description is probably a good one.

Obama's got a lot of good things going for him, but he's still a politician who wants to be President of the United States. He's got to be careful to stick with the "Change" message without acting like he's somehow more "pure" a politician - if that's possible. Otherwise, he's just going to get busted time after time. There's no way out. You can't try to bring together millions of people from all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs without pandering. He needs to do it as honestly as he can, by pointing out the contradictions, perhaps. He seems to do best when he paints a realistic picture of how things are - like his speech on race.

I thought Stewart's skit was hilarious, I have to admit. "You don't have to bring your own Jew to Israel. . . . A veritable Whitman sampler."

Liam said...

Yeah, there are a few powerful intransigent groups you have to pander to, no matter what your rhetoric is. If you're GOP you have to worship the NRA and the Pro-Life groups. If you're a Dem you have to make sure you're on the right side of the Pro-Choice groups. And everybody has to suck up to the AIPAC, even though, as Stewart points out, there are politicians in Israel whose policies would be decried by them if they were put forward in this country.

I'm not hoping that he will be revolutionary. But I do think there's a bit more to him than just dignity, if for no other reason than because the Bushes and the Clintons, along with most of both parties though especially the GOP, have dragged politics to the most cynical level possible.

cowboyangel said...

I do think there's a bit more to him than just dignity

What's he got going, I wonder? I feel like he's a slick and shrewd politician, but I also feel like he different in many ways. It's hard to put my finger on . . . . what makes him seem different?

Liam said...

I think there's a couple of things. "Words do matter, words inspire" is big, and it's a two-edged sword. Obama is moving people on the individual level -- hence the huge crowds and the 1.5 million donors. In one way, he doesn't need certain parts of the establishment as much -- all those Clinton big-money people that were threatening to cut off funding for the DNC. On the other hand, that means we hold him to a different standard -- which is why the Johnson thing is being talked about (compared to all the scumbags who were working much more closely with the McCain campaign). The citizen involvement that's moving his campaign is big, and it may not stop with his election.

I also read a quote from a college student who said, starry-eyed, "that's the first time someone has ever asked US to do something and take responsibility." That's part of the JFK thing -- it's not about ME, it's about us. I think when assessing Kennedy, we forget about things like the Peace Core -- that was huge for people back then.

Jeff said...

I hear he's been going around reading that dolt Fareed Zakaria, which worries me.

Luckily, Thomas Frank noticed this and hauled him over the coals for it.

Whether by accident or as a signal to voters of a certain intellectual attainment, Sen. Barack Obama allowed himself to be photographed a few weeks ago carrying a copy of "The Post-American World" by Fareed Zakaria...

As it happens, I have been reading the very same book. Since I have more time on my hands than Mr. Obama, I hereby offer him an executive summary.

It used to be, senator, that bright young foreign-policy pundits turned out a predictable product. Every foreign election, every inflation spike or productivity slowdown overseas was plugged into the same master narrative: country X needed to embrace "free trade"; country Y had allowed labor unions to get too strong; country Z needed to cut taxes and deregulate...

Mr. Zakaria cleverly yokes together this favorite pundit hobbyhorse with another: American decline. The problem, he argues, is not that other lands need to learn the laissez-faire way; it's that they have learned it too well, that they're better at it than we are, and that "the rise of the rest" – namely, China and India – threatens to problematize the precious number-oneness of the U.S.

The facts Mr. Zakaria adduces to prove this have an oddly size-ist bias, as they might say on campus. The tallest building in the world is in Taiwan, he writes; the richest human is a Mexican; and China has the world's biggest factories, biggest shopping malls and its biggest casino.

But don't be alarmed, senator. By this reasoning, one might just as well claim that British health care is better than anyone else's because London has the world's tallest hospital building. Or that Falangist Spain was the acme of piety since Generalissimo Franco built the world's largest crucifix. Similarly, Mr. Zakaria's observation that the world's biggest airplane "is built in Russia and Ukraine" – actually, as far as I can tell, it is a Soviet-era cargo plane, and only one of them was built – might demonstrate, by his logic, that the Soviets were the real victors in the Cold War.

cowboyangel said...


Why do you call Zakaria a dolt? I don't actually know anything about him, other than that he's published this book and is getting a lot of pundit coverage. Strangely, despite all the coverage, I haven't read a single positive review - out of 3 or 4.

Jeff said...

Well, you're right. I can't really say he's a dolt. He's a pretty smart guy I guess, but after having read his Newsweek article and having heard him interviewed on public radio, I just get fed up with these globalization cheerleaders like him and Tom Friedman who breezily dismiss the effects of the "creative destruction" of markets.

Besides, I think Frank has a point. His obsession with "sizeism" is kind of weird.