It is time for America to evaluate Obama the potential president, not Obama the phenomenon
… Although Mr Obama’s slogan “Yes We Can” has been turned into a pop video, the theme of his campaign echoes the Clintons’ old tune—“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow”.
Optimism is a powerful emotion, but as that song warned, “tomorrow will soon be here.” That is why the real questioning of Mr Obama should begin now. With the brief exception of those four heady days after the Iowa caucuses, he has never been a front-runner; now he will be more fully scrutinised.
But what policies exactly? Mr Obama’s voting record in the Senate is one of the most left-wing of any Democrat. Even if he never voted for the Iraq war, his policy for dealing with that country now seems to amount to little more than pulling out quickly, convening a peace conference, inviting the Iranians and the Syrians along and hoping for the best. On the economy, his plans are more thought out, but he often tells people only that they deserve more money and more opportunities. If one lesson from the wasted Bush years is that needless division is bad, another is that incompetence is perhaps even worse. A man who has never run any public body of any note is a risk, even if his campaign has been a model of discipline.
And the Obama phenomenon would not always be helpful, because it would raise expectations to undue heights. Budgets do not magically cut themselves, even if both parties are in awe of the president; the Middle East will not heal, just because a president’s second name is Hussein. Choices will have to be made—and foes created even when there is no intention to do so. Indeed, something like that has already happened in his campaign. The post-racial candidate has ended up relying heavily on black votes (and in some places even highlighting the divide between Latinos and blacks).
None of this is to take away from Mr Obama’s achievement. … For America’s sake (and the world’s), that bar should now be raised—or all kinds of brutal disappointment could follow.
The MSM in the U.S. must raise the bar. Frankly, the UK press as well as a few U.S. bloggers are asking the hard questions (and taking a lot of flak for it). But that’s not nearly enough because most busy Americans, reliant as they are on snatches of AM radio and TV news, are not learning nearly enough about the candidates.
THE ECONOMICS ISSUES:
Obama takes hit on economic policy
Campaign’s a ripoff of Clinton’s, her supporters, McCain adviser maintains …
There’s my piece, “Professor Obama’s Political Plagiarism,” that discusses how Obama’s Wisconsin speech earlier this week on economic plans are largely lifted from plans and legislation that Hillary Clinton has already proposed. One example:
FOR STARTERS: His “new” proposal for a national infrastructure bank is one that Hillary proposed August 8, 2007. [”I’m proud to co-sponsor Senator Dodd and Senator Hagel’s National Infrastructure Bank Act that we just introduced to establish a federally-backed independent bank that will evaluate and finance large infrastructure projects by subsidies, loan guarantees, and bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.” Rebuilding America speech, 8/8/07; S. 1926, 8/1/07]
Worrisome, too, are his Republican-leaning economic advisers. Stephen Schlesinger — former Director of the World Policy Institute at the New School University and the son of Arthur Schlesinger — wrote a Huffington Post article, “Obama’s Conservative Economists,” with details on these advisers. One brief excerpt:
[The Nation‘s Max Fraser] notes that Obama’s proposed solution to the mortgage mess is “short on aggressive government involvement and infused with conservative rhetoric about fiscal responsibility.” … Obama has not called for a moratorium on foreclosures or a freezing of interest rates or the use of federal subsidies to help homeowners keep up with payments and restructure loans or some regulation of the financial industry — Edwards and Clinton have offered variations on those themes. Instead Obama has proposed legislation against mortgage fraud, a tax credit for homeowners which amounts to about $500 on average and an additional fund that will help a certain limited number of homeowners. [NOT ENOUGH!]
Fraser attributes Obama’s constricted response to “the centrist politics of his three chief economic advisors and his campaign’s ties to Wall Street institutions opposed to increased financial regulations” and points out that Obama has received almost $10 million in contributions from the finance insurance and real estate sector …
For the candidate of change and bold ideas, Obama’s tepid response to the overwhelming mortgage crisis suggests a Republican-orientation. …
Then there was Paul Krugman’s comparisons of the plans of John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama — devastating in its criticisms of Obama’s plans. Here’s but one brief example of many in Krugman’s NYT op-ed:
[T]he Obama plan appears to contain none of the alternative energy initiatives that are in both the Edwards and Clinton proposals, and emphasizes across-the-board tax cuts over both aid to the hardest-hit families and help for state and local governments. I know that Mr. Obama’s supporters hate to hear this, but he really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of domestic policy. …
THE MSM’s FAILURE TO VET Sen. Obama, or for his supporters to adequately explain his “appeal”:
And — returning to The Economist‘s theme about the MSM’s lack of scrutiny of Sen. Obama — here’s a sample of what is to come from the right should Obama become the nominee — via Philadelphia’s The Bulletin:
Then there is his lack of experience, which is even more frightening, as it means we’d be having amateur night at the White House right in the middle of a war against Islamofascism along with all kinds of severe domestic and other foreign policy problems. The man has no experience and no record.
Dramatic proof of his record came home when Fox News pollster Frank Luntz asked a focus group on live television a simple question: You’re for Mr. Obama, so tell me about one of his accomplishments. Not one in the group had any to offer, not a single one. He has supporters who are obviously willing to buy the proverbial cat in the bag or pig in the poke. Sean Hannity saw this focus group in action. So the next time Mr. Luntz had assembled another focus group of Democrats with many Obama supporters, he asked Mr. Luntz to try the same question. Again, no one in the group could name a single accomplishment of Mr. Obama. He’s been in the U.S. Senate for about two years and in the Illinois Senate for eight, and he had a career before that, but his supporters can’t even hint at even one achievement, legislative or otherwise. (And note, he really has no U.S. Senate experience to speak of, as most of his time there has been spent running for the presidency.)
Then, I saw one of his supporters – a congressman from Virginia, Bobby Scott – being interviewed. The interviewer noted that the voters couldn’t name a single achievement of Mr. Obama, but surely someone in the political arena could. The congressman made a feeble effort to suggest accomplishments but finally fell back on the platitudes and slogans that are Mr. Obama’s stock and trade. The congressman said things like “he will bring us together,” and “he will get things done.” Unfortunately, neither Mr. Obama nor his supporters can tell us what happens after we’re all brought together, or how he’ll bring us together in the first place. By like token, they can tell us Mr. Obama means change but know little or nothing about what, if anything, will be changed. …
Can you believe that a Congressman didn’t have a clue how to express what Obama specifically has to offer? This is not just some ordinary Obama supporter rhapsodizing about Obama’s charisma — this is an elected official! And he’s not the only one. KCK, a fine diarist and longtime activist writes in “Hillary Rodham, Chair of the Legal Services Corporation” about Wisconsin’s governor:
I don’t care who you vote for, but you should know why. I just watched the Wisconsin Governor Doyle endorse Obama on Hardball yet when asked what Obama’s accomplishments are he stuttered and fell short surprised as if the question wasn’t fair. He answered with O’s ethics legislation and community org. & said that his kids and wife are for Obama and well he finally decided to join up…
Back to Philadelphia’s The Bulletin:
As already noted, the mainstream media is virtually ignoring his record while heaping boundless praise on him with every edition. Only political columnist Joe Klein started making some sensible noise about Mr. Obama in a recent issue of Time (Feb. 18): “Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause – other than an amorphous desire for change – the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.”
Mr. Klein noted an element of the messiah and savior about Mr. Obama’s positioning: “And yet there was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism – ‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for’ – of the Super Tuesday speech and the recent turn of the Obama campaign. ‘This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It’s different not because of me. It’s different because of you.’ This is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: The campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire.” …
At least Klein is raising key questions. Of course, he’s been excoriated — just like Larry Johnson — at places like DailyObama (formerly known as DailyKos).
READ ALL to find out what’s in store for Sen. Obama — the deluge of attacks he will face from the right and Sen. McCain.
This should concern every voter who wishes to put behind them the days of George W. Bush, another wholly inexperienced president — as Larry Johnson has written about here many times.
We have so many enormous problems — from our low standing in the world, to ill-run wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to our dangerously floundering economy, to our returning veterans whose future medical costs will match the cost of the entire wars to date!, to our badly broken health care system, to our predatory credit card and finance companies, to our dependence on China as our banker, to China’s dangerous imports that go uninspected, to our failure to address the environmental crisis (and failure to create “green jobs”), and on and on.
We desperately need a president who has the experience to match the rhetoric.
An occasional fine speech just won’t cut it. Inspiration just won’t cut it. I don’t want change per se. I want a change-maker.