Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

There was an extraordinarily interesting conversation on Obama's speech yesterday, which I recommend you read.  Taylor Marsh also chimed in with her thoughts. What's striking about the speech was no so much what he said, but the reaction.  There wasn't one.  This was supposed to be a grand pronouncement with a new vision for foreign policy, and yet, the speech could have been ripped out of John Kerry's camapign, Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, or for that matter, Jimmy Carter's.  I mean, Marshall McLuhan wrote about the global village in the early 1960s. Obama has a very forward-looking 20th century outlook.

I'm having a hard time actually taking his speech seriously, because it was just so awful.  If you don't have the patience to read the speech, here's a shortened version:

Isolationists are bad, we need a bigger military, some troops should stay in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda, and we have to deal with loose Russian nukes, pandemics, global warming, all through corporate channels.  Also, 9/11 changed everything, trade agreements are complicated, Iraq was a dumb war.  Oops, our bad, can we get a do-over?  Kissinger told me we could.

Obama framed everything as a security issue, and argued against the people that don't believe America should have a place as a global leader and against the throngs of isolationists on the left, who apparently exist somewhere in Samantha Power's imagination.  I don't really get what motivates these people, but I'm tired of people like Obama telling me it's cynical to question the moral foundations of America after seven years when we've tortured a select few and killed hundreds of thousands of people based on a brief episode of national psycho-drama.  And we're all tired of this whole national security state model which pretends that all our problems must be solved by pumping more money into a military-industrial complex that cannot account for a trillion dollars and centralizes power in the hands of an irresponsible elite.  You see, if you put more money into the hands of defense contractors, you end up cutting money for everything else, and those contractors end up supporting the Republican Party.

Here's the most annoying line, though there are so many:

I believe that the single most important job of any President is to protect the American people.

We don't need a charismatic figure promising us his personal protection, we need leadership.  

Can I get an 'arghh'?  We'll end the national security state, but it's going to take awhile.

Update [2007-4-24 12:54:33 by Matt Stoller]:: Former TNR editor Andrew Sullivan loved the speech. Read him for an alternate point of view. And here's Kevin Drum's analysis. I respect Kevin, though he's definitely more of a centrist and seems wedded to the Clintonian/Carter model of militaristic liberal internationalism.

I don't expect to make up my mind on this score anytime soon. Most of the time I come down in favor of expanding the military, on the basis that (a) if you're going to do something, you should do it right, and (b) we're not likely to continue to be ruled by petulant children forever into the future. Needless to say, (b) is a gamble.

Tags: 2008, Barack Obama, Iraq, president (all tags)



Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Duck and cover, man. This is harsher than I'd go -- my expectations are lower -- but in essence I agree.

By comparison to Bush, I think most foreign policy statements (even those on the GOP side) will seem comparatively sane. But this is not moving the ball forward.

by Josh Koenig 2007-04-24 08:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I'll have to agree with you.  Barack cites good ideas overall, and I wouldn't go after this as an awful speech, it just misses on some important matters.  And for crying out loud, if liberals are going to accomplish anything big in a presidential race, this is the year to do it!

I'll give Barack a B/B-, which is a gimme when you're following up Bush administration mistakes.  On issues like Blackwater, fair trade, alternative energy (I'm saying this ad nauseum), our camp has got to start swinging for the fences.

by IrishCatholicDemocrat 2007-04-24 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Damn Stoller, its like you're over-thinking your way into the Kucinich-wing of the party. This isn't your finest hour around here.

by mihan 2007-04-24 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech
On the contrary, I was going to say that it was heartening to have someone say EXACTLY what he just did.  I used to like Obama and thought he would be particularly good on foreign policy because he was personally so integrated into many cultures.  But now I know that I was absolutely wrong.  
As for the Kucinich swipe, whatever he lacks in charisma, he doesn't have blood on his hands like almost everyone else in our government.  I live overseas, and I have to apologize to EVERYONE I meet.  When Clinton was president, it was cool to be American.
by prince myshkin 2007-04-24 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

"When Clinton was president, it was cool to be American."

And Obama's vision of foreign policy is Clintonian so what is the problem here? It would be even "cooler" to be American with Obama in the White House me thinks.

by Populism2008 2007-04-24 01:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Wake me when you come up with a substantive swipe on Kucinich's policy (no, 'Department of Peace' doesn't count,) rather than just assuming it's like the Black Death crossed with AIDS, only slightly worse.

by Englishlefty 2007-04-24 09:24AM | 0 recs
Is this too much to hope for?

I'd love it if a leading Demoratic presidential contender said something like:

"While American Military Power can, when used judiciously, protect the world from terrorism and tryranny, it can also, when used unwisely and too widely, increase terrorism and tyranny."

Some minor, conditional critique of Empire--that's what I'd like.

by david mizner 2007-04-24 10:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Is this too much to hope for?

It is unlikely that any candidate would survive such a statement.

by Populism2008 2007-04-24 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Stoller is right on!  However, why would anyone be surprised that the happy face gave a nothing speech.  I am rapidly becoming as adverse to BO as I am to HRC.  If Obama wants bipartisanship, it would help if he practiced what he preached.  He can start by taking the knife out of the backs of the Democratic base.  

by dkmich 2007-04-25 02:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Maybe Im just old-fashioned but I think the statement about the first job of the President is to protect the American people is just a simple, true statement.  HOW to do that is a bit more complicated.

To me, the biggest statement he made was that he would leave forces in Iraq to fight al queda.  This is similar to HRC's position.  I think it is just a horrible position to take.  We can never "defeat" al queda militarily there because our presence is drawing these people there.  So saying we will stay and fight them there is to say we will stay in that bloody mess forever.

by Andy Katz 2007-04-24 08:31AM | 0 recs
a President's first job - WRONG!

When the President takes the oath of office, he pledges to protect the Constitution. Nowhere in his oath or in the Constitution does it say anything about protecting the American people.

This type of erroneous statement serves to reinforce harmful conservative/authoritarian narratives of President as infallible all-protecting father figure. Yes, let's all surrender our rights to Glorious Leader who will keep us all safe. That's his job, right? WRONG!

by miasmo 2007-04-24 01:05PM | 0 recs
Re: a President's first job - WRONG!

Heh, I got into this argument on the previous thread...

The President is head of homeland security, in charge of the CIA, FBI, and INS. He's the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He's head of state and has power to make treaties with foreign nations. These are his responsiblities as head of the executive branch, as prescribed by the constitutional oath of office. They are also responsibilities that directly involve protecting the American people.

You're reading something into this statement that isn't there. Keeping ports secured and keeping tabs on suspected terrorists has nothing to do with "narratives" and a "Glorious Leader." It's about the President doing his damn job, nothing more.

by Korha 2007-04-24 01:18PM | 0 recs
Re: a President's first job - WRONG!

Security related issues are merely one facet of the President's job description. Elevating it to the single defining definition of Presidential leadership most certainly does advance an autoritarian narrative and agenda. Just look at the propaganda of all dictatorships. This is not complicated.

by miasmo 2007-04-24 01:26PM | 0 recs
Re: a President's first job - WRONG!

Well, I happen to think security is the single most important issue for the President to work on, of co-equal importance at least. Maybe you think a President declaring that he will try to keep the U.S. safe is an "authoritarian narrative," but I don't. As I said before, it's just him declaring that he will do his job.  

by Korha 2007-04-24 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: a President's first job - WRONG!

He didn't merely declare "that he will try to keep the U.S. safe." He said, "I believe that the single most important job of any President is to protect the American people." That's exactly what Bush has been saying since 9/11 and exactly the logic he has been using to justify every corrupt thing he's done and every right he's taken away and every violation of the constitution he's perpetrated.

by miasmo 2007-04-24 03:23PM | 0 recs
Re: a President's first job - WRONG!

Just because Bush used that logic doesn't mean that it's invalid. Obama clearly has a different vision of protecting the American people than Bush.

by jb1125 2007-04-24 07:11PM | 0 recs
Re: a President's first job - WRONG!

I agree with you.  And I think about 90% of the American people do too.

by Andy Katz 2007-04-24 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I totally agree, I think it's a horrible idea. Who thinks our troops are even capable of weeding out Al Qeada members in Iraq, we have not been successful in doing so thus far. If anyone can root them out, it is the Iraqi people. If their government stabalizes they'll have the best shot at pushing them out of the country. Plus, how many troops does Obama want to leave in Iraq? Since he says all combat brigades will be out, will the forces searching for Al Qeada members be logistical forces? I don't get it.

by Sarah Lane 2007-04-24 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

The alternative being...?

I don't want Dennis Kucinich to get the nomination, because I'm not some pseudo-socialist. Joe Biden? Yeah, maybe we can bore the insurgents into submission. Hillary Clinton? UH NO.

I'm totally on board with the whole TrueMajority train, advocating less military spending. Anyone who has objectively seen our budget would. Nonetheless, the military is still the most respected and trusted institution in US government, so why wouldn't politicians want to be associated with them?

by Brad ODonnell 2007-04-24 08:33AM | 0 recs

I dunno, integrity maybe? A commitment to fiscal responsibility? A concern for America beyond that necessary to get a majority of votes every four years?

Or is that pseudo-socialism?

by Englishlefty 2007-04-24 09:27AM | 0 recs
military spending

So you think that military spending is too high, but you have no problem with Obama calling for increasing it? How do you excuse this? Pandering to irrational self-destructive fear is fine and dandy as long as it's your guy doing the pandering?

Also, the alternatives you fail to mention are rather conspicuous: Edwards and Richardson.

by miasmo 2007-04-24 01:14PM | 0 recs
The most important job of the President
Should be to protect American democracy, not our lives.

But yeah, after 200 comments yesterday, going harsh in this post will start an, um, uh, argument. But like Josh, I basically agree.
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-24 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: The most important job of the President

It was a great discussion.

by Matt Stoller 2007-04-24 08:38AM | 0 recs
Re: The most important job of the President

"It's good speech, what I would expect from a brilliant neoliberal."

Matt, what happended to make the same speech that was good yesterday awful today?

by Kingstongirl 2007-04-24 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: The most important job of the President

I got my answer further downthread.

by Kingstongirl 2007-04-24 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Where I really take issue with Obama is something beyond the confines of this speech, and that has to do with whether or not he'll cave to the Robert Rubin crowd.  A man with that much interest in Goldman Sachs shouldn't have influence in the Clinton and Obama camps.  And Obama has not yet convinced us that he will do his part to wean us from neoliberal trade policies--an area that harms working families and our security insofar as it's tied to our reputation and treatment of poorer countries.

That said, in strictly national defense-related terms, what was said, as you yourself stated, was a "good speech, by a brilliant neoliberal".  Could you explain your 180-degree turnaround today in terms better than the first set of boxed quotes where the phrase "Kissinger told me we could" is used.  

In terms of being willing to use cash to support rehabilitation of the military, recruitment of better language skills, etc., that's a great start, and there's a lot of simple red meat.  However, I think you and I do share, ultimately the same skepticism:

What the hell is this guy going to do with the military industrial complex, private contractors, and the often damaging/manipulating role they play in determining defense policy?  I don't so much think Barack's interest in protecting the US and framing everything as a security issue is pernicious as it is insufficient.  This position makes electoral sense, and it's one effective way of further taking away from the GOP reputation.  But it doesn't go far enough.

Some Clark supporters, like myself, are sometimes and understandably accused of hero worship.  However, when it comes to crucial issues like this, he's already explicitly mentioned handling this problem, and not just by making gov't less corrupt.  His departmental knowledge, military experience lend to a person who would be very effective in reforming this mess.  That and at least 5 or 6 more Democratic senators would give reformers more leverage.  

These are my morning, not yet coffee-infused thoughts.  I don't mean to be caustic, but I really am curious to see more specifically what's at issue with other aspects of his speech here.

by IrishCatholicDemocrat 2007-04-24 08:37AM | 0 recs
He's already caved

Check out his energy "plan" that calls for reducing CO2 emissions from cars by a whopping 10% by 2020.

by Jim in Chicago 2007-04-24 08:40AM | 0 recs
Is that a bad target? n/t

by rashomon 2007-04-24 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Is that a bad target? n/t

It's pretty weak and most environmentalists say we need to go further to have any chance of reversing or at least halting the warming of the planet. But, heck, if any of the Dems beat the Repub it's better then doing nothing.

by Sarah Lane 2007-04-24 03:35PM | 0 recs
Re: He's already caved

I think 10% from cars by 2020 isn't too bad when you consider where we are today and how far we have to go in the next thirteen years.  It's taken more than a century to build the oil infrastructure, I don't think we can build an alternative energy structure overnight.  And that goes for every candidate with an energy plan, not just Obama.  I just want somebody to put forward something that is feasible and says what they are going to do in their time as President.  I don't want shots at the moon for 2050.

by KDJ 2007-04-24 10:32AM | 0 recs
If you don't mind all our coastal cities

being under water, then it's a fine target. If you actually want to prevent global disaster it's unacceptable.

by Jim in Chicago 2007-04-24 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: If you don't mind all our coastal cities

Hey, I live in Florida, this whole state's a coastal city.  ha ha ha.  But at the same time, I don't think there is anybody out there who thinks we can turn around our energy infrastructure in the next 10 years.  We can take steps, significant steps, but we are not going to have a wholesale change.  You are going to see cellulosic ethanol and smaller cars before you see solar cell and hydrogen.  I wish this wasn't the case, but it is.  The good thing is that every Democrat in this race understands we need change.  But at the same time, I'm not going to believe someone who says when they are President we are going to completely change the way we power our vehicles in 4 years.  That's not visionary, that's dishonest, and the last thing we need is more dishonesty from our President.

by KDJ 2007-04-24 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Could you explain your 180-degree turnaround today in terms better than the first set of boxed quotes where the phrase "Kissinger told me we could" is used.

I reread the speech and the discussion here.  And I realized, once again, that Obama is full of it.  The trade piece was particularly problematic.

by Matt Stoller 2007-04-24 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

The principles he cites in the one sentence he gives to trade are good principles--support American workers, don't throw out trade completely.  I guess I'm just waiting to hear more before I decide to throw in with him myself.  After having fully read and re-read the speech, I'm not so down on it as to say it's awful, it's just incomplete, and your criticisms touch on my own concerns.  If he can't prove that he'll do one better on fair trade, the military industrial complex, and something w/more teeth than this cap-and-trade foolishness, he'll probably end up losing my vote.

by IrishCatholicDemocrat 2007-04-24 08:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

In the one vote he has had on free trade, CAFTA he voted against it because he though it wasn't fair trade.

He talks about shrinking the military industrial complex.  He wants more soldiers, not more fancy gadgets that don't do anything.

Who would you turn to for something more than cap-and-trade?  I agree that we ought to do taxes and a cap-and-trade, but the only candidate who does is Dodd.

by Obama08 2007-04-24 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Obama08, I still like Obama best out of the crowd, I guess it comes down to this:  I'm being as selective as possible, while I have that opportunity in the primary.  I'm waiting to see where Barack stands on the South Korea trade deal, and I sincerely hope he's against renewing Bush's fasttrack authority.  He damn well should, knowing his record. And I do realize he voted against CAFTA.  He supported the Oman deal, and I can see the security rationale behind it, for certain--supporting it is, in some ways, as justifiable as his vote against CAFTA.

That said, when the American electorate as a whole (not the Dem electorate) is more receptive to bold environmental policies, we should push for it.  

As for now, I'm going to wait and see what BHO also wants to do more specifically vis-a-vis contractors.  My top choice, Wes Clark, hasn't entered, but I think is the best-equipped to deal with this.  But Barack seems to be of the same mind.

by IrishCatholicDemocrat 2007-04-24 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

But if he's not talking about it, one would assume that means he thinks it's not a big issue, as the status quo is more or less alright. Hence one can assume that the position is neoliberal.

by Englishlefty 2007-04-24 09:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I assume nothing in this case, but I am highly cautious.  And the burden of proof (regarding a more progressive trade stance) is on him.  

Let's also see what Barack decides to do on the South Korea deal.  Strategically speaking, it's good that we continue economic engagement with South Korea to either offset or modify China's influence, but the potential deal, as it stands now, does not look good.

by IrishCatholicDemocrat 2007-04-24 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

If someone gave you exactly the speech you wanted I'd bet that you would criticize that person as unelectable.

by sterra 2007-04-24 08:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

For me, it was Obama wanting to leave troops in Iraq to find Al Qeada members. We've been doing great on that front the last four years.

by Sarah Lane 2007-04-24 03:37PM | 0 recs
hero worship

Some Clark supporters, like myself, are sometimes and understandably accused of hero worship.

I find the hero worship aspect of many Clarkophiles to be a bit creepy. It has definitely turned me off to a Clark candidacy. I don't detect any such hero-worship in your comments though. I'm sure there are many good reasons to recommend a Clark candidacy. I guess it's all rather moot if he doesn't run. I don't think he has the luxury that Gore would have of getting in late.

by miasmo 2007-04-24 01:35PM | 0 recs
Re: hero worship

The cult of personality garbage is something I've seen with just about any viable candidate for the upcoming presidential election.  Similarly, I'm already weary of seeing it for Obama, Edwards, and even Richardson.  It hasn't turned me off to any one candidacy, god forbid one should give online commenters that kind of influence.  One bigger concern is that it takes time away from examining crucial differences between guys like Edwards and Obama on trade policy.  After all, post-Bush I want a neoliberal like I need a hole in my head.

 Clark doesn't seem to have the vast amount of funding and infrastructural support that Gore does, but the flipside of the strong admiration for Clark's candidacy is that he has a pretty robust core following.  

Frankly, he and Gore are best acquainted with our national security institutions, which is issue number 1, for me.  I'm not counting out Clark, but this waiting time is a bit frustrating.

by IrishCatholicDemocrat 2007-04-24 02:28PM | 0 recs
But Barack is a DIFFERENT kind of politician

who makes a DIFFERENT kind of strawman argument. [/snark]

Just ask his esteeemed campaign spokesman, Robert Gibbs -- the guy behind the "Osama bin Laden" ad in Iowa that said Howard Dean couldn't compete with Bush on foreign policy: /22/134458/142 (Obviously, Gibbs signed on with Obama because of his foreign policy brilliance and experience.)

by Jim in Chicago 2007-04-24 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

If that's the single most important job --- and I'm not saying I disagree --- then he should get out of the race because he's patently underqualified.  

I don't like people using national security as cover to lavishly spend on the military without sense, but I do like Clark's talking about global warming as a national security issue, helping to draw new people to the issue, and making Republican congressmen who vote against it look weak on security.

by catherineD 2007-04-24 08:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Clark can allow himself some creative freedom when it comes to defense. He was the Supreme Allied Commander of history's most powerful military alliance, for Christ's sake.

Obama was not. And he needs to be (and is) aware of the intense focus many Americans have on defense. We could argue that America's obsession with defense is a farce propagated by Republicans and the MSM and that Obama is just playing into their hands. So the questions remains, do we want a protest candidate to take the unpopular, yet righteous stance? Or do we want a Democratic President?

I say lets push the candidates to the wall on health care, the environment and wealth distribution - but not on defense. It's a losing battle this time around.

by LandStander 2007-04-24 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

If talking about defence cuts is bad politics (which I'm not convinced of), that doesn't mean you should talk about rises in the military budget instead. It means you should shut up and not allow the military budget to become a campaign issue.

by Englishlefty 2007-04-24 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

So, you suggest waiting for Giuliani or McCain to make it a campaign issue? Yes, let's let a world-renowed crime fighter and a prisoner of war set THAT debate.

by LandStander 2007-04-24 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Sure, then you attack them on the grounds of fiscal irresponsibility. Make a few wingnut heads explode. Particularly if phrased the right way, so you're talking about increasing the pay of servicemen whilst cutting Halliburton off from the tap.

Failing that, since I still don't see the logic to calling for increases in military spending when you believe it's already quite high enough, just ignore their statements on that issue. Debate a stronger issue.

by Englishlefty 2007-04-24 04:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech
For a completely different take on Obama's speech,
and a hugely optimistic one, try today's Andrew Sullivan blog.
by Cismontane 2007-04-24 08:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Oh dear God!!!!!!

by clarkent 2007-04-24 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

thanks, I updated the post.

by Matt Stoller 2007-04-24 08:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Sullivan reaffirms my opinion of him as a complete idiot. Anybody who starts off by talking about Carter-style passivity clearly doesn't have a clue. He's just thirsting for an anti-Clinton candidate, and he can project enough of his own views onto Obama to make him develop a man-crush. He did the same thing with Bush in 2000.

by clarkent 2007-04-24 09:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Or Kevin Drum's at the Washington Monthly, from yesterday: es/individual/2007_04/011180.php

Key quote:
"But even with that caveat, it was pretty good. Obama hit a lot of the right notes, offered more policy specifics than he had to, and set a good tone. Not bad for a guy who supposedly has no foreign policy experience."

I always appreciate Drum's analysis, and he's not quite overtaken by, ahem, histrionics.

by Nasara 2007-04-24 08:52AM | 0 recs
Yeah, Sullly's

on the Obama bandwagon. Obama has also attracted praise from Joe Klein, David Brooks, Marty Peretz, and Thomas Friedman. How long until Dean Broder offers his seal of approval?

Obama might want to think about appealing to, I don't know, progressives? Or at least Democrats?

Obama is the champion of moderate conservatives and extreme centrists. A bad sign for both the viability and quality of his campaign.

by david mizner 2007-04-24 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Yeah, Sullly's

So now Democrats = Matt Stoller and David Mizner. I am sorry but Obama is firmly within the Democratic mainstream. You are not. (And neither am I on certain issues like global warming where I favor a more radical approach)

by Populism2008 2007-04-24 01:58PM | 0 recs
Fair enough

Yes, sure, he's a mainstream Dem--I shouldn't haver suggested he wasn't--but I haven't seen a lot of true-blue progressives praising him of late, and I can't imagine that this speech or his moves on the environment are going to help him much. Now, you don't need the editors of the Nation on board to win the Primary, especially when you have alot of support among African-Americans, but can you alientate large swaths of the activist base? We'll find out.

by david mizner 2007-04-24 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

This was his big unveil?  What's that noise? thud

by Vox Populi 2007-04-24 08:45AM | 0 recs

you mean you didn't like it?  What a shock!

Less snarky question:  How would you think that Edwards would differ in some of these areas?  What would his foreign policy speech sound like?

by rashomon 2007-04-24 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Oh...

I'll be honest and say I think they would sound similar.

It's not that I didn't like it so much as this was the vaunted Obama unveil, his first major policy, and it's a retread of the Carter years.  I would have liked his first major policy speech to be innovative and bold, like the Edwards plan for Universal Health Care.

Maybe Obama will catch fire soon, but so far... it's been boring.

by Vox Populi 2007-04-24 09:55AM | 0 recs
That's fair.

Appreciate your candor.  I would expect an Edwards speech to perhaps focus a bit more specifically on global poverty, but I would also imagine the central thrusts would be similar.

by rashomon 2007-04-24 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Oh...

There are some key differences in foreign policy when it comes to Edwards and Obama. Obama wants to leave troops in Iraq to root out Al Qeada. Edwards only wants troops left in Iraq to guard the American Embassy, and if needed humanitarian forces to support recontruction. Edwards wants to negotiate a deal with Iran and help provide them with nuclear energy in exchange for a halt to their weapons program. Obama said he's like to "aggressively" engage diplomatically with Iran and North Korea. Obama said he'd like to help provide nulcear energy for third world countries, and I haven't heard from Edwards on that. Obama and Hillary are planning to keep going with nuclear energy here at home while Edwards would like to get off of nuclear energy and on to solar and wind. Edwards wants to renegotiate NAFTA and implement strict labor and environmental guidelines as a way to keep our corporations honest and help alleviate poverty and horrid employment practices around the globe. I'm not sure what Obama wants to do with NAFTA. They both want to get a hold of loose nukes, and Obama seems a little more intent on beefing up the military while Edwards seems more focused on securing our borders and beefing up security at our ports. There's so much more.....

by Sarah Lane 2007-04-24 03:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Soaring rhetoric?  Light on substance?  Not ready for prime-time?  YES!  YES!  YES!

by JoeCHI 2007-04-24 08:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

That's one criticism I can wholeheartedly agree with. Maybe us high-info voters are never satisfied, but I need about 20 pages of additional details before I can really judge Obama's approach.

In particular, I think we all want to know a great deal more about how Obama will approach international trade, how this will factor into his defense policy, and how it will be different than everything that came before.

Sadly, when the details are lacking we can only assume this plan is No Different than what has come before.

by LandStander 2007-04-24 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

It was already a 40 minute speech.  I have no doubt that more details will be forthcoming on specific issues, this was intended to be a relatively broad overview of his foreign policies.

by Obama08 2007-04-24 09:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Exactly.  It was a speech and most of them are heavy on rhetoric and light on substance.  The only speeches I can think of that were heavy on policy were Bill Clinton's State of the Unions and I couldn't watch them b/c they went on too long.

I liked some things, disliked others and am waiting to hear more.

by John Mills 2007-04-24 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

He said that our military force isn't properly equipped to deal with international problems... what is so wrong with that?  Don't we want our troops to be well equipped and home?  What is the problem with leaving some small force, most likely special ops, in Iraq.  We are not going to be a police force, but we will specifically target large scale threats to try to prevent a complete collapse of the region.

When people talk about an isolationist wing of the party this is who they are talking about!  I'm hearing: we should not trade with other countries unless it involves them buying our goods at our prices and us blocking them from importing cheaper goods, we should have a smaller army - because the army is bad, we should leave Iraq now no matter what the consequences are for the world, and oh by the way it was a bad speech because I say so.

The way you paraphrase his speech is patently dishonest.  He doesn't say that we should solve all world problems through contractors as you've said.  Particularly where he talked about nuclear proliferation where he essentially said it was too important to be dealt with by non-state entities.

I'm sorry, but this post is utterly repulsive and the knee-jerk reaction which you have to Obama limits your ability to do any analysis.  I'm sorry but this post is just a hit piece.  It doesn't contain any reasonable analysis nor does it have any real basis in fact.  I'm going to get flamed and likely troll rated for posting this here, but an attempt at an even-keeled analysis would have been appreciated.

by Obama08 2007-04-24 08:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

What is the problem with leaving some small force, most likely special ops, in Iraq.

They don't want us there.  America shouldn't be an imperial power.

Thanks for your comment, it's not trollish at all.  Perhaps my rhetoric was hot, but there's analysis there.

by Matt Stoller 2007-04-24 09:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

A strike force an imperial power does not make.

It is clear what he is talking about isn't 10s of thousands of troops sitting in the green zone waiting for a car bomb.  He realizes that al qaeda wants to keep Iraq off balance, that power vacuum allows their national allies such as Iran to come in as a stabilizing force.  A strike force and conventional intelligence gathering operation is what we need.  It limits the loss of life on all sides and allows the Iraqi government and Iraqi people to create stability without our interference.

by Obama08 2007-04-24 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Imperial power is any position of power over several states maintained by force. A strike force qualifies by that definition, it's just more subtle.

I'm not necessarily opposed to an imperial power, if it's relatively benevolent (which is why in practice I'm opposed in most circumstances - with great power comes vastly diminished tolerance for minor annoyances), but I don't see what keeping a strike force in Iraq will accomplish, aside from killing the occasional insurgent leader who'll be replaced within weeks. You can't crush a terror campaign once it reaches a certain level of support, you can only remove its support so that it becomes neutralised, which can only be done by either a) political means or b) a campaign of extermination.

by Englishlefty 2007-04-24 09:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I am struggling with what to do about troops in Iraq.  We obviously need to get our combat troops out as they are targets but since we have now turned Iraq into the new terrorist training ground, I want to avoid the camps there from becoming the next Afghanistan.  Does that mean special forces/covert ops?  I don't know but I am not totally willing to rule it out.

Reading Richard Clarke's book you realize how many opportunities we missed to get Al Qaeda/Bin Laden and how 9/11 could might have been prevented.  I want to avoid making that mistake again.

by John Mills 2007-04-24 09:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Iraqi's would be able to root out Al Qeada members if their government is able to stabalize. The fact of the matter is our troops cannot root out Al Qeada. We'll end up accidentally killing innocent Iraqis, or we'll end up incarcerating innocent Iraqis. Everytime we supposedly "hit" an Al Qeada strong hold we killed innocent Iraqis. We don't know the language, we don't know who to trust, our troops have thus far been unsuccessful at rooting out Al Qeada. Honestly, I'm really surprised that Obama would adopt such an idea. Is it true that Hillary believes the same thing?

by Sarah Lane 2007-04-24 03:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

They don't want us there.  America shouldn't be an imperial power.

If we're out completely and the government (such that it is) collapses, isn't that a bad outcome?  Why does some troop presence necessarily mean "permanent occupation"?

Which do you think the regional players (other than Iran) are more afraid of...too much American presence, or not enough?

I don't understand the tendency to look at every problem in the "American Imperialism" box.  It's possible to use American power in such a way that it gains support from local populations and players.

by rashomon 2007-04-24 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Addressing the argument, If we leave the government will collapse and chaos will be worse than it is now. Assumption: We are maintaining the peace and security.

One of the lessons of leaving Vietnam: We left. No special forces were left to keep the peace. The North took over the South. The civil war was resolved, not as we wanted it. Now we are trading partners.

One of the lessons of our own civil war:

by mrobinsong 2007-04-24 12:58PM | 0 recs
It's not an issue of centrist versus liberal

I vastly prefered Richardson's speech last month, and Richardson's by and large more centrist than Obama on just about everything (though not, apparently, on weapons of mass destruction).  It's an issue of new, fresh ideas versus tired, old, repackaged ideas.

Seriously, another few speeches like this and we'll start seeing DC insiders abandoning Hillary for Obama because he's the "safest" candidate in the race.  And then consummate DC insider Richardson will become the full-fledged darling of the liberal activist community, and we can all sing "The World Turned Upside Down."

by Nonpartisan 2007-04-24 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I disagree with a lot of the direction we have gone on national security, globalization, etc. but I also realize we are too far along to change much of that now. Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Richardson or any other nominee will continue in that direction as will any GOP nominee. Clinton, Obama, etc. will not start new wars and will get us out of Iraq but they will still protect international interests (i.e. oil) in a similar way as the GOP but hopefully will do so in a competent manner compared to Bush.

The major differences between the parties will be about things such as healthcare, environment, constitutional rights, etc. where there are sharp differences between Democrats and the GOP.  

by robliberal 2007-04-24 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

FWIW, Obama has been talking with Colin Powell:

As he prepared for the Democrats' first presidential debate, Sen. Barack Obama sought advice from a wide circle, including, I am told, Gen. Colin Powell, who now deeply regrets his role in making the case for war in Iraq...

I am told that Powell and Obama have talked more than once, urged to do so by mutual friends. Powell has had a history of offering his expertise to anyone who is interested, but especially fellow African-Americans, since there aren't many blacks in the top ranks of the foreign policy establishment (besides Powell, they include Secretary of State Condi Rice, of course, and former UN Ambassador Donald McHenry).

by tparty 2007-04-24 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

It is a good thing that he is talking to Colin Powell.  I even think Powell would make a great and transformational VP candidate with Obama.  Let's see the Republicans deal with that.  

You guys have to get more specific about what in this speech is making you so upset.  It seems pretty sensible and realistic to me.    

by mboehm 2007-04-24 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I would not want Colin Powell within a million miles of a Democratic administration.

by robliberal 2007-04-24 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Please explain why you feel this way.  Colin Powell is a great American who worked himself up from nothing to become Secretary of State.  He is only a nominal Republican who is not partisan.  This is what Obama is all about.  The February, 2003 UN speech was a mistake (which Powell has admitted) but this appearance had no real impact on what actually happened- he was being loyal to the President.  He could play a key role in restoring the reputation of the United States because he is still widely respected both domestically and internationally.  He would replace Cheney who is his nemesis.  Daschle or Warner would be solid picks but Powell would be a home run.  

by mboehm 2007-04-24 04:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

He has no credibility after Iraq.

by robliberal 2007-04-24 07:11PM | 0 recs
Protecting the US Constitution is the #1 job.

The President swears an oath to defend and protect that. Of course, the supporters of the national security state want to re-write that oath, because a free people are harder to persuade to back a national security state than a nation of children being watched over by Big Daddy.

by BruceMcF 2007-04-24 09:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Who'd have thought Obama would turn out to be a NeoCon?

by Liberal Avenger 2007-04-24 09:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

The first candidate to actually answer the question of the most important job of the President to be "protect the Constitution" will get my support and my vote.  I'm so sick of this "I'm here to protect you from all the baddies out there" crap.

by tomanjeri 2007-04-24 09:15AM | 0 recs
The two most striking things about the speech

1. Obama barely talked about promoting human rights around the world. I mean, the phrase human rights does not appear. Herdoes say this:

"Delivering on these universal aspirations requires basic sustenance like food and clean water; medicine and shelter. It also requires a society that is supported by the pillars of a sustainable democracy - a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force."

Fair enough, but how do we promote these things? He doesn't say. What is the progressive alternative to the neocon liberation-through-invasion model? Are human rights important enough to warrant more than a passing mention?

2. Second, it's amazing how little the lessons of Iraq informed his speech:

"No President should ever hesitate to use force - unilaterally if necessary - to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened. But when we use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others - the kind of burden-sharing and support President George H.W. Bush mustered before he launched Operation Desert Storm."

So when should we use force? he doesn't say.

A bad speech, and I'm guardedly optimistic that Edwards will offer something better, especially on point number one.

by david mizner 2007-04-24 09:17AM | 0 recs
His buddy Lieberman probably consulted

Maybe he got pointers on foreign policy from his friend Joe Lieberman.

by dpANDREWS 2007-04-24 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: The two most striking things about the speech

He did talk about doubling foreign aid as one of the center pieces of the speech, but I guess that doesn't count for anything, right?  

It was ONE speech that tried to lay out an overarching philosophy.  Do you really think the "omissions" your citing are that important?  

by HSTruman 2007-04-24 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: The two most striking things about the speech

Yeah, I think there's nothing more important than telling us when he would take us to war and how to promote human rights in a non-interventionist way. That's what I would want to hear from a presidential contender.

And foreign aid is good but it doesn't amount to a plan for spreading human rights.

by david mizner 2007-04-24 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: The two most striking things about the speech

Edwards will undoubtedly want to talk about foreign policy in moral terms, leveraging his populism and background as a trial lawyer... drawing the contrast between two Americas, and two Worlds. I expect human rights will feature quite prominently in his eventual policy platform, as well as trade and corporate issues, though I doubt he'll disavow preemptive war.

I want to push back a little against the sentiments of most people here. I get the sense the left wants, as Matt Stoller says, "a new vision for foreign policy," that the old one is somehow discredited by the Bush Administration and the invasion of Iraq. It's not quite clear what they want to replace it with, but let's state general principles as follows: the rejection of war on other nations; policy determined by moral arguments from good and evil, not national interest or advantage; and a definitive framing of both foreign and domestic policy not as nation vs. nation, but the people vs. the powerful.

Is it fair to state things that way?

Of course, this is hardly a "new vision," either, and it has a long and storied history. And I argue that it is, potentially, a dangerous vision. The danger is in getting too detached from reality, too attached to various narratives and frames, too caught up in the stories that we've created for ourselves, in ideas and in idealogy.

The strength of Barack Obama's speech, I would say, is precisely its pragmatism, its calculation and cold assessment of the world as it really is. There are moralistic elements, of course, as well a story of its own: American exceptionalism, American leadership, the American moment. But it's clear the narrative is in service of the reality, not the other way around.

The reality is that in a globalized world places of conflict and despotism present a direct threat to U.S. security. The reality is that the U.S. cannot afford to retreat into itself. So you craft a narrative of America as a benevolent force so that you have the moral authority to go on the offensive against third-world poverty and Islamic fundamentalism alike. You craft a narrative of human rights, and inherent human dignity, so that America is more safe.

Yes, everything IS a security issue. That's the world we live in today. And I don't particularly want a bold new vision, a new world order. I want a clear-eyed, smart President who understands the moment that we are in, and who calls for a return to the old internationalist system that was abandoned by Bush but which still holds the most promise for a peaceful planet. I want a President that makes the world a more secure place, not a less secure one.

What I don't want most of all is a evangelist sitting in the Oval Office, a self-styled prophet of extremist idealogy. The last seven years have taught me that much.  

by Korha 2007-04-24 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: The two most striking things about the speech

Oh, and I want to add I am somewhat playing devil's advocate here.

In terms of my personal viewpoint, I don't believe that the international system that was erected in the aftermath of World War II should be abandoned. It should be reformed, of course; but it is still the best framework in which nations can live together and meet common threats. The key here is that the Bush doctrine was incredibly radical, a break from the past, and we need to return to what worked and still works. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And Obama made this point in his speech.

Obviously human rights are important too, but we can't just think about human rights. We gotta think about specifics, and details, and be realistic and pragmatic. This applies to any broader idealogy, foreign or domestic policy. So I fully endorse Obama's pragmatism.

by Korha 2007-04-24 10:17AM | 0 recs
Re: The two most striking things about the speech

I disagree with this point of view and the points then that follow:

"The reality is that in a globalized world places of conflict and despotism present a direct threat to U.S. security."

Shorter: Places of conflict in the world are a direct threat to us. Despots in the world are a direct threat to us. These are 50-year cultural assumptions that need to be fed yearly, at least, with fresh evidence. There's plenty of evidence that border disputes around the world have had no impact whatsoever on our borders or economy. Most wars kill twice as many civilians as soldiers, so my view sees that civilians, women and children, are the ones most threatened by conflict.

As to most despots, most don't threaten our borders, peace and prosperity. Many are our friends and allies.    

You asked above, "Is it fair to state things that way?" It's not how I would describe the change I want to see in foreign policy. As a progressive I'm enamored of rule of law, sticking to the rules of the game, and checking with referees for fairness.

We should return to the International laws and treaties that we have agreed to and enshrined in our own laws. Our Constitution says that treaties have the force of law. There has been way too much fudging, in earlier administrations too, on our obligations to follow our agreements within the United Nations. That's where I'd ask our candidates to start a debate on foreign policy.

What is your evidence that the Constitution allows / forbids the president to make war? Or send forces into another country? or invade another country? Is there a difference between making war, invading, or sending forces? What does the United Nations allow you or disallow you to do with making war or making threats of war?

This is a debate I'd like to see.

by mrobinsong 2007-04-24 01:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I do believe that would be the most accurate breakdown of this speech.

by Obama08 2007-04-24 09:29AM | 0 recs
Barry Obama is like a marshmellow

He is soft and fluffy.  He lacks substance.  The more he is forced to focus on real issues he is going to get hurt.  2 years in the Senate is simply not enough time for even a bright guy like himself to get up to speed on things like foreign policy.

Three years ago his biggest concern was making sure the potholes in his district were getting fixed.

Obama and Edwards are two guys like might look back someday and decide they shot themselves in the foot by moving forward to fast.

by dpANDREWS 2007-04-24 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Barry Obama is like a marshmellow

There is a lot of truth to the fact that both Obama and Edwards are light on experience.  

I have often thought that since Obama wants to be Prez, if he doesn't make this time he should run for Gov of Illinois in 2010 and get exec experience.  

This is Edwards last shot so either he makes it or moves on.

by John Mills 2007-04-24 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Barry Obama is like a marshmellow

yeah so lets go with Hillary becuae Obama and Edwards moved up too fast, look at all that experience Hillary has, fucking up health care reform and voting for the Iraq war. Just what we need.

by nevadadem 2007-04-24 09:44AM | 0 recs
She did what to heath care?


by dpANDREWS 2007-04-24 09:48AM | 0 recs
Re: She did what to heath care?

Hillary largely killed the momentum towards health care reform in the early 90's with her disasterous plan.

The plan was awful because the main goal of the plan was to maintain the profits of the HMO's and the Insurance companies.  Hillary and Bill have always agreed that money in their campaign pockets is priority number 1.

So, Hillary came up with this massively complicated plan that no one besides an insurance company lawyer could understand.  It made an easy target to shoot down.

And since then, any real efforts at health care reform have died.  Considering the amount of money the Clinton's get from HMO's and insurance companies, I doubt they cry over that very often.

Hillary killed the real momentum towards an efficient single payer plan for a decade.

And I notice there's nothing different about this campaign either.  She wouldn't touch them money going towards HMOs and Insurance companies.

The only difference with Hillary is that the people who run the HMO's and insurance companies would be her guests in the Lincoln bedroom.  For average workers, Hillary won't do @#$@# to help.

by COBear 2007-04-24 10:03AM | 0 recs
Congress and the Republicans factor where?

Where do they factor in your universe?

by dpANDREWS 2007-04-24 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: She did what to heath care?
Tens of millions of children have universal healthcare in the United States because of Hillary Clinton through a program called CHIPS. There was tremendous opposition to UHC during the 1990's and there is tremendous opposition today.
She did at least get millions more covered in the largest expansion since New Deal days. If you want to blame someone for not having UHC try blaming the healthcare, drug, and insurance interests they are the big obstacle.
by robliberal 2007-04-24 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: She did what to heath care?

Very well said.

by John Mills 2007-04-24 02:03PM | 0 recs
Re: She did what to heath care?

I worked on health reform in the early 1990s and tons of mistakes were made on the effort.  However, single payer was never, ever a reality at the time.  HR 1300, the McDermott single payer bill, had 90 co-sponsors at most in the House.  You need 218 to pass a bill in the House so do the math.

The Clinton's were the first politicians in about a quarter century to even attempt to bring universal coverage to this country.  They made a ton of mistakes both through hubris and by being niave.  They met a lot of opposition but they deserve some credit for going where most politicians just talk.

by John Mills 2007-04-24 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I could support Obama, Ewards or Richardson with equal enthusiasm.  But I do not expect them to advocate any real change in the use of the American military.  Neither party has the ability to change that.

The US has become the world's police force to enforce America's conceptions of human rights, free trade and democracy.  This militarism problem is so thoroughly entrenched it will take more than a democratic politician to change things.  Perhaps a devastating military defeat (say loss of couple of aircraft carrier task forces) or financial collapse could stimulate change.

However, having said that our leaders are helpless in the face of military-industrial complex, I applaud Matt for continuing to bring up these criticisms.  We must continue this discussion for that day in the future when this country will be ready to reevaluate its role in the world.

(yes Kucinich says many of the right things but he is simply not a viable candidate for reasons of his personality and appearance).

by syvanen 2007-04-24 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

So, you want change ... but you continue to support the candidates who won't give you change ... and you dis the one candidate who's talking about the change you want because you don't like his appearence.


Does it ever occur that maybe the way to get the change you want is to stop supporting the candidates who oppose that change?

by COBear 2007-04-24 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

You mean supporting Nader?

by Populism2008 2007-04-24 02:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Good post Matt.

I see this speach as trying to placate the powers that be in DC and as such there are no ideas just the same broad statements that most everyone repeats.  There's no getting to the heart of what Americans worry about.  No insight.

So of course he states Rubinomics.  He doesn't know better.  Like he doesn't know better on Iraq or Russia or everything else he talked about.

Nothin' new here folks.  Show's over... move along.


by Working Class in Oregon 2007-04-24 09:38AM | 0 recs

I disagree.  

This was a good and useful speech because it presents an alternative to the foreign policy of these past six years.  

What was striking is the contrast between this speech and how most foreign policy issues are discussed today.  There is no us vs them, no "war on terror".  Rather, Obama applies the value of "we're all in it together" to the world as a whole.  He also changes the role of the U.S.  He presents our role as not just pursuing our national interests while ignoring all other interests (as Bush would have it) but to be leaders in the interconnected world.  In short he answers "How does the U.S. act in this post-9-11 world?"  

The answer may not be surprising for those of us on Dem blogs and I'm not sure if this was a useful speech in a Democratic primary campaign.  That said, whether it came from Obama or any other of our Dem candidates, I'm very glad to hear an alternate foreign policy vision articulated.  I hope the speech is heard and discussed widely.

by kiwing 2007-04-24 09:38AM | 0 recs
Now we know why Obama was reluctant... get down to brass tacks.

by MeanBoneII 2007-04-24 09:40AM | 0 recs

Please explain what Edwards would have said differently.

by rashomon 2007-04-24 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

So we shouldn't criticise one mealy-mouthed candidate who won't say anything useful but who looks good on TV because there's another mealy-mouthed candidate who also won't say anything useful but who looks good on TV?

Easy answer ...don't ever vote for either of them.

by COBear 2007-04-24 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

Who should we vote for? The Green party candidate?

Some posts here are so out of touch I cannot believe it. The choice is between fascism and mainstrean liberalism, not between fascism and utopian socialism.

by Populism2008 2007-04-24 02:07PM | 0 recs
An accurate "shortened version"

Obama's 5-Point `American Moment'

1.) The first way America will lead is by bringing a responsible end to this war in Iraq and refocusing on the critical challenges in the broader region.

2.) The second way America will lead again is by building the first truly 21st century military and showing wisdom in how we deploy it.

3.) The third way America must lead again is by marshalling a global effort to meet a threat that rises above all others in urgency - securing, destroying, and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

4.) That's why the fourth way America must lead is to rebuild and construct the alliances and partnerships necessary to meet common challenges and confront common threats.

5.) The fifth way America will lead again is to invest in our common humanity - to ensure that those who live in fear and want today can live with dignity and opportunity tomorrow.

by JoeCoaster 2007-04-24 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: An accurate "shortened version"

Thank you.  This is a great deal more accurate to the intention and the text of the speech.

by Obama08 2007-04-24 09:53AM | 0 recs
Re: An accurate "shortened version"

Points out how completely Obama copies Kerry's speaking style ... says alot, sounds nice, but you have no idea what he said when he's done ... that someone has to make this list after the speech.

It was hard as heck to get this even from reading the text.  I never did find point 4.  Just a lot of rambling talk that somehow moved through that between points 3 and 5.

And its all a waste of hot air.  Nothing real here folks.

by COBear 2007-04-24 10:06AM | 0 recs
Re: An accurate "shortened version"

Just because someone says something you don't agree with, doesn't mean he didn't say anything.

It's clear from your other posts in this thread that you understand exactly what Obama was saying, and you don't like it. So stop pretending otherwise.

Also, I think the speech was well constructed, and most people agree. Where the disagreement is, is on the substance. Let's engage on that level instead of acting willfully ignorant.

by Korha 2007-04-24 01:33PM | 0 recs
Re: An accurate "shortened version"

I'm for boosting up our national guard and taking care of our vets, but how is Obama going to boost our military and give us UHC? It seems to me we can't boost the military like he seems to want to and provide UHC. Maybe he'll unveil how he'll pay for it all. Personally, I like Edwards ideas of boosting the national guard, border security, taking care of vets, and rolling back the Bush Tax Cuts to pay for UHC. It seems reasonable, and I think our country can afford it, especially when we're out of Iraq and not paying millions every month. Obama, on the other hand wants to create a 21st century military, will he be able to help us at home while starting such a venture?

by Sarah Lane 2007-04-24 04:03PM | 0 recs
Re: An accurate "shortened version"

I'd locate the big problem in point 5 - dignity is a polite way of saying "We acknowledge your humanity, but we're not going to do anything substantial to stop you being screwed into the ground".

by Englishlefty 2007-04-24 04:54PM | 0 recs
Re: An accurate "shortened version"

I hadn't realized that was the definition of dignity.  I'll try to stop treating people with dignity then.

by Obama08 2007-04-24 05:25PM | 0 recs
What's your alternative?

What exactly is the "populist" alternative to this?  

I'm not sure what you were waiting for -- Dawes Plan disarmament/foreign aid meets Smoot-Hawley tariffs meets international, unenforceable Wagner Act?

The collapse of the Berlin Wall precipitated a gigantic spike in the labor supply and corresponding collapse of labor's bargaining power relative to capital. Putting up our own tariff walls may play well with the hoi polloi, but that's not going to change the reality on the ground...

I am tired of all the manufacturing barons and unions who say, "No, we aren't against free trade, except in instances 1, 2, 3, ... 99999, which is why furriner competition is unfair, and why we should get tariffs/ quotas/ prohibitive regulations, for the safety of America, and coincidentally to save our jobs."

by jforshaw 2007-04-24 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Obama continues to amaze me with his ability to talk and talk and talk, and to never actually say anything.

Obama's style is much like Kerry's. Lots of talk that sounds good on the surface.  Then, when you try to go back and see what he really said, you realize that all that was there was a bunch of talk that sounded good on the surface.

Wow, he's figured out WMD's are bad.  That's a bold and radical position!

And, even more worrying to someone who thinks the Pentagon gets way too much of our national treasure as it is, his call for a "21st Century military" sounds very dangerous .... assuming that its anything more than just a sound bite that scored good in the focus groups that obviously wrote this speach.

So, Obama thinks the answer is more high-tech weapons?  Even though we already hae a massive tech superiority over anyone we'd fight, and it obviously isn't doing us much good when we do get into a fight.  So, more Pentagon boon-doggles on expensive high-tech weapons .... when we live in a world where anyone we fight is likely to be a poor resistance movement somewhere.  Just Brilliant!

Add this to Obama's statements jumping on the "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" train  ... and he's moving quickly from someone who's highly annoying in his constant sounding like a focus group from hell ... to someone who looks like they'll continue the same dangerous course we've been on since 1991.

I'm convinced we need a serious change of direction in this country.  And, like almost the rest of the Democratic Party, Obama is massively failing the test.  I'm sure this will boost his contributions from defense contractors who want to build that boondoggle of a "21st century military", but to me Obama is rapidly becoming yet another Democrat whom I simply will not EVER vote for.

by COBear 2007-04-24 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Simply put, I don't agree with you. Did you ever consider the reason we have a consensus that WMD is a big threat is because...  WMD is actually a big threat?

It's amazing how you can dismiss Obama's good work on nuclear proliferation, for example, solely because it's not "bold and radical." We don't need or want a bold new radical position on WMD (what the hell would that even be?), we just need the guy in the oval office to actually take a very serious issue seriously.

Clearly you've just failed to comprehend Obama's point about the 21st century military. He explicitly states in the speech that new century conflicts demands not high-tech weapons, but boots on the ground, which is why he wants to expand the military. I actually am not sure if I agree with this approach, but that is the approach.

Finally, it's quite amazing to me how you think that "we need a serious change of direction in this country... [Obama will] continue the same dangerous course we've been on since 1991." Yeah, everything were just going great BEFORE 1991, weren't they? Never mind that 1991 marked the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, that insignificant conflict and insignificant country. No, that's not important. It's AFTER 1991 where things REALLY started to go wrong.


by Korha 2007-04-24 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

President Rudy G thanks you, and so do the radicals that he will send to the Supreme Court.

by Populism2008 2007-04-24 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Right on!

by Nancy Bordier 2007-04-24 06:06PM | 0 recs
You thought the speech was "horrible?"

Matt -- I understand that you object to some of Obama's specific policy positions, but did you really think this speech was terrible?  In your initial post you said there was "a lot to like" as well as a lot to be critical of.  Now it seems like you've dropped the first part of your analysis.  

In light of the fact that I also thought the first post sparked useful conversation, I'm curious as to why you now seem to be coming down so firmly in denouncing the speech.  Also, I question whether it's useful in framing the disagreements you have with the speech as "progressive" vs. "centrist."  I consider myself part of the progressive movement, but I don't think it's good to look at foreign policy decisions from an ideological perspective at all.  I think that gets people into trouble whether the ideology in question comes from the right, center, or left.  

Finally, what's with knocking Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton's  respective approaches to foreign policy?  I actually think both did a pretty good job on that front, especially in comparison to GWB.  Sure, neither fundamentally changed the military establishment but that's a pretty daunting goal to accomplish that involves reigning in not only powerful special interst groups but also navigating the electoral interests of our own caucus.  Pretty high bar to set, no?    

by HSTruman 2007-04-24 09:57AM | 0 recs
Which is what he said.

It's amazing how different people can listen to the same speech and reach radically different conclusions.  I really don't understand how it's possible to come away from that speech and think that Obama's not saying "stick when necessary, carrot when possible".

by rashomon 2007-04-24 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I'm having a hard time actually taking his speech seriously, because it was just so awful.

Matt, I respect your opinion, but it's pretty hard to take a statement like that as anything other than hyperbolic nonsense.  Awful?  Really?  It was, at worst, a safe speech.  But it was decent-crafted and well-delivered.  And it's received praise from many corners, not just the Andrew Sullivans of the world.  

We all tend to overanalyze foreign policy and demand that politicians pay lip service to the exact policy position we endorse. But in reality, there are only two types of politicians when it comes to foreign policy--sensible internationalists and ideologues.  Obama is clearly the former, and frankly, I find it hard to believe that there would be any really difference between the foreign policy of an Obama administration, an Edwards Administration, or a Clinton administration. What we need is someone who is sensible, who will surround him or herself with other sensible, open-minded people, and be able to articulate his/her sensible policies to the American people and the world.  

Obama's speech, while not bold, was eloquent and sensible.  Before anything can change, we need to get someone sensible into office, and Obama's speech, while not crafted to check off every box on the MYDD policy checklist, was crafted to appeal to a wide subset of the population, from liberals to sensible conservatives and independents.  Obama will need all those people's support to win, as well as the support of at least some of the liberal/centrist media.  

I think you've set the bar far to high for any actual contender to reach.  I also think you vastly overstate the importance of the relatively minor gripes you seem to have with Obama's actual policies. After six years of Bush, I'd think you'd be a little more judicious in your use of teh word "awful" to describe a foreign policy speech.    

by Anonymous Liberal 2007-04-24 10:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Good comment.

by Korha 2007-04-24 01:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

It's like this:

Hillary can give the same speech.  I don't like her either but I do respect her political abilities.  Obama has shown no real political acumen.  So, given the choice between the two why not vote for the better politician?

by Working Class in Oregon 2007-04-24 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Gotta disagree with Hillary being a better politician.  Name one political battle she's actually won.  She's like the Cubs, a loveable loser.

by KDJ 2007-04-24 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I think you know better than to divert what I said to a critique of Clinton.  That said, lets say Hillary's won nothing.  Obama's no better.  That's hardly a ringing endorsement.

by Working Class in Oregon 2007-04-24 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I just think if we're going to consider Hillary a good politician, she should have won some battles.  Obama hasn't won any either, but I imagine if you gave him that kind of platform that Hillary has had for fifteen years, he could win a few.  

by KDJ 2007-04-24 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I'm sorry, but I couldn't possibly disagree more.  Obama has come from nowhere to being a top-tier presidential candidate in the blink of an eye.  And he's rapidly gaining on Hillary already.  Obama is a vastly more talented politician than Hillary will ever be.  Indeed, that's his chief asset. It's why he's drawing so many supporters and donors. Hillary may have more experienced consultants, but she doesn't have anywhere near the natural ability and charisma that Obama has.    

by Anonymous Liberal 2007-04-24 10:51AM | 0 recs
I'm no big fan of either triangulator

But seriously, there's nothing that makes her a more electable candidate than him.

by Cyt 2007-04-24 12:29PM | 0 recs
I heard a lot of carrots...

particularly with the doubling of foreign aid (hardly popular) and emphasis on other areas of American power besides military.  I thought the foreign aid section and nuclear proliferation comments were very interesting.

by rashomon 2007-04-24 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

The one thing that Obama is talking about and nobody else is it seems is foreign aid.  For him to do that is pretty risky, considering how bad foreign aid usually polls.  But I think Obama gets that if we are truly going to combat terrorism, we need to combat its roots.  I think everyone in the blogosphere has been saying that for years in regards to the struggle against terrorism and I think Obama should get some respect for that.  

by KDJ 2007-04-24 10:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Edwards has a plan to create support the expansion of public school systems in developing countries, with intent to keep kids out of madrassas, but with obvious side benefits.  He has talked quite a bit about this for a while now.

by jallen 2007-04-24 11:10AM | 0 recs

didn't mean "create"

by jallen 2007-04-24 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I like that idea, I hadn't heard that out of Edwards before.  I'd like to see that coupled with some more immediate economic aid.  Bottom line, most Middle East countries have populations where 50% of the people are under 18.  Most African nations have this as well.  We need to keep these minds out of the civil wars and terrorist camps and help them live productive lives.  At the same time, we need to open our borders to their exports.

by KDJ 2007-04-24 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

That's why we need to renegotiate our trade deals and put in place strict labor and environmental guidelines. This will help alleviate poverty in third world countries. I also think that if we lead with compassion the hate for us will dwindle around the world. I just don't think we can beat the terrorist regimes with boots on the ground, we need to beat them with compassion.

by Sarah Lane 2007-04-24 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

The "strict labor and environmental standards" thing seems to be used today as the rolodex defense of being anti-trade.  I think we need to get away from using those standards as the political football in the trade debate and use those standards, as you proposed Sarah, as a way to build up those less fortunate.

by KDJ 2007-04-24 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Foreign polls well and it polls badly. Polls indicate that generically speaking, we should cut foreign aid, but when asked to name how much we should spend, respondents give a figure far higher than our actual foreign aid spending.

by clarkent 2007-04-24 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Name one political battle Hillary has ever lost!

by samueldem 2007-04-24 10:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech


by Obama08 2007-04-24 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

That is the most obvious one, certainly.

by KDJ 2007-04-24 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

And how many has she fought?

by js noble 2007-04-24 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

The fact that Andrew Sullivan liked Obama's speech is no surprise.  Even the most casual observer of Sullivan's know that he, by his own admission, is in the "anybody but Hillary" crowd.

If Clinton had given the same speech (and she has, btw) Sullivan would be the first to denounce it as "same-old-politics-of-the-past" all the while bouncing about his chair screaming, yet again, about his "cooties"...

by JoeCHI 2007-04-24 10:37AM | 0 recs
HRC has given this same speech?

which accent did she use? (sorry, couldn't resist)

by the green and bold 2007-04-24 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: HRC has given this same speech?

Did you see Obama's speech down in Selma? He found himself a southern accent as well. The Daily Show had a really funny bit on the both of them with their fake accents. I will admit, whenever I get around my relatives from Mississippi my speech starts to drawwwlllllll.

by Sarah Lane 2007-04-24 04:13PM | 0 recs
Hillary called for doubling foreing aid?


by Ramo 2007-04-24 11:22AM | 0 recs
PLEASE don't take this guy's word for it...

I admit, I'm not crazy about this whole " the most sacred job of the POTUS is to protect..." business either, BUT

on the whole, I thought the speech was a tasty and nutritous elixir to the Bush World View. I thought it was sincere, poetic, and keenly intelligent.

I urge you to take the cynical analysis (as well as my favorable take) with a HUGE grain of salt and read the thing for yourself.

by the green and bold 2007-04-24 10:43AM | 0 recs
Foreign Aid

Matt, you're missing a biggie.  Obama has called for a doubling in foreign aid - an increase of $25 billion.  By comparison, Edwards, AFAIK, has only proposed a $5 billion increase.  I haven't heard anything from Richardson or Clinton about the matter.

This is a strong progressive proposal that doesn't have a lot of poltical support.  I'm astonished that he isn't being given more credit for it among the blogosphere.

Yes, he does talk about national security a lot.  Because that's the narrative through sells the agenda to an electorate among which giving away tens of billions to foreigners out of the goodness of our hearts isn't all that popular an idea.

He also has very solid ideas about stopping nuclear proliferation. Such as the international fuel bank and stopping construction of new nukes.

by Ramo 2007-04-24 11:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Foreign Aid

I pointed out foreign aid above, which I agree, is a very big point.  I don't have a problem with the national security message, for we still need to implement the 9/11 recommendations, which will likely not be done under Bush (watch for a signing statement on that) and become the job of the 44th President.  Now, at the same time, that doesn't mean we need to build a police state, which I think Obama is clearly against.  He's not going to militarize the border like Bill Richardson did as Governor of NM.

by KDJ 2007-04-24 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Foreign Aid

I noticed you wrote that.  And I was pointing out the differences between Obama and the other candidates on this issue...

by Ramo 2007-04-24 12:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Foreign Aid

Obama's speech makes him look like another well-meaning politician who is politically and economically ignorant.

What is needed to combat income inequality and poverty is not U.S. foreign aid, which is primarily a hand-out to countries whose economies have been adversely affected if not destroyed by neo-liberal economic policies and practices. What is needed is the reinvention of the free enterprise system on a level playing field so that large predatory corporations do not dominate everyone's economy.

We need entrepreneurial economic development strategies in the U.S. and abroad which help small and medium size wealth-creating and job-creating businesses start up, thrive and survive the corporate predators that snuff out their competitors by engaging in unfair business practices and holding down wages.

We need enlightened elected representatives and government intervention to enforce laws that prohibit excess profits and union busting and prevent predatory corporations from imposing unwarranted and unreasonable increases in prices on consumers whose incomes are stagnant and whose costs of living are outstripping their incomes.

These actions will address the primary causes of inequality, intergroup tension and armed conflicts abroad, which is the lack of livelihoods coupled with political and economic disenfranchisement.

Judging by his speech, Obama appears to be clueless when it comes to protecting and providing livelihoods in this country or abroad, which is the key to security everywhere. He barely mentions jobs in his speech because he spends so much time talking the Bushies' talk about national security. He demonstrates a profound ignorance of the public and private sector policies that can provide livelihoods and security by politically and economically enfranchising desperate and destitute populations that are vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist networks.

He falls into the trap of overemphasizing our need to defend ourselves militarily, a strategy whose inefficacy has been proved over and over again, while displaying embarrassing ignorance of how easily we can protect our national security by making sure that livelihoods are available to all.

Obama might have done well at Harvard Law School but I would give him a C- in political economics. John Edwards puts him to shame.

by Nancy Bordier 2007-04-24 05:59PM | 0 recs
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

What do you think the foreign aid is for?  In addition to health care, it's about creating the human (primary education) and political infrastructure (democracy, civil liberties, civil society - i.e. unions, etc.) for economic development.  He also is a strong supporter of microcredit.  But that's what 5 times the aid that Edwards has promised can buy you, and it's good to see that Obama is pushing something this politically risky...

As for price controls being some kind of magical elixir to third world economic problems, I don't know what school of economics gives A's to adherents of that theory, but you're right in that it probably isn't taught at Harvard.  And I wasn't aware that Edwards ever committed himself to such a policy...

by Ramo 2007-04-25 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Why did you think I was suggesting price controls?

I was not. Enforcing laws prohibiting excess profits and union-bashing and raising minimum wages is more in the ball park of what I had in mind.

Also, using U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund foreign governments to counter the economic damages caused by U.S. corporations is an unfair and ineffective strategy.

Why should U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for addressing the damages caused by predatory corporations?

It is equally foolish to keep spending $500 billion a year of taxpayers' money on the U.S. defense establishment for failed military interventions that aggravate the grievances of terrorist networks by killing large numbers of innocent civilians. These interventions do not promote democracy or stability and are primarily designed to secure U.S. access to assets like oil, as demonstrated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. These self-serving interventions make us less rather than more secure.

The best and most cost effective way to protect the national security of the U.S. and all nations is to let the free enterprise system flourish on an even playing field so that small and medium size businesses can provide the jobs and livelihoods that are needed at the local and regional level.

This will require enlightened politicians and policies that curb the predatory practices of large corporations that destroy these businesses, as well as the unfair unfettered free market trade policies and practices favored by U.S. economic interests (including the World Bank) that are destroying indigenous economies abroad as well as in the U.S. itself.  

Politicians like Obama who are funding their campaigns with contributions from these economic interests are unlikely to embrace or implement such enlightened policies.

by Nancy Bordier 2007-04-26 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Leaders Not Followers

Clinton and Obama Follow Edwards on Trade

ABC News has learned that the former North Carolina senator's top two rivals -- Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.-- also have grave concerns about the most economically significant free-trade pact since the North American Free Trade Agreement.


"A trade agreement with South Korea needs to start with their willingness to open markets to American automobiles and other U.S. products and agree to trade fairly," Edwards said Saturday. "It must also include strong labor and environmental standards and lift up workers in both parties."

ABC News

Just like they do about on everything else..but the MSM is just beginning to figure this out.

by benny06 2007-04-24 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

If we don't do an FTA with South Korea because of car exports, that will only be shooting ourselves in the foot.  We shouldn't be giving any more handouts to the Big 3 automakers who can't meet their commitments.  If we're going to raise fuel economy in the U.S., we need more imports in the short-term.


by KDJ 2007-04-24 12:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

It's OK to be a Democrat of one or another type, conservative to lefty, and it's OK-Plus to identify yourself and your candidate clearly. [Or to make up your own Dem label or change it later]. It's not OK to label some other Demtype as an accusation. When there are only 2 popular parties, how are we supposed to fit in to just one kind of one? I'd like to see commentors drop the purist meme. That Senator Obama is closer to the Clintons than to Stephanie Tubbs Jones shouldn't be an accusation - or a surprise.

More advice to keep our waters cool here: Debate, stand up for your man, defend his positions and your own take on governance. I want to end up being able to tell my kids why I decided against their guy, but admire that they flung themselves into this exciting political defense of democracy, as I have.

I'm a progressive populist. I used to call myself a commutarian but no one knew what that meant. I admire and read Thom Hartmann, Jim Hightower, Maxine Waters (CA-D), John and Elizabeth Edwards, Al Gore, Molly Ivins, John Lewis (GA-D), Andy Stern, Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL-D), Jay Inslee (WA-D), Jim McDermott (WA-D), Bernie Sanders (VT-I), Joe Margulies (Guantanamo defense lawyer) and Joe Wilson. OK and Matt Stoller is very cool too.

by mrobinsong 2007-04-24 12:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Mat, while there have been sometimes you have pissed me off with your opinions, and I'm sure there will be more, I will say that that you are straight and say exactly what you mean.  I really appreciate that.

On this one I agree.  I support John Edwards, but even I expected better.  I thought this was going to a big deal. It turned out to be a big "so what."

Obama is a centrist at heart, a tad left of center.  The disconnect we see is people wanting to project the liberal hero on him.  He is who he is and his beliefs are like this speech.  He seems to want to be the Democratic Arnold Shwarznegger (Gov - Cal.) (I may have misspelled).  I do not believe it is an act or anything.  These are his instincts.

People should take him as he is and credit what he says as sincere.  If one's views are a smidge left of center, he will fit.  If one is a progressive, he will not fit.    

This disconnect between what some believe Obama is/believes/stands for and what is real, is, in my view, why the debates here can be so viscious.  Some folks can end up defending a phantom or put tremendous energy into denying what Obama is saying.  

I have come to believe that the differences between Clinton and Obama are less than the differences between the two of them and John Edwards.  

Edwards is to the left of both.  

by littafi 2007-04-24 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I agree, as I say below Obama is a mainstream Democrat most like anyone in the 08 field except for maybe Biden. W

Edwards is currently somewhat to the left of the mainstream but one must ask: Why this sudden shift? Isn't it a little too convenient for him to try to capture the only fraction that is left (progressives) and then rapidly turn back into the moderate Edwards once the primaries are over? Is he the Democratic version of Mitt Romney? Or is he genuine?

by Populism2008 2007-04-24 02:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I believe he is genuine.  He always has been an economic populist.  

But if you do not believe he is genuine, you should not support him.  I would not vote for someone dishonest.

I made my choice. If moving left were so useful, you know Obama would be there.  That is the flaw in thw argument.

But I am not capable of seeing in anyone's heart.

by littafi 2007-04-24 10:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

His voting record suggests he's the most liberal presidential candidate we've had in years, so I'm not sure I understand where you get that he's a "centrist."  Also, Edwards was economically moderate in the Senate.  I like him and am glad that he's now moved to the left, but he didn't take pure populist stances when he actually had to vote.  That's just a fact.

by HSTruman 2007-04-25 06:01AM | 0 recs
Obama is a mainstream Democrat

selling a mainstream Democratic agenda with his enormous charisma.

I am getting a bit nervous about the bashing of mainstream Democratic positions going on here. Are we watching a flight towards the Green Party? Let us remember that this is United States, one of the most right wing nations in the western world.

The choice is between fascism and mainstream liberalism, not between mainstream liberalism and utopian socialism.

by Populism2008 2007-04-24 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I agree absolutely. It's just that finding a candidate with the balls to come out and say that without worrying about whether it'll make them look weak - because the voters just love cluster bombs and levelling cities from 40000 feet... - turns out to be pretty damn difficult

by Englishlefty 2007-04-24 04:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I have been running in progressive and left circles for a long time, worked for a lot of causes and candidates, but I don't ever remember feeling as despairing about the future of the Democratic party as I do after reading this thread. I feel like I have gone through the rabbit hole. I want to scream and throw my computer out the window.

ARE YOU PEOPLE INSANE?  IMHO, Obama is the best candidate the party has come up with in forty years, and you people want to form a circle, perform a ceremony, and sacrifice him on the alter of political correctness. The level of holier-than-thou, PC, bullsh*t is completely out of control.

Does it occur to any of you that the Dem nominee actually has to win an election?  That has not been real easy for Dems in the last forty years.  Carter won, barely, after Nixon and Vietnam.  Clinton managed to win during a recession against a pitiful incumbent, with the help of Ross Perot.  Dems have lost the other seven elections.  Perhaps this should suggest that some level of caution is advised.

I am not suggesting DLC centrism.  I am talking about progressive candidates who can frame progressive values and policies in ways that are accsessible and acceptable to the low information, non-ideological voters who actually decide general elections in this country.

Obama has the most progressive voting record of any of the Senatorial candidates (including Edwards).  His life choices suggest that he has a real understanding of poor peoples lives and a real commitment to helping them.  He would be the first President in the history of the country who actually has a parent who was from the third world, and the first President who actually lived in the third world.  He is the candidate best positioned to hold the Republicans accountable for the war because he was not complicit in authorizing it.

Of course he is being a bit cautious.  He needs to be. Let me repeat that, OBAMA NEEDS TO BE CAREFUL. Particularly because he is trying to break the racial barrier, he has to be cautious to not be labeled as outside the mainstream.

Regarding the speech, he proposed a $25 billion a year increase in foreign aid.  That doesn't even make Stoller's summary of the speech.  Are you kidding me?  The guy essentially proposes a new Marshall Plan for the third world and you people don't think he said anything. Bahhh!

The attitudes expressed in this thread are the kind of attitudes that were floating around in 1968, and have helped lead to the Dems being banished from power for most of a generation.  Take it from someone who has been there, not everyone in this country agrees with you.  You need to deal with the voters where they are, not where you are. Don't overreach and miss this historic opportunity.

by upper left 2007-04-24 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Thank you.

by Obama08 2007-04-24 05:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I could not agree with you more.  

by Baldrick 2007-04-24 10:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech
I couldn't have said it better myself.  The level of vitriol directed against Obama that I find on MYDD and Kos especially never ceases to amaze me.  Of the viable candidates we have, he is the only one who had the forsight to see that the Iraq war for the dumb war it was, yet from some of the posts I've seen you'd think that there is no daylight between his ideas on foreign policy and Paul Wolfowitz.  Edwards, on the other hand, who  got religion on the war(and a lot of other things) only after he decided he was going to run for president again, has become the object of a cultlike devotion on the progressive blogs that is comparable only to the Bush worship seen on the other side.  I like Edwards, don't get me wrong, but the man out there on the campaign trail today is not the same man from 2003/2004.  When he was in the Senate and he could have done soemthing, I don't remeber him being this great progressive tribune.  He struck me as your typical, slightly conservative southern Democrat.  In any case, I have a hard time understanding why in some progressive quarters he is seen as some sort of mesiah now.
I am working with other grassroots volunteers in my city to promote Mr. Obama's candidacy, and we have all sorts of people from a variety of backgrounds coming together to work for a common cause inspired by his vision of what America could be.  I've been part of the crowds that he has drawn and I don't know if you would have so many people, all of whom are not partisan Democrats or especially ideological, coming out to support and devote their time and resources to helping elect a truly progressive candidate.  If he didn't have such broad appeal, many of those people wouldn't be there, and that is why I think that he could be such a strong general election candidate.  Instead of nipping on the margins to eke out an occasional victory, 2008 has the potential to be as transformative as 1980.  It really is too bad that some people are ready to blow this chance because of quibles over the minutiae of a healthcare plan or because Obama isn't proposing a department of peace or pledging to cut the Pentagon budget by 3/4ths.  
After the years of the Bush regime(and being in Texas I'd have to live with him longer than most), I'm as angry and bitter as anyone, but I want to get something done.  I don't see much point in having a left wing version of Newt Gingrich(which seems to be what some people really want) and losing in the general election, when there is an opportunity for a real transformation, not just in America but America's place in the world.
by whitbreadale 2007-04-25 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Thanks for your thoughtful response and your efforts on Obama's behalf.  My post above was sort of a primal scream of frustration.  I am a newbie to MyDD.  I have been posting for some time at TPM Cafe Election Central.  

After my post yesterday I started trying to figure out why different progressives have such different responses to Obama.  Here is a lengthy post I put up over at TPM this morning.  I think it does a pretty good job of explaining my current thinking.  Hope to talk to you again.

"Terry, You said,

"I do disagree with what I gather is the thought that liberals need to mold their talk to appear "centrist."

I can see why you thought I was saying something like that, but that is not the argument I am trying to make. Have you read George Lakoff's book Moral Politics? He has two newer books that elaborate on his basic idea. He is a linguist who studies how people make sense of the world. How they take in and organize new information. His basic argument is that we learn moral reasoning in our families of origin, and then use these frames to make sense of the world.

My view is that Dem candidates need to frame their campaigns in ways that are accessable and acceptable to the "mushy middle." There are about a third of the voters who are not strongly partisan. They tend to be less engaged and less ideological.

By "accessable and acceptable" I do not mean centrist policies, and I do not mean progressive policies that are falsely packaged as sounding centrist. What I mean are progressive values and policies carefully "framed" in ways that make them understandable and agreeable to people who may not self-identify as liberals.

I think this last paragraph explains why different progressives have such different responses to Obama. Many, like me, who really care about framing and appealing to moderates and the politically disaffected think Obama is very good at framing progressive values and policies for this mushy middle. OTOH many who crave straight-forward, give 'em hell, red-meat rhetoric think Obama is too squishy and fear that he is a closet centrist.

In part, I think it comes down to a matter of trust. Many who are a bit more idealistic are inspired by Obama's rhetoric. Some like myself, who have been around for a long time, are a bit less idealistic, but think Obama is a hell of a salesman who can successfully sell our values to majority of the country. I have read everything I can about the guy and I trust that if elected, he will govern as a progressive. He may not be quite as left as I would like, but he is about as left as I think can get elected in the current climate.

Those who are less taken with Obama, tend to be more ideologically left or simply more cynical. They wouldn't vote for their own mother without a ten point policy plan and a signed contract showing that she can deliver a single payer health care system and a 30 day withdrawal from Iraq :-)

I am willing to cut Obama a certain amount of slack on policy positions:

1) because I trust him;

  1. because I think he needs to be careful to be seen as in the mainstream, particularly because he is trying to break the race barrier; and
  2. because I think the mushy-middle voters don't vote based on policies, they vote based on values, judgement, and character.

OTOH many progressives are all about policy. They want a ten point plan on every major issue. To me this is silly. Ten point plans are not laws, anybody can write a nice plan. What matters is if you have the moxey and the communication skills to get something passed. For instance, over at MyDD, people were parsing Obama's foreign policy speech down to the last comma looking for any detail than wasn't PC enough. To me this is ridiculous.

I hope this helps explain where I am coming from. I really appreciate our exchanges. I must say that you do piss me off occasionally, but I appreciate the fact that you have real integrity and that you challenge my statements. It is nice to talk to people you agree with, it is educational to talk with someone with whom you disagree. Your prodding helps to clarify my thinking. Take care."

by upper left 2007-04-25 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Upper left- I don't necessarily share your anger, but I share some of your concerns.  I think Obama puts forth some very tough and smart proposals in his speech and I think that if Jim Webb gave this same speech, he'd be honored here.

by KDJ 2007-04-24 05:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Interesting point about Webb.  I agree if a netroots "favorite" had given the same speech the reaction would be very different, which I think can be chalked up to the cult of personality that sometimes trumps positions around here.  

Howard Dean is rightfully viewed as a hero, but people tend to gloss over the fact that he really WAS a centrist governor with clintonian views on the issues.  Jim Webb is revered -- again rightfully -- b/c of his willingness to bluntly take on the GOP, but his substantive positions on Iraq are, if anything, still more conservative than Obama's.  Why the disconnect?  Other than Dean and Webb being perceived as "outsiders," I really can't explain it.  Sort of interesting though for a crowd of people that purport to be focused on policy.

by HSTruman 2007-04-25 06:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

Please see my lengthy response to whitebreadale just above.  I think my comments help explain why there are such different reactions to Obama in the progressive community.

by upper left 2007-04-25 12:42PM | 0 recs
Matt Stoller Works For Edwards

Is it obvious now.

You have the man that told us before the war.  Iraq was a mistake.

And you have Edwards that was cheerleading the war.

So who does Stoller believe. Why the moron that cheerleaded for the war.

Here's some reality for you, Matt, you have no idea what is the best path for Iraq.  We do know what Edwards wanted is wrong.  Why are you too chicken to say it?

So You and Obama disagee.  Here is the difference.  You are paid to disagree with Obama.

Obama actually has to think.

So how much is Edwards paying you?

by rapallos 2007-04-24 09:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

To the frustrated and fed up on this thread:

Hillary is a DLC "officer." She holds a position in that (despised here) organization. See thier website.

Edwards has never been a DLC member. He is a self-identified populist. (See TAP interview). He has more in common with Jim Hightower than the Clintons.

The debate here today has been struggling with where in the political spectrum is Barack Obama located. Is he more like our community or like the DLC? This debate is necessary for your brother and sister progressives here, so don't lose heart. The nominee will get everyone's support and there will be a Democrat in the WH in ' 09 - actually a whole bunch of them running the government, hopefully for the next 40 years. Maybe  some of you will be working for the WH.

by mrobinsong 2007-04-24 09:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

P.S. The DLC isn't centrist or mainstream. They are Nixonian.

by mrobinsong 2007-04-24 09:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

I watched this speech on Obama's website, and I'm not sure if that makes a different impression, but I really liked it.  Interesting point he made about the world's disappointment with USA being due to their high expectations- he could have probably made the same point about himself w/regard to progressive's disappointment with him.  

I like Obama, I politically am closer to Edwards' stated positions but don't trust that he can be so different now than what he was 5 years ago.

by GaryK 2007-04-25 08:55PM | 0 recs


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