Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

Cross-posted from Tort Deform: The Civil Justice Defense Blog

Over on the Tortellini there's an excellent post on the questionable access to justice credentials of the rising Democratic star Barack Obama. I might also note that Obama got a "C" on the Drum Major Institute'sMiddle-Class Scorecard in large part because of his support for the ironically labeled Class Action Fairness Act of 2005.

The Tortellini post is excerpted below, and my previous commentary on the Class Action Fairness Act is here:
The Top Seven Bad Things About the Class Action "Fairness" Act, Top Three Misconceptions on Which the Class Action "Fairness" Act is Based, The Top (and only) Two Good Things About the Class Action "Fairness" Act

Obama's anti-consumer vote

As Obama-mania sweeps across the land and has Democrats everywhere buzzing, I find myself a bit wary of it all. Not that I'm a single-issue voter, but when it comes to civil justice issues, Illinois senator Barack Obama is a bust. His willingness to buy the corporate line about class action "reform" last year prevents me from joining the hallelujah chorus.

The 2005 Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), a pet cause of George W. Bush, essentially forced most state consumer class actions into the backlogged and Republican dominated federal courts. Like the bankruptcy bill before it, class action reform was a special interest extravaganza, with the insurance, credit card, banking, pharmaceutical and auto industries hiring so many lobbyists that there was nearly one for every member of Congress. (You can read more about some of the chicanery involved in selling CAFA in my book.) (keep reading)

Tags: access to the courts, Barack Obama, civil justice, class action fairness act of 2005, drum major institute (all tags)



Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

But wait, I'm confused, isn't Obama the progressive/liberal savior who is going to valiently stand up for the little guy and provide hope to the hopeless.

Nah. He's just another corporate-teet-sucking "new" Dem

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 07:25AM | 0 recs
You're Just Saying This Because Of Lamont!

Admit it!  BrionLutz has said so a gazillion times, so it must be true.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-12 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: You're Just Saying This Because Of Lamont!

C'mon, Paul.  You're forgetting his point that Obama was against the war in the Illinois Democratic primary in 2004.  THAT's what makes him the "most liberal, most progressive candidate" in the race.

by justinh 2006-12-12 09:45AM | 0 recs
Of Course! How Foolish Of Me!

My comment mocked BL's constaint insistence that there were no other reasons to question Obama aside from his support for Lieberman.

Thankfully, you have reminded me of another dubious BL claim--that Obama's past opposition to the war gives him a free pass to support the center-right ISG's plan to stay in Iraq indefinitely.

So many bogus claims. So little time.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-13 09:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

From comments at Tortellini:

While plaintiffs' law firm contributions are often certainly coordinated (sometimes a bit too illegally, as when one firm was caught reimbursing its paralegals for donating to John Edwards), it's a mistake to think the same thing happens in the defense bar, where attorneys are donating on an individual basis because they perceive future government administration (or Article III) jobs of a certain political caliber as pay-to-play or because they're otherwise simply interested in the political process.

Obama's contributions from Sidley & Austin and Mayer Brown almost certainly result from the fact that those are Chicago firms, each with hundreds of Illinois Democratic attorneys making six- or seven-digit annual salaries, and for some of the younger of whom (like me) attended University of Chicago Law School when Obama was teaching there, and were almost certainly hit up by a classmate currently serving in the Illinois legislature. It takes precisely thirty such attorneys writing $2000 checks to generate $60,000; while some perhaps donated less, some perhaps donated in each of the two election cycles and donated more.

It's extraordinarily unlikely that Dan Troy issued an order from his FDA perch that he wanted his future law firm to send money Obama's way, so it's not clear why you even mention Troy, who wasn't with Sidley during the 2004 election cycle.

Too, your mischaracterization of CAFA suggests that Obama understands it better than you do. Please, explain the mechanism by which "CAFA shuts consumers out of court." Cite specific statutory language rather than ATLA press releases.

Posted by: Ted | December 07, 2006 at 10:18 PM

by markg8 2006-12-12 08:06AM | 0 recs

When you drill down into the anti-Obama-ist critiques, you invariably find that they have not done their research.

It should also be noted that the Sr IL Senator, Durbin (D), also receives a large amount of his campaign $ from Chicago law firms.

by Disputo 2006-12-12 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Amen

LOL! that's a great, fact filled, response. It is similar to every Obama supporters response: if you don't support the candidacy of this almost complete unkown politician, you must be irrational.

The guy has shown NO leadership and done NOTHING of consequence that makes him seem any better than any of the rest of the bland DLC types. The impetus is on HIM to display his greatness, not on those of us who are skeptical to prove that he is not great.

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Amen

That may well be true, but there's no reason to indict Obama for taking contributions from Chicago lawyers, most of whom are as liberal as he is.

by Adam B 2006-12-12 09:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Amen

Who said anything about Chicago lawyers? Someone posted a reponse from some unrelated thread, and now we're all indicting him for taking money from Lawyers? My personal criticism, and the one that I see most frequently used, is that there simply is no reason for all of the Obama madness that is going on in the netroots. The guy is unproven, and seems, at times, to be unprincipled, thus many of us are uninspired/unimpressed...

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 09:38AM | 0 recs
Never mind...

I see the quoted section in the post. I have to agree that the connection between the donations and his descision seem like a stretch, but why then would he vote for this terrible law that has such obvious negative effects on consumers?

How about his other terrible votes?

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 09:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Never mind...

Because it's actually a pretty good bill, even though many in the plaintiff's bar hate it.  The settlement and venue reforms were much-needed, and the good outweighed the bad, IMHO.

by Adam B 2006-12-12 10:00AM | 0 recs
According to whom?

Certainly not according to consumer advocates, whom I would say have a lot more credibility than either Obama or yourself (no offense). How many consumer class actions have you argued, Adam (on the side of those bringing the suit)? How many have been in State vs. Federal court? If this is based on personal experience, then please elaborate, because otherwise I'll go with the experts (from NACA):

The states' Conference of Chief Justices sees no "hard evidence of the inability of state judicial systems to hear and decide fairly class actions brought in state courts." These Justices believe "state courts and state legislatures should be responsible for correcting any problems(with class actions), and history has shown that will occur."
--CONFERENCE OF CHIEF JUSTICES, 28 March 2003 letter to then House of Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-IL

"Misnamed the "Class Action Fairness Act of 2003," the bill is anything but fair to injured citizens...[T]he fundamental reordering of basic principles of federalism embodied in S. 274 would, if enacted, result in far greater harm than good."
--Attorneys General of the States of Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana,
New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and West Virginia, 13 June letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD

"The Federal courts do not have the resources to administer justice to both their present dockets and the large number of complex state-court cases that would be added if S. 274 or its House counterpart were to become law...Equally troubling is a provision in S.274 that allows removal of a case at any time. This would give a defendant the power to yank a case away from a state-court judge who has properly issued pretrial rulings the defendant does not like, and would encourage a level of sorum-shopping never before seen in this country."
--105 Law Professors From 26 States, 3 June 2003 letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD
"S. 274 is an unnecessary attempt to impose federal judicial regulation on matters of law clearly committed to the states...the imposition of such cubstantial new responsibilities on the federal courts will further impair the ability of those courts to carry out essential functions they are intended to serve under the Constitution."
--Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, 20 March 2003 letter to the Senate
National Association of Consumer Advocates
1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Suite 805
Washington, DC 20036
Page 2

"Moving this legislation forward would not serve the best interests of AARP's members or older Americans generally...S. 274 would limit access to remedies now available and delay--for years in many cases--the time needed to resolve class actions...Where older litigants die before tasting the fruits of victory, justice delayed would be justice denied."
--AARP, 10 June 2003 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-UT

"S. 274, `Class Action Fairness Act,' is a poorly conceived proposal that will substantially reduce the effectiveness of one of the most important legal tools consumers now have: state court class actions."
--Consumers Union, 2 April 2003 letter to the Senate

"S. 274 will also deny consumers access to protections afforded by their state consumer protection statutes...Thus consumers will not be protected by the state procedures written and passed by their state legislatures and interpreted by their state courts that may enable consumers to pursue claims that would be unavailable under federal rules...the jurisdictional changes mandated by S. 274 are designed to impede class actions, not to make them fairer or more effecient."
--Consumer Federation of America and US Public Interest Research Group, 2 April 2003 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee

"The bill would allow corporate defendants in pollution class actions to remove virtually any type of state environmental law case from the state court to federal court, placing such cases in a forum
that could be more costly, less timely, and disadvantageous to the citizen plaintiffs."
--Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Mineral Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Group, 2 April 2003 letter to Senators Orrin Hatch, R-UT and Patrick Leahy, D-VT

By pre-empting state laws, which often provide superior remedies for aggrieved citizens than available under federal law, and state courts, whose dockets are "lighter" than federal courts, a wide
range of public interest groups believe S. 274 "is designed to give corporate defendants a lef up
against consumers by moving virtually all state-filed class action lawsuits to federal courts...[resulting in] fewer certifications of class actions and delays in those cases that move forward."
--American Cancer Society, American Association of People With Disabilities, Families USA and other public health related groups, 2 April 2003 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-UT

"In general the tabacco industry prefers to litigate in federal court where the rules for certifying class actions are often more favorable to corporate defendants...The tobacco industry does not need more protection against citizen suits. If anything, citizens need more protection against tobacco industry
--American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, American Lung Association, 10 March 2003 letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT

S. 274 "would radically alter state court jurisdiction over class action lawsuits by forcing most class actions into federal court. This bill would benefit the unregulated gun industry at the expense of victims of firearms violence and gun consumers."
--Violence Policy Center, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence United With Million Mom March, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, 10 February 2003 letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA

So why exactly should I take your word over those who are in the business of protecting my rights as a consumer? Are you saying that you know better than Consumer Advocates, NACA, the NCLC, the AARP, the State AGs mentioned, etc?

Again- Obama is dead wrong on this, and his supporters show their "rationality" by racing to defend the barely defensible. And if you are not defending this terrible bill because of your support for Obama, then why are you? Could you have some other reason, such as working for a firm that often represents those being sued in class actions, for taking this position?

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 10:58AM | 0 recs
Re: According to whom?

I really resent that last accusation, that I'm working for a firm that represents class action defendants.  I don't.  Indeed, all of my work right now is plaintiff's side, in a major MDL with class actions involved.  You can read about it here, but understand that I cannot discuss it.

I'll note that none of the quotes there really regard the two things that I like about CAFA -- the venue provisions and the coupon settlement provisions.  Madison County, IL, is the hallmark of venue abuse, and it's understandable why an Illinois Senator would want to end that mess already.  Lawyers shouldn't be able to fund the reelection campaigns of judges they like and then twist the venue rules to get cases before them which have no real local nexus.

Obviously, plaintiffs' advocates want the rules to be as tilted to their side as possible.  That doesn't mean that the status quo ante was fair or just.  

by Adam B 2006-12-12 11:10AM | 0 recs
Adam B vs Almost Every Consumer Advocate Org.

Adam, I am not accusing you, I am stating a fact: that you work for a law firm that represents large companies AGAINST class action lawsuits (and why shouldn't they?). I cannot say that this is why you're siding with big business over consumer advocates, which is why I asked.

Here's one really weird thing about your response though: I'm not sure why you'd claim that Cozen doesn't represent companies being sued in class actions when they state otherwise on their site (if you are saying that you personally don't represent them, so what? You are a partner, correct? That would mean that you would stand to benefit financialy from the class action suits your colleagues defend):

Our attorneys already have extensive experience litigating under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. We removed to federal court several class actions arising out of Hurricane Katrina and briefed the basis for those removals. We have argued class action issues in numerous appellate courts, including before an en banc panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. We also filed one of the first Motions under recently enacted Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f), which authorizes the interlocutory appeal of class
certification decisions.


We have been engaged to represent a diverse group of clients in class actions and multidistrict litigation, including:

   * Publicly traded companies

   * Directors and officers

   * Insurance companies

   * Banks and other financial institutions

   * Manufacturers and distributors of consumer products and medical devices

   * Biotech and pharmaceutical companies

   * Healthcare providers

   * Real estate firms

   * Construction trades


   * In Re: One Meridian Plaza Building Fire Class Actions, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Hon. Ronald L. Buckwalter. Mass tort action arising out of the largest non-terrorist related office building fire in the country; persuaded court to deny class certification

   * Foodrama v. Chubb Insurance Co., et al., Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Claim that workmen's compensation carriers were improperly calculating premiums for retrospectively rated policies
    * Foultz v. Erie Ins. Exchange, et al., Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Represented manufacturer of non-OEM automobile replacement parts in class action alleging that property insurance carrier wrongfully used non-OEM parts to repair damaged vehicles

So, get defensive all you like, but I have every reason to believe consumer advocates over you (whom, I must say, I respect very much in other areas).

And sure, there are abuses of the system, but so what? Go after the problems in a way that doesn't hurt consumers, as this bill most certainly does.

Anyway, how do

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 11:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Adam B vs Almost Every Consumer Advocate Org.

I'm not involved in any of that litigation; it's not my department, and I wish you'd address my arguments on the merits rather than engage in ad hominem attacks.

by Adam B 2006-12-12 11:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Adam B vs Almost Every Consumer Advocate Org.

I'm not really with you on the venue thing, although I favor the idea that something should be done about Madison County-type abuses.  Still, I think it was overkill to keep a whole category of cases out of state court altogether.

The reform of coupon settlements, on the other hand, was a very good idea and something which tends to get less attention than the venue provisions.  Anyone who's pro-consumer should be with me on this.  Coupon settlements - at least, the abusive kind, because some are okay - are an extremely pro-lawyer and anti-little guy device.

My old firm was very opposed to pursuing coupon settlements.  The only time I can think of that we ever accepted such an idea was in a few of the internet privacy cases, because if you're suing an undercapitalized dot-com with 10 million customers there's no way you can provide the class with meaningful economic relief.

I do know a great coupon story involving David Boies but I'll save it for another time.

by Steve M 2006-12-12 01:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Adam B vs Almost Every Consumer Advocate Org.

The fact that you're not involved in the specific legislation is kind of irrelevant, the fact is that you work for a large corporate defense firm, and I believe that it is coloring your judgement. You ask me to answer the merits of your arguments, and yet I don't see much of an argument at all. So you like two provisions in the bill, I get that, but I'm not sure what that has to do with what I am pointing to here.

I also feel that your use of the term "ad homonym" is a pretty lame excuse to not answer my specific questions, especially since the fact that you work for a large corporate defense firm that could be seen by many as a clear conflict of interest. In my experiences on these internets, accusations of Ad Hominem attacks are second in lame arguments only to comparisons to Nazi Germany (can we get a Godwins rule on the use of the term?)

I'd also like to point out that you went from saying that you do not work at a firm that deals in corporate defense of class action suits, to saying that you work in a different department at a firm that quite obviously does deal in corporate defense of class action suits, to claiming that my entire argument against your opinion was simply an attack on your character. So which is it? You can claim that the fact that you make money off of corporate defense of class action suits does not cloud your judgement when looking at these cases, but this fact should be, imo, central to anyone else's judgement of your impartiality on the subject. All of this smacks of dishonesty, if not aimed towards the  community here then at least towards yourself.

You can avoid the subject all you want, but the fact is that all of the consumer advocates that I mentioned (and more), say that this is a horrible law, while you work--as a partner--at a corporate firm that makes money off of the defense of class action lawsuits (thus you make money of of them, no?), disagree. I'm not saying that you can't argue in ways that obviously benefit your firm, in fact I'd expect you to. I am saying that pretending that your work is not coloring your judgement is pretty darn dishonest.

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 04:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Adam B vs Almost Every Consumer Advocate Org.

One quick clarification: I did not mean to say/imply that Adam is definitely biased because of his work, I suspect that it is, but I cannot say for certain.

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Adam B vs Almost Every Consumer Advocate Org.

Just a tip, and I hope Adam doesn't mind that I'm kind of giving away the store here.

If you think about it, you'll realize that tort reform is not a zero-sum game between plaintiffs' lawyers and defense lawyers.

Plaintiffs' lawyers need to defeat tort reform because they only make money if they can file cases and win.  But defense lawyers make money either way.  In fact, the more lawsuits, the more money the defense bar makes.

Imagine that you represent a corporate defendant who gets sued in a class action.  You successfully remove the case to federal court using CAFA, at which point a Bush-appointed judge refuses to certify the class and the case is over.  Your client is thrilled, but are you happy?  You'd sure prefer to have slogged through years of protracted litigation in state court, even if you'd never admit it to your client.

I'm not saying all lawyers think like this or that we're all motivated solely by money.  But to the extent there's a conflict of interest, it doesn't cut in the direction you think.

by Steve M 2006-12-12 07:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Adam B vs Almost Every Consumer Advocate Org.

I've presented arguments.  They're legitimate arguments, and I believe them to be true.  You've responded to them by stating that I must be presenting them because I'm biased, but without actually responding to the merits of the arguments.

That is exactly what ad hominem argument is all about, and it's particularly misplaced given that I'm on the plaintiff's side of one of the largest class action tort suits in history right now.

Rather than tell people why I'm biased, tell them why I'm wrong.  If you can.

by Adam B 2006-12-12 05:53PM | 0 recs
and another thing

I supported CAFA long before the idea of an Obama presidential campaign came to light.

by Adam B 2006-12-12 11:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

I worked for many years at one of the top plaintiffs' class-action firms in the country, I know securities and consumer class actions inside and out, and you simply can't convince me that CAFA was a big deal.  The importance of this bill has been blown way out of proportion.

I understand how the orthodoxy works in blogland - cast one vote that's perceived as pro-corporate, and you're instantly an irredeemable DLC sellout.  Far be it from me to change the way things operate, but this one vote still wasn't a major deal.  Strong claims will continue to carry the day in federal court, and indeed, when I have an ironclad case I generally prefer to be in federal court so I don't get ambushed by some bizarre ruling.  Not to mention, the federal courts won't always be stacked by the GOP, if we ever manage to unify behind a Democratic candidate.

by Steve M 2006-12-12 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

No offense to you, but I'll take the word of a DMI scholar. I've e-mailed my father, a fairly well known consumer advocate lawyer, and see what he says, but if I recall he said that this was an absolute disaster for consumer advocates.

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

Lest there be any confusion, I'm not saying it's a great law.  I'm just saying that it's far less significant than, say, the terrible bankruptcy bill.  Somehow in the blogosphere every single vote ends up as a litmus test, which isn't a healthy attitude.

by Steve M 2006-12-12 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"


Do you think reporting each vote is a litmus test, or a way of keeping our politicans honest and each other informed about what they are doing with their office?

by justinh 2006-12-12 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

I'm not sure I see your point. So bill A is a lot worse than bill B. Does it follow then that bill B is not horrible?

I understand that this is not as bad as the bankruptcy bill, which Obama did in fact oppose. All that says is that he is smart enough (unlike many other Dem politicians like congresswoman Alyson Schwartz) to vote against the worst anti-consumer/working class bills, but sly enough to think that he can get away with supporting those that aren't as obviously horrendous.

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 04:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

You undersell your father's credentials, for what it's worth.  He's quite awesome.

by Adam B 2006-12-12 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

Well, that awesome dad and life-long consumer advocate lawyer told me that the law is, in his opinion, horrible and is meant to preempt any states from taking a tougher stand against corporations than the federal government.

by Alex Urevick 2006-12-12 04:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

But state substantive law isn't preempted.  You may have to try your case in federal court rather than state court, but states are still free to pass lots and lots of consumer protection laws (at least until, God forbid, the Republicans get a majority again!).

by Steve M 2006-12-12 07:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

Hey there.... here is some more information.

Judge for yourself.

On a personal level I think that Obama is a truly excellent candidate for President for a lot of reasons.

That doesn't change the fact that he simply made a bad decision on this particular bill.

Here's an overview of the bill from Public Citizen, the leading consumer advocate organization in the country.

http://www.citizen.org/documents/Text%20 of%20S%205.pdf

In its conclusion the overview states in part that  

"The Class Action Fairness Act marks the first major success of the Bush Administration's
efforts to enact pro-defendant civil justice legislation. Although the Act's provisions
concerning the fairness of class action settlements seem likely to have but limited
effect on the substance of class action settlements, its jurisdictional and removal provisions will substantially change class action practice in the United States."

Here is a letter from several Attorneys' General (including NY Governor Elect Eliot Spitzer)
opposing the bill...and noting the opposition of several other consumer and civil rights groups.

http://www.citizen.org/documents/Spitzer _Letter.pdf

by Cyrus Dugger 2006-12-12 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Civil Justice Related "C"

Cyrus, I think you mistakenly linked to the text of the bill, as opposed to Public Citizen's writeup of it.

I think Public Citizen undersells the usefulness of the coupon settlement reform provisions in CAFA, although they're surely right that they're in there as a bone for the consumer lobby.  Still, coupon settlements are very anti-consumer, and progress in this area is welcome.

On the whole, I'd still be happier without this bill than with it, but as I said above, my argument is not that it's a good law, simply that it's not a very big deal in terms of assessing a legislator's overall record.  I'm not saying it shouldn't be scored but this does kind of highlight some of the weaknesses of the scorecard method.  Really, if anyone wants to assess whether a legislator is willing to stick up for the little guy, the Bankruptcy Bill is a much better proxy.

by Steve M 2006-12-12 01:57PM | 0 recs
It's more the trust factor with Obama

"The guy is unproven, and seems, at times, to be unprincipled.."

You can't have it both ways. Either Obama's unproven or proven to be "unprincipled". Jay Rockefeller and Obama figured more good than bad on the bill and went for it.

Votes on the bills are sausage factory stuff sometimes. Kerry's twisted "I voted for it before I voted against it" lament.  Kerry got a 100% score (vs. Obamas 75%) but he lost the election because people didn't trust him.

On energy bill for example (another black mark against Obama's "progressive" score), Obama and others got the 40mpg by 2017 into the bill so had to vote for it. To vote against it would have been unprincipled.

It was a mess that didn't really solve the US problems but if it didn't pass then tax breaks for alternative energy mfg/users were going to end.

And the 40mpg by 2017 which is key to Democrats national policy of cutting US oil imports by 50% in 10 years.  Are all Democrats who voted against the key to Democrats own national policy goal also "unprincipled"?

Which gets to why you see the enthusiasm for Obama. He comes across as honest. Someone who tells you what he is really thinking.  Who will do what he says vs. tell you what you want to hear. People want that more than 100% ratings.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-12 11:50AM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

"Someone who tells you what he is really thinking."   How does the following square with that?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con tent/article/2006/03/14/AR2006031401519. html

by justinh 2006-12-12 12:03PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

Hmm...did Obama tell Feingold he was going to vote for a bill that Obama (and Clinton, Kerry and Kennedy) hadn't seen, that wasn't going to pass the Republican Senate and wouldn't have had any real effect if it had passed?

The link you posted doesn't say.

Looking at this topic of this thread...Obama's 75% "progressive rating"...I can see it being 100% rating if you look at the edges of the two bills.

Do you pass the energy bill that at least continues tax breaks for alternative energy or do you let the alt. energy mfg and users (greenie progressives all) die to gain a cosmetic 100% "rating"?

In regard to the issue of wiretaps, I'd be more interested in Dems. passing legislation restoring Habeas Corpus.

This is why I'm voting for Obama. His speech on an amendment to restore habeas corpus.

Check out the link. Read Obama's whole speech. Tell me what you think.

"Two days ago, every Member of this body received a letter, signed by 35 U.S. diplomats, many of whom served under Republican Presidents. They urged us to reconsider eliminating the rights of habeas corpus from this bill, saying: "To deny habeas corpus to our detainees can be seen as a prescription for how the captured members of our own military, diplomatic, and NGO personnel stationed abroad may be treated. ..... The Congress has every duty to insure their protection, and to avoid anything which will be taken as a justification, even by the most disturbed minds, that arbitrary arrest is the acceptable norm of the day in the relations between nations, and that judicial inquiry is an antique, trivial and dispensable luxury.

The world is watching what we do today in America. They will know what we do here today, and they will treat all of us accordingly in the future--our soldiers, our diplomats, our journalists, anybody who travels beyond these borders. I hope we remember this as we go forward. I sincerely hope we can protect what has been called the ``great writ''--a writ that has been in place in the Anglo-American legal system for over 700 years.

Mr. President, this should not be a difficult vote. I hope we pass this amendment because I think it is the only way to make sure this underlying bill preserves all the great traditions of our legal system and our way of life.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-12 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

"Hmm...did Obama tell Feingold he was going to vote for a bill that Obama (and Clinton, Kerry and Kennedy) hadn't seen, that wasn't going to pass the Republican Senate and wouldn't have had any real effect if it had passed?"

The point here is whether or not Obama is any less disingenuous than any other politician.  I suppose you could argue that Obama really didn't know anything about the bill, but is that likely?

To make your argument that Obama is indeed less disingenuos than the rest, show me where he is more forthcoming than others.  This speech is a pretty safe one to make, and it's hard to see where this demonstrates what you've been arguing about Obama.  I'm open to this, but agan, show me where he is more forthcoming than others on the issues that matter.

by justinh 2006-12-12 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

"The point here is whether or not Obama is any less disingenuous than any other politician."

No...the point was you brought up an example that was a totally meaningless sidelight that was not going to pass and had it passed would have had no effect...what's the point?

I provided a counterpoint which was hard core to US being a free country and if passed would have insured US habeous corpus rights.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-12 02:22PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

Seriously?  The argument I was responding to was your claim that Obama is somehow more candid than everyone else.  The incident I point to is an example of him ducking the potential controversy.  Whether or not the censure motion was "meaningless" is an entirely separate issue.  (I agree that it was only a symbolic gesture, but that's not what's at issue here.)

It's a fine speech by Obama, but again this has nothing to do with your claim that Obama is in some way more straightforward than other politicians.

by justinh 2006-12-12 05:18PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

"The argument I was responding to was your claim that Obama is somehow more candid than everyone else."

You posted a link to a Post story and asked for an explanation which I provided.  As a counterpoint to Feingold's meaningless bill, I posted Obama's plea to restore Habeas Corpus.

That's kind of the argument right now in a nutshell.  Those opposed to Obama are ankle biters looking at obscure tort bills or Lamont vs. the real challenges US faces.

Obama's speech on habeas corpus was a crusher. He got it all right.

Regarding "candid", more trustworthy to be exact...but I'd say Obama is also more candid.

When he speaks, you are hearing Obama speak, not a "position paper". This is why the excitement over the guy.  He's genuine.

Few are able to provide that assurance.  On the Democratic side, only Obama.  On Republican side, only McCain.

Let them run...it'd be a great election.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-12 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

Again, show me where Obama shows himself to be more trustworthy than any of the other candidates.  Where?  On which issue?

Citing his habeus corpus speech has nothing to do with the example of ducking the censure question.  The position he stakes out on habeus corpus isn't particularlt unique, but even if it were, that has nothing to do with how he responding to the idea of CENSURE.  You're substituting his position on habeus corpus for his reluctance to respond when cornered about a politically sensitive position.  Completely different discussion.

(I hope that instead of the name-calling ("ankle biters," "hissy fits," etc.) you can build an argument for Obama.)

Regarding the "real" issues America faces: first, his position on votes and his refusal to campaign for Lamont--these are part of who is and what he's doing with his office.  How are these illegitimate points of discussion, particularly in the face of your superlative claims that Obama is somehow the "most trustworthy" and "most liberal, most progressive" candidate in the race?

I agree that we should talk about the "real"--or important--issues facing America.  If Obama stands out in this regard, show me one issue where his position is unique.  Just one.  Then we maybe we can have a more productive discussion here.      

by justinh 2006-12-13 01:57AM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

This is precisely what I don't buy into:

He comes across as honest. Someone who tells you what he is really thinking.

The following doesn't jive with your characterization of the man:

Hispanic leaders say he has betrayed the trust of the people who always gave him their votes.

"He’s lost his vision; he’s lost his feet on the ground," said Hispanic leader Carmen Velasquez.

Obama is being criticized after siding with Republicans in the Senate to approve a 700-mile wall across the Mexican border. The vote happened almost two months ago.

But CBS 2 News has learned exclusively that Obama has met privately with Hispanic leaders in an effort to convince them that his vote is part of a larger strategy. [Emphasis added]

[link: http://cbs2chicago.com/local/local_story _324192245.html ]

I understand that the issue of immigration is complicated and that compromised must be made; however, to simply explain away ones' vote as part of a larger strategy is not consistent with the picture you're attempting to sell. In fact, this comes across as inauthentic and less then trust worthy.

by bedobe 2006-12-12 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

The comments you posted are disagreements with Obama's vote on a couple bills not whether Obama told people he was voting one way and then voted another. Haven't seen any evidence of that.

That's the trust issue.

"to simply explain away ones' vote as part of a larger strategy is not consistent with the picture you're attempting to sell."

I'm only "selling" if you are paying cash.

Obama's rating is 75% on the "progressive" scale so there's not much explaining to do.

Only two "black marks" and one was the energy bill example (I'm not familiar with the other bill).

I know where Obama wants to go.  Elimination of US oil imports, No. 1 threat to US national security.

On the energy bill it was a choice of bill that would prevent a disruption in tax breaks for alternative energy mfg/users.  The bill sucked but at least it kept the tax breaks going.

Additionally, Obama and others got the 40mpg by 2017 into the bill which is key if Democrats are going to fulfil campaign pledge of cutting US oil imports by 50% in 10 years.

So now Obama is up to 88% "progressive rating".

Can I trust Obama to keep moving toward the goal of eliminating US oil imports?


by BrionLutz 2006-12-12 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

I'm a partisan Democrat and a strong progressive. I mention this so that you know where I'm coming from, and that I'll be supporting the Democratic nominee no matter what. However, I'm skeptical of the uncritical enthusiasm that many display about Sen. Obama. Again, lemme take issue with your characterization of the man:

He comes across as honest. Someone who tells you what he is really thinking.

Curiously, to my hears, he doesn't comes across as inauthentic and as someone not willing to tell it like it is. Now, I understand how you may easily dismiss critics like David Sirota, but to my mind, Sirota has been an intelligent, committed progressive and incisive commentator on the issues, that's why I don't readily dismiss what he has to say on the subject. Here's what he writes:

On Sen. Obama's use as more spending on education to partially address globalization...

the Great Education Myth is so often repeated by politicians: because it is the one myth that simultaneously looks like an economic panacea to the public and avoids offending the Big Money interests that bankroll political campaigns. Talk of reforming our trade policy to equalize capital protections (copyrights/patents) and human protections (labor/wage/enviro) threatens Corporate America's efforts to use foreign economic desperation to increase the bottom line. Talk of ending massive taxpayer subsidization of job outsourcing threatens the profit margins of the major political donors like General Electric that are benefiting from such gifts. Talk of cutting corporate welfare threatens the corporate welfare queens that write big checks to politicians. Talk of sending more taxpayer dollars to schools even if that prescription will do very little to address the country's structural economic challenges - well, that threatens nobody.

And later, in the same post:

Obama, of course, has a mixed record on structural economic policy. He made a solid move by voting against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on the grounds that it did not include strong enough worker protections. But he wrote a Chicago Tribune op-ed making sure the right people knew "I wish I could vote in favor of CAFTA" and then, in classic fashion, created a strawman argument that an unnamed group of people who voted against CAFTA want to "stop globalization." Obama was also one of a handful of Democratic senators to vote for the Oman Free Trade Agreement - like CAFTA, an agreement with no labor, human rights or environmental protections. Then again, to his credit, he is now talking about pushing universal health care - not an easy issue to talk about with such powerful interests backing the status quo. But Obama has been careful not to actually offer any shred of detail on what exactly he means, and has criticized proposals for a single-payer system, much like the one that congressmen and senators are included in.


As I wrote in my profile of Obama in The Nation, when it comes to these structural issues, he is a man who seems caught between his background as a community organizer in touch with real people, and his current existence surrounded by Washington insiders and consultants who, by profession, push politicians to avoid challenging power. Peddling the Great Education Myth is the ultimate way to avoid challenging power. If this is just a fleeting tactic and Obama goes on to get serious about the real heart of our economic challenges, then he may be the great presidential candidate Democrats need. But if this aversion to confronting power previews the rest of his campaign, there will indeed be a major opening for a real populist candidate to win the nomination and the presidency.

The former, again, does not conform to the picture of the Sen. Obama that you're attempting to sell.

by bedobe 2006-12-12 12:36PM | 0 recs
Re: It's more the trust factor with Obama

This is a very good point.  When you're in the minority, if a bill is going to pass anyway your goal should be to make it less pernicious, not to cast a meaningless protest vote so you'll do better on everyone's scorecard.

It's important to try and get the full picture of a legislator, for better or for worse, rather than base everything on a couple of high-profile votes.

by Steve M 2006-12-12 01:59PM | 0 recs


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