Obama Enigma - WA Post editorial
by seattlegonz, Sun Feb 24, 2008 at 03:16:34 PM EST
One of the things I've been struggling with as a democrat is the unanswered question -- is Obama going to push a progressive, centrist or conservative agenda. I honestly don't know. He's taken some of Hillary Clinton's plans and said he'd advocate for those, some of John Edward's as well. But then, apparently he's taken some of Ron Paul's and Rudi Guiliani's ideas as well. Good ideas are everywhere, but I want my president to be able to discern good ideas from bad ones. I've suffered for 7 years 2 months under a president whose ideas were not his own, and as such he didn't have the ability to adjust and steer new courses when things went terribly awry. I don't want that again.
In today's Washington Post there was an editorial called Obama Enigma. Part of it talked about his reputation as the most liberal senator in the Senate, and then there was this:
"Yes, but where is Mr. Obama most comfortable himself? Where would he strive to take the country? It is possible to draw conflicting lessons from his record. As New York Times columnist David Brooks has pointed out, Mr. Obama was not part of the bipartisan Gang of 14 that tried to avert a showdown on judicial filibusters; he was not among the 68 senators voting for a bipartisan agreement on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; he dissented from the part of the bipartisan immigration deal that displeased unions. His campaign platform is orthodox liberal Democratic fare. So is Mr. Obama a standard liberal clad in the soothing language of inclusiveness?
Perhaps, but one could read the record and arrive at a different conclusion. Mr. Obama not only declined to filibuster Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.; he was initially inclined to vote for him, according to The Post's Perry Bacon Jr. Even in the heat of a primary campaign, he has shown some brief glimmers of divergence from the party line: He dared to mention the notion of "merit pay" in an appearance before the teachers union, and he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board that, although he is a "skeptic" about school vouchers, "I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn" if research shows that they work. His book "The Audacity of Hope" is laced with hints of a more complex Obama than the campaign trail version -- more conflicted, for instance, about the benefits of free trade than the campaign trail's NAFTA-basher. "In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly, Obama is deeply conservative. There are moments when he sounds almost Burkean," Larissa McFarquhar wrote in the New Yorker last year.
The closing weeks of a primary campaign aren't especially conducive to thoughtful discussions of political philosophy. But if not now, when? Mr. Obama's rhetoric about bridging partisan differences has been inspiring, his personal story is moving and his qualities of leadership are undoubted. But do voters understand where, exactly, he would like to lead them?"
To the last question, I know I don't. If BO prevails and wins the democratic nomination, I won't be able to support him unless it is clear that he won't support school vouchers, appoint justices like Roberts, cause further job loss by allowing businesses to remain unregulated and trade barriers unchallenged. I admit, Obama scares me for the fact that I don't believe that he intends to do the hard work of getting a progressive agenda passed. I believe he believes that there is some happy middle where republicans and democrats meet and that it has been some intransigent old-geezers that have kept us from the feel good moment of all being in agreement.
America was created with the challenge of being both free and equal. The two don't actually go together. If one is free to be racist in terms of who one lets eat at their diner, then we don't all have equal rights to enter a place of business and be treated with respect. This is fundamentally the argument between Republicans and Democrats, although Republicans are for freedom except as it applies to minorities, women, gays and lesbians. And apparently democrats aren't as willing to fight for women's rights as they are willing to fight for minority rights. (That's why women still earn 70c on the dollar to men, and why the media has been able to continuously use sexist and derogatory terms to describe Hillary without a word of protest from the democratic party.) At any rate, before I'd be willing to support BO I'd need to know if he was a Roberts, a reagan, or a roosevelt democrat. It makes a difference.