Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Obama shuffle: Australia has already seen where that strategy ends up

The latest political gimmick is to claim there is no difference between Left and Right any more. In his bid to become prime minister, Kevin Rudd wrapped himself in the language of post-partisanship last year.

Democrat Barack Obama is taking it to new levels in his bid to win the US presidency. He is the post-partisan candidate, he says, the man gliding above old-style politics in an age where ideology is apparently a thing of the past. Notice how it's only those on the Left who cloak themselves in this talk of post-partisanship? In time, reality is likely to prove this to be just another duplicitous political trick to hide real political agendas.

With the Cold War over and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it may be that the contours of the political landscape have shifted to the point where battles between capital and labour are now minor skirmishes. Certainly, it would be splendid to assume there is now some grand consensus, where principles of free markets and the freedom of the individual have prevailed to the point where the battles between Left and Right can be relegated to the chapters of political history covering 1917 to 1989.

So what's left to fight about in 2008? In a word, plenty. For all of his high-falutin' talk about being Post-Partisan Man, Obama is perpetrating a hoax on American voters. Anyone familiar with Obama's political history would realise that he is to the left of Teddy Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. He is ranked as the most liberal senator by the National Journal's 27th annual analysis of congressional voting patterns. No surprise given he has voted against tax cuts, opposed bans on partial birth abortion, and has shown an anathema towards free trade pacts.

America's most left-wing senator is pitching himself as the transforming, unifying figure who represents a new style of politics. As keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he wooed Democrats by announcing: "There's not a liberal America and a conservative America: there is the United States of America." So began a love affair with the senator for Illinois.

In recent weeks, post-partisan Obama has traumatised many Democrats by lurching to the Right. Turns out there is a conservative America. But then Obama was never a credible post-partisan politician. As a senator, he has never sided with his opponents in Congress. Not once. In reality, Obama is the gritty Chicago politician who knows that, having sewn up the primaries with his left-wing rhetoric, a different political calculation is now required to win the White House.

Such is his raw political cunning, Obama planned a political rally at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, the historical symbol of German unification. German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected it as inappropriate.

Called the Potomac shuffle, presidential candidates traditionally move centre to shore up the swing voters and try to take votes from their opponents. But even by the standards of yore, Obama is, as one American commentator said, "quite a mover on the dance floor." Having rejected old-style political manipulation, Obama is now mastering the art.

Obama has shifted from his original position of talking with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with "no precondition". He has moderated his policy of withdrawing US soldiers from Iraq. And the hip young Democrat has been lip-synching the words of conservatives on the US Supreme Court by supporting the death penalty for child rapists and backing the Second Amendment right of Americans to own handguns.

Obama is shrewd. He knows he has to play down Hollywood's love affair with him, the fact that Europe has gone ga-ga over him and those soft-lens photos of him that keep appearing on the front cover of Rolling Stone. So, he has recently courted the religious Right by supporting President George W. Bush's initiative to promote "faith-based" social welfare programs.

He has reached out to white working-class voters by donning a flag pin on his lapel, something he eschewed right after September 11, telling reporters that "my patriotism speaks for itself". Now he's hoping that his flag pin will speak to voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where he lost the primaries against Hillary Clinton.

Far from being the post-partisan healer of a divided nation, there are, as David Brooks wrote in The New York Times, two Obamas. The great orator who uses high-minded, post-partisan language and operates at a policy free zone of 10,000 metres. And then there's Fast Eddy: the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago politician who'd throw you under a truck for votes. Actually, Obama threw his grandmother and his preacher under that truck in order to win votes when they said things that didn't suit his campaign.

Yet Obama still speaks the appealing language of post-partisanship. Fused with the even more powerful message of change, Obama's core constituency of well-heeled progressives love it. Sections of the media adore it. So do idealistic young students, who have taken to adopting Obama's middle name - Hussein - as a sign of solidarity. And if middle America falls for it too, it's because they want to believe the post-partisan rhetoric. It's not because it's true.

Indeed, American voters would do well to cast their eyes over to Australia. A not dissimilar line of post-partisanship was paraded during our federal election last year. Rudd, the Labor politician, eschewed Left labels. He was the self-declared "economic conservative". And it was heartening to see a Rudd Labor Government appoint a minister for deregulation.

Unfortunately their pre-election sensible economic talk is undermined by their post-election climate change walk. The Rudd Government's position on climate change reflects that stubborn attachment to utopian solutions. There is no pragmatic caution or economic conservatism on show as they push ahead with an emissions trading system that will impose on Australian businesses and consumers the single biggest set of regulations and costs seen in this country. All for a good cause, they say. But that good cause is built on a classic left-wing hope and a prayer, not reality.

The Rudd Government hopes that the biggest emitters of carbon - India, China and the US - will follow suit. And the Australian economy will be punished until that climate change utopia is reached. As an editorial in The Wall Street Journal Asia said yesterday, "Rudd just wants to do what every Labor pol likes: tax industry and redistribute the proceeds, at huge cost to the economy."

No more Left and Right? Wrong. Just as Australian voters are now discovering that post-partisan talk is crafty election rhetoric, American voters may discover even greater duplicity in Obama's post-partisan bid for the White House. Underneath his powerful message lies an old-fashioned tax and spend, big government liberal. The question is whether that happens before or after they choose their next president.


Mikhail Sergeyevich Obama

Post below recycled from TARANTO. See the original for links

"Barack Obama received a prideful welcome from the annual NAACP convention Monday night, but in a stirring speech to the nation's oldest civil rights organization, he nonetheless insisted blacks must show greater responsibility for improving their own lives," the Associated Press reports from Cincinnati:
The man who could become the first black president urged Washington to provide more education and economic assistance. He called on corporate America to exercise greater social responsibility. But he also received his most lusty applause as he urged blacks to demand more of themselves.

"If we're serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives. There's nothing wrong with saying that," Obama told a crowd estimated at 3,000. "But with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV set and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework, setting a good example. That's what everybody's got to do."

This is of a piece with the comments that led Jesse Jackson to fantasize about lynching Obama. It got us to thinking that maybe Obama is the Mikhail Gorbachev of the civil rights movement.

Consider the similarities: Gorbachev represented a generational change from Brezhnev and his short-lived successors. Obama represents a generational change from the likes of Jesse Jackson. Gorbachev never intended to bring down communism, only to reform it. Obama says he backs racial preferences but is not wedded to their current form. Gorbachev was a media darling. Obama . . . well, if Time does a "person" of the decade in 2010, can there be any doubt who it'll be?

Of course there are differences; all analogies are imperfect. The civil rights movement, whatever its flaws in its contemporary form, did enormous good for black Americans. The same can hardly be said for Soviet communism and those who lived under it. Gorbachev withdrew from Afghanistan; Obama says he'll invade Pakistan.

Still, here is the central point: Obama, like Gorbachev, may--without meaning to--bring about the collapse of an ideological movement that began idealistically but was corrupted and ultimately exhausted.

Obama Firm in Opposition to Hitler

The New Yorker this week has been getting a lot of attention for its satirical Barack Obama cover (about which more in the next item), but we decided to go nuts and actually read the article. One thing that struck us was author Ryan Lizza's description of the 2002 speech in which Obama announced his opposition to the liberation of Iraq:
Obama's now famous speech was notable for the absence of the traditional tropes of the antiwar left. . . . "Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an antiwar rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances," he told the crowd. He then went further, defending justifiable wars in almost glorious terms. "The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don't oppose all wars. My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's Army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow-troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain. I don't oppose all wars." It took some nerve to tweak the crowd in this way.

So Lizza is crediting Obama with political courage for backing the Union in the Civil War and the Allies in World War II, 140 and 60 years, respectively, after the fact. Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations!

The cartoon

Speaking of humor, Barack Obama's supporters are showing a distinct lack of it in response to The New Yorker's cover, featuring a cartoon that depicts a turban-clad Obama fist-bumping his wife, Michelle, who wears an afro, cammies and a machine gun, making her look like a 1960s black-power radical. The pair appear to be in the Oval Office, where an American flag burns in the fireplace and a portrait of Osama bin Laden hangs on the wall. It's a wicked satire of Obama's Islamophobia.

"The response from both Democrats and Republicans was explosive," reports the New York Times. Professional humorists have either had difficulty coming up with Obama jokes or found that they were poorly received:
There has been little humor about Mr. Obama: about his age, his speaking ability, his intelligence, his family, his physique. And within a late-night landscape dominated by white hosts, white writers, and overwhelmingly white audiences, there has been almost none about his race. "We're doing jokes about people in his orbit, not really about him," said Mike Sweeney, the head writer for [Conan] O'Brien on "Late Night." . . .

When [Jon] Stewart on "The Daily Show" recently tried to joke about Mr. Obama changing his position on campaign financing, for instance, he met with such obvious resistance from the audience, he said, "You know, you're allowed to laugh at him." Mr. Stewart said in a telephone interview on Monday, "People have a tendency to react as far as their ideology allows them."

Salon's Gary Kamiya blames George W. Bush:
Vast swaths of the left have apparently been so traumatized by the Big Lie techniques employed by the Bush administration, its media lickspittles like Fox News, and the right-wing attack machine that they have come to regard all images or texts that contain negative stereotypes as too politically dangerous to run. If you satirically depict Obama as an Islamist terrorist, in this view, you are only reinforcing and giving broader currency to right-wing smears.

The Los Angeles Times reports on Obama backers upset about the cartoon:
Chicago Tribune columnist/blogger Eric Zorn gave notice that he is waiting for the magazine to launch an equal-ink takedown depicting John McCain as "about 150 years old and spouting demented non-sequiturs in the middle of a violent temper tantrum while, in the corner, his wife is passed out next to a bottle of pills."

Actually, someone who has maintained a little more perspective already obliged. David Horsey, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, riffed on the Blitt illustration with a McCain portrait of his own.

Horsey's image shows a drooling, wheelchair-bound McCain, singing "Bomb bomb bomb--bomb bomb Iran," as wife Cindy pours dozens of pills from a vial and implores her husband, "Take some of my meds to get through the inaugural parade!"

The Horsey cartoon appears here. As far as we know, it has upset no one. So: A cartoon of Obama inspires fury and outrage. A cartoon of McCain leads everyone to shrug. Obama is being treated like Muhammad, McCain like Jesus.

The emptyhead on GM Job and Production Cuts

Put on your hip waders. Barack Obama needs Michigan. Obama's campaign today issued a statement responding to GM's announcement that the troubled automaker will be laying off salaried workers, cutting production, suspending its dividend, and borrowing more money in response to its lagging sales. Obama's statement begins with the obvious boilerplate:
We need real change in Washington.

Change ... in Washington? Isn't it obvious? Continuing...
That means no longer turning a blind eye to 3.5 million lost manufacturing jobs. It means recognizing the continued importance of the manufacturing sector in our economy, and having a plan to help revive it.

We need to 'revive the manufacturing sector'? But hasn't manufacturing output in the US increased by about 60% since the mid 80s?


Winning in Afghanistan: Obama sees problems; McCain sees a solution.

BARACK OBAMA IS STRIVING MIGHTILY to pass the commander-in-chief test by proposing that U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq, where we are on the verge of a decisive victory against al Qaeda and Iran's "special group" proxies, and reinforce the NATO mission in Afghanistan, where at best we're only holding our own. Setting aside the timeless military wisdom that great captains reinforce success, it's instructive to compare Obama's plan for Afghanistan with that of his rival, John McCain.

First, the Obama approach, as outlined in his "New Strategy for a New World" speech today: redeploy two additional U.S. combat brigades into Afghanistan, get greater contributions and fewer restrictions from our NATO partners, accelerate the training of Afghan security forces, "invest in alternative livelihoods to poppy-growing," bolster the Karzai government and pressure the government of Pakistan to pacify the Pashtun tribal belts along the border. Nothing wrong with any of this--although "standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people" is no substitute for some very tough love directed at the Pakistani army--but a little underwhelming for a "war we must win" that Obama argues is the real central front in the Long War. Obama is not aiming to win, but to "finish" the war.

By contrast, the McCain approach, as outlined in brief remarks this morning: three brigades, not two. A clear counterinsurgency strategy, modeled on the success of the surge in Iraq (a method that Obama still contends is a failure). A coherent campaign plan, synchronizing not just military but U.S. and NATO civilian efforts as well, again modeled on the plan devised by Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker in Baghdad. A request not just for more troops and fewer caveats from NATO, but a demand for unity of command. An accompanying Afghan surge, doubling the size of the Afghan National Army--not only a proven fighting force but the one true expression of Afghan nationalism and the most competent institution of the Kabul government. McCain seems less interested in "finishing" the war than winning it.

The differences are not small ones, and reflect a distinction between the kind of staff-driven, laundry-list mush that sees the immensity of a problem and a leader-driven set of priorities that sees a solution. It is the distinction between Obama's opposition to the Iraq surge and McCain's support for it: not just the courage to make the tough choice, but the clarity to follow the right course. It's also the distinction between winning the war and simply ending it.


Obama knows oil like he knows bowling

Monday, Obama: Offshore drilling won't reduce prices.

Tuesday, oil market: Prices drop $7 a barrel on Bush's call to drill offshore.

Iraq, the 2nd Amendment, bowling . is there anything that Democratic Sen. Barack Obama does know?

On Monday, Obama said: "If offshore drilling would provide short-term relief at the pump or a long-term strategy for energy independence, it would be worthy of our consideration, regardless of the risks. But most experts, even within the Bush Administration, concede it would do neither. It would merely prolong the failed energy policies we have seen from Washington for thirty years."

President Bush officially lifted his ban on offshore drilling, kicking it over to Congress for action. Within an hour, the price of oil fell $7 a barrel. It's looking more and more like Obama will stay in the Senate.


Closed ears

The press almost totally ignored Michelle Obama's observation last week that the $600 stimulus check taxpayers received from Uncle Sam was only enough to buy a pair of earrings. The Washington Times political reporter Ralph Z. Hallow notes that when he mentioned the incident in separate phone conversations with several well-known political commentators, the response from each was, "She said what? How come I haven't heard that before now?"

Why indeed? Mrs. Obama, who has been tagged as an elitist by foes, again opened herself to that charge, but the press (and John McCain's campaign) seemed to be focused exclusively on the gaffe McCain surrogate Phil Gramm made in saying Americans were a nation of whiners when it comes to the economy.

That same day, Mrs. Obama, addressing a women's panel in Pontiac, Mich., with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm in the audience, answered a question about the economic stimulus checks mailed by the U.S. government earlier this year. "You're getting $600," she said to the audience of mostly black women. "What can you do with that? Not to be ungrateful or anything. But maybe it pays down a bill, but it doesn't pay down every bill every month."

She added: "Barack's approach is that the short-term quick fix kinda stuff sounds good. And it may even feel good that first month when you get that check. And then you go out and you buy a pair of earrings."


Obama's nuts

The fact that the former Democratic presidential candidate and civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson wanted to cut out some of Barack Obama's nuts for himself was hardly a surprise to anyone familiar with their miraculous properties. For a long time, people from all cultures of America and beyond have sought to incorporate Obama's nuts into their lives, both as objects of beauty and as tools for the body, mind and spirit.

Every Obama's nut is unique with various properties and characteristics and has the ability to induce hope, as well as store, receive, and transmit energy. Other legendary properties include the ability to attract compassion and understanding of the media, reveal the location of other people's money, ward off unwanted inquiries, and prevent drug overdose

Despite the common fears, Jackson's plan to collect Obama's nuts wasn't meant to hurt the presidential hopeful - it is a known fact that for every cut out Obama's nut, two more will grow in its place. For every four cut out nuts, eight more will grow, and so on. As of last month, Obama's scrotum resembled a large cluster of table grapes that experts compare to a delicious mix between Fantasy Seedless and Bluebell.

One or two Obama's nuts are occasionally found in shower drains at hotels along his campaign trail. People who find them usually obtain good fortune, boundless wisdom, and total protection from the FBI.

Excerpt from the inimitable People's Cube