Monday, July 07, 2008

Request for Response: Your Reaction to "Move to Center"

July 7, 2008, 4:00 p.m., updated 8:20 p.m.

I put this comment into my blog and the FISA group blog on the Senator Obama Web site a few minutes ago and already have a couple of responses -- as a result of which I decided it should be posted here as well. Needless to say, I would also welcome any comments you'd be willing to register on this blog (which I could then copy over to the Obama blog area as well).

Request for Response: Your Reaction to "Move to Center"

By NickIowa - Jul 7th, 2008 at 4:25 pm EDT

I am a supporter of Senator Obama who would welcome help/comment from any members of this group willing to provide it for an informal study I am doing of the Obama campaign strategy.

Much of the excitement surrounding the Obama campaign has involved those of you who are relatively younger, first time voters, and students. Not all, but many, came to the campaign with a sense of hope and idealism, having been sort of disgusted with what they perceived as the mess the older generation had made of government and politics "inside the beltway." Many believed that in Senator Obama, at last, was someone who seemed to be the genuine article, willing to change all of that -- in terms of campaign finance (1.6 million contributors), involvement of (and communication with) constituents (these blogs), political process ("reaching across the aisle"), foreign relations (talking to our enemies), and domestic programs (a rational/educated approach to creating a progressive agenda) -- and with the intelligence, energy and moral conviction to get it done.

Since the primary, during the past few weeks, our candidate and his campaign have made moves to the middle/right on an array of subjects -- whether they were in fact changes in his positions that was the perception of many supporters: public financing of campaigns (and bundling), NAFTA, FISA and telephone company immunity, $30,000-a-plate dinners, the Iraq War, regulation of handguns, the death penalty, Israel, government funding of "faith-based" programs, tax breaks for corporations, and so forth.

Which of the following comes closest to what has been your reaction to these shifts in positions -- if such they be?

1. Do they bring him closer to what your positions were all along, reassuring you that he is not so progressive/radical as you once feared?

2. Do you not have any view on any of these subjects anyway, and thus you have been unaffected in your enthusiasm one way or the other?

3. Do you have positions, but they're not strongly held, and you do not really care about his positions; you just like him and really want him to win, regardless of what he thinks he has to say and do to get elected, and trust that he will be a good president if he does?

4. Are you slightly upset with what you perceive to be your having supported someone during the primary who has now turned out to be something different from what you first thought -- but you know that all candidates shift from primaries to general elections (liberals to the right; conservatives to the left) and you just accept it?

5. Are you very upset and feel some sense of betrayal and having been manipulated -- but you have nowhere else to turn, since you don't want to vote for Senator McCain or some third party candidate?

6. Are you so upset that, while you've continued your membership on the Web site, and will vote for Senator Obama in November, you are not going to give any more money to the campaign, or otherwise contribute your time and effort?

7. Or have you actually decided that if the election were held now that you would do one of the following: stay home and not vote, or vote for Senator McCain or a third party candidate or some name you'd write in?
I'm concerned that the campaign's shifts in strategy may have been a little too much, too fast -- losing more present and potential future voters than they gain. On the other hand, many of the older voters I've surveyed don't seem to be (for the most part) all that concerned.

What I'm interested in finding out is to what extent there may be differences in the reactions of the younger supporters. Any comments would be appreciated. Thank you.

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Reply [on the Obama blog]

By Dan 11 minutes ago

1. on a couple of the issues, his "new" positions are more in line with my own (particularly the second amendment), but those that fit this description are also not really new. on most of the issues, i don't really care... they aren't critical issues for me. obviously, the one that is a problem for me is FISA.

2. particularly the faith based stuff... i understand the problem people have with it, but it just doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. not because of the merits of the position, but the likelihood that he would put much priority to it.

3. no, but i'm mostly drawn to his decision making process, which includes considering alternative viewpoints. in that sense, his ultimate decisions on most issues are not as critical to me as the process by which he arrived at those decisions.

4. i'm mostly upset that he's voting on the FISA bill, not because it's conservative (it isn't), but because it is a no-win for him politically and a no-win for the american people legally. i feel his decision making process in this issue must not have been very thorough, because anything beyond a purely cursory review of the bill would lead any sensible lawmaker, especially a democratic one, to vote against it.

5. i don't think i've been manipulated, but i also don't think i have no where else to turn if i did.

6. i'm not giving him any more money until i feel he's back on track with his vision for america. i don't know when that will be, but it certainly isn't right now.

7. i will vote for the candidate i feel will best do the job, and that would always be my answer to this question. it's not my job to promise my vote to obama, it's obama's job to convince me he's best for the job.

By Wayne from Ridgewood, NY 5 minutes ago

"AT&T Whistleblower: “Congress is intervening ... to ... protect the President ... It was all a secret deal, a conspiracy against the American people” "

I am sick to my stomach over this!
A few minutes later there were a couple more:

By janinct Jul 7th 2008 at 5:00 pm EDT

I agree with Arianna Huffington that this is a tactic that can cost Obama the election. I am an older, white, female progressive and I have felt enthusiastic about his campaign, something I have not experienced before. Bush has left this country with overwhelming problems, we need a president who will tackle these problems with intelligent, forthright solutions. These solutions will not come from wishy washy, middle of the road thinking. We need leadership, not triangulation.

By William from Louisville, KY Jul 7th 2008 at 4:55 pm EDT

My interest in Obama is based on the fact that he seemed to be someone who would NOT compromise his integrity. Some disagreement I can handle, but if he decides whether or not to vote for an unconstitutional FISA bill based on what he thinks it will take to get elected I can always return to Nader.
There were subsequent comments that, while not entered as comments in my blog entry, nonetheless appeared either responsive or on the same subject. Here are some examples (sometimes excerpted, but without altering the general point):

Obama Must Stand Against Telecom Immunity

By Brian Carver - Jul 7th, 2008 at 4:50 pm EDT

My wife and I have donated to this campaign multiple times but will no longer do so if Obama does not do everything in his power to remove telecom immunity from the FISA bill. I have joined this site solely to raise this issue. It is a critical constitutional matter.

No to telco immunity

By Todd Grigsby, CA - Jul 7th, 2008 at 4:55 pm EDT

I urge everyone to make the message clear to Mr. Obama, that any form of telecommunications immunity is not acceptable. I want to see Mr. Obama respond to that message by voting against the FISA reform bill in its current form. I want him to stand by his "message of change" and stand up to Bush's "energetic executive" program. I want my rights back, and I want their violation punished, and I don't think that's too much to ask from someone who expects to be the leader of this nation.

I like the Constitution!!

By Michael - Jul 7th, 2008 at 5:12 pm EDT

Preface: I support Obama for President.

Massive epic failure on the part of Obama on FISA, Faith Based Initiatives and Troop pull out.

Senator Please...

1. Keep your promises
2. Don't move to the "center" it is certain political death
3. Quit giving the enemy (the mainstream media) spin fuel. Flipping makes you look weak and malleable, opportunistic and fickle.
4. Pick a progressive VP, because you aren't looking that progressive anymore.

Supporters Please...

1. Bombard Obama with calls, emails and posts about FISA.
2. Knock off the glazed eyed cheerleader infatuation. He needs to be held accountable.
3. Don't think that FISA is distracting or not that important. It is fundamental, the very essence of his campaign.
4. Bombard YOUR Senators about FISA. My Senator McCaskill is turning into a Bush dog, and the other one named Bond, Kit Bond thinks waterboarding is like swimming lessons.
5. Boycott the mainstream is the sickness which eats the body politic.

Thank you

The time is NOW... they vote tomorrow!!!

By Michael - Jul 7th, 2008 at 5:21 pm EDT

Preface: I support Obama for President, but support is not submission! Obama has been blessed with the FISA issue, not often does a candidate get an issue that will PROVE to all whose side he is on. But then he drops the ball!!!!

Is the Senator's stance on FISA hurting us?


1. It makes him look like a typical politician, this what we expect form an insider, a Pelosi, a Reid, all talk and no action!!!

2. The Evil so called Conservatives are spinning this into Obama being a Kerry like flip flopper and that we got played. Progressives bought in to the hype and now he is turning his back. They spin and the mainstream media eats it up.

3. The skate to the "center" is a sure sign of failure on many levels. Gore, Kerry, Clinton and others have given their goodbye speeches all because of the move to the so called center.

4. MOST IMPORTANTLY, it goes against the spirit, the essence of the Obama campaign. It goes against the hopes and dreams of all of us.
It is the foundation of our support for Obama.

Now I know what you will say...

1. Look at the big picture...there is no bigger picture

2. McCain is worse...McCain is not the yardstick I want to judge Obama by. I'll use Feingold, Kucinich and Dodd for the parameters Obama needs to meet.

3. YES WE CAN!!! Yes we can what, roll over? Pretend this isn't important? Not pressure him to do what is right?

4. This isn't that important...really, if you feel that way, quit pretending to be conscious and go watch TV.

5. We lose the battle but win the war...I say he can gain MORE political capital by doing what is right.

If you REALLY support Obama (not just a glazed eyed cheerleader suckered in by charisma and false hope) then you will SAVE his candidacy and possibly the future of this country by DEMANDING he vote against FISA, not just vote against it, lead the fight against it.

Thank you!

In mourning

By Carol - Jul 7th, 2008 at 5:22 pm EDT

I joined Community Blogs because I need to give shape to the primal scream that wants to escape from my lungs. I was so inspired by Barack Obama. I believed we had at long last found an enlightened leader who would return this country to the ideals it was founded on, bring hope and unity back into government. I thought that the people would have voice and that even the non-elite of us would thrive again. Since the day he became the presumptive nominee for our party, however, I have been disappointed and then alarmed by him. Choosing a WalMart executive as economic advisor, his biased AIPAC speech, his promise of tax cuts for the middle class at a time when even those of us in the middle class understand we can't afford them if we're to get this country back on sound economic footing. And finally the FISA vote. I feel as if I have been duped yet again, that I voted for someone who would lead from his heart and conscience only to find that I have voted for someone who will once again sell us out. I feel betrayed. I have not put my Obama lawn sign out and don't know that I will. Of course I will vote for him; I have no choice. But I am very much afraid that we will only end up with another politician who will sell out to corporate interests, who will continue the Bush/Cheney fear mongering. I've lost the hope he inspired. I am in mourning.

Huffpo blog today: Obama's empty response to our group

By no right turn - Jul 7th, 2008 at 5:33 pm EDT

Last week, on these pages, Senator Barack Obama responded to critics of his position on telecom immunity. I found the occasion to be a strange one - there was something very exciting and vital about seeing Obama engage with his constituents in the way that he did. As an evangelist for the virtues of blogging in general, it was thrilling. But as a citizen, engaged in the issues, I found the substance of the exchange to be wanting. . . .

We've all heard variations on that worrisome theme of the Move To The Center. Speaking only for myself, I'll say that there's nothing inherently wrong with having a centrist position. If you boldly stake out a position in the center, it sends a message of principle to voters. But when I hear critics speak of the "shift to the center," I know that they're not talking about making a bold stand - they're talking about making no stand at all. They're talking about navigating to a place where one's position becomes so indiscernible, so wishy-washy, so undefined, as to make it seem like you are taking all positions at once. Obama's response - which includes a vague promise to join the effort to strip immunity from the bill, even while signaling that its preferable to a worse bill - seems designed to be as innocuous as possible.

This perplexes me greatly, because I simply am unable to see how taking a bold stand against telecom immunity could possibly hobble his presidential aspirations. It is precisely this sort of lawlessness, precisely these sorts of policies, that have driven up public discontent with the Bush administration. . . .

Obama's insulting dishonest reply to our group

By no right turn - Jul 7th, 2008 at 7:03 pm EDT

Maybe he thinks we are like the bumpkins he has met on the campaign trail. I have found that within the net roots are some very politically savvy people who get it much better than the politicians who represent them. . . .

If you want to get to the truth, you have to be willing to lose everything for it. I do not see Obama doing this, not on the FISA issue, not on torture, not on the crimes of the current administration. We have put our faith in a man who by his own words is not perfect. At this point, with all his gifts, he now appears ordinary and common. His first test of mettle is a failure. . . .

Advice for Obama and Supporters

By Michael - Jul 7th, 2008 at 7:25 pm EDT

To Obama and his supporters!! I support Obama for president, but I will not allow him to vote the wrong way on FISA!!! If your a glazed eyed cheerleader infatuated with Obama but have no real education on policy or how elections are won, read this and more.

Obama does not have this election tied up yet. And if we don't check his swerve to the so called center he could lose big!! . . .

Mr. Obama, PLEASE join us!!!

By Robert - Jul 7th, 2008 at 7:36 pm EDT

Well, we are coming down to the wire on this FISA thing. Tomorrow is YOUR big day, (as far as over 20,000 of us feel). It is amazing to watch this group grow day by day, (over 1,000 members just since yesterday evening). Your "pro-FISA" group has 10 members. I bring up these numbers for a reason; they show, we are your staunchest supporters. They also show that the Constitution is much more important to most of us, than even a charismatic good man as yourself. Otherwise, the "pro-FISA" group would be growing by leaps and bounds, to show their support for you, but they are not, and we are. Just to be members of "" means that we are probably your strongest base of "get-out-the-vote" voters. We are your foot-soldiers going from door-to-door, manning phone-banks, writing letters to the editor, rallys, etc.

I fear that a "yes" vote on FISA, or Anything short of leading the fight against FISA, will deflate a Lot of the enthusiasm and effort we have brought to your campaign, because we believed in you. In fact, i bet, if you vote "yes", you'll notice it sooner than you think, in terms of All those small donations that have fattened your campaign chest so far. . . .

Telco immunity? Ask whistleblower Mark Klein

By Bluejane - Jul 7th, 2008 at 7:41 pm EDT

Senator Obama, Since you seem to be fact-challenged about the FISA bill, for example claiming the FISA amendments provide adequate oversight measures when in fact they do not, on the issue of telco immunity you might want to read an in-depth interview conducted today with Mark Klein, a long-time AT&T employee and communications specialist who was a witness to massive NSA wiretapping via AT&T through a secret room in San Francisco. Mr. Klein is a chief witness in a lawsuit being brought against AT&T for illegal warrantless surveillance; the suit will be stopped dead in its tracks by the new FISA bill which you support, so that the American people will never know the extent of the wiretapping or the facts of what happened and justice will never be served for breaking the law at the highest levels of government, rendering the rule of law meaningless. . . .

Senator Obama, you are supporting retroactive legislative obstruction of justice. Here's a brief excerpt followed by a link to the extensive interview transcript:

>>Mark Klein: "In 2003 I was assigned to that office [in San Francisco], and I got hold of the documents which were available—they’re not classified—and the documents showed what they were doing. They were basically copying the entire data stream going across critical internet cables and copying the entire data stream to this secret room, so the NSA was getting everything." <<>

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JamesEJ said...

I am closest to #1.

I always felt that Obama's "earlier" positions where the leftist face of where he actually stood. He needed to brandish his leftist credentials to win the primary. Period.

Obama's newer positions are a mix of a) the centrist/conservative face of where he actually stands, and b) a reflection of the responsibility that comes with becoming president.

People often forget that most of our recent presidents ran on a fairly non-interventionist military platform, Bush included. However, the power of the United States is something that cannot simply be withdrawn from the world without (terrible) consequences. As challenger candidates transform into Presidents, I think the responsibility of that power begins to weigh on them. A candidate that did not become more interventionist as he rose to the Presidency is one who is unworthy of the office in my opinion.

If anything, I think Presidents are often too reluctant to shift towards this responsibility. Our delay in Bosnia, our inaction in Sudan, our inaction in Zimbabwe, and other failures of moral leadership are a reflection of that ultimate reluctance. Bush has certainly hampered our ability to react in places where we are needed. But his failure is not in being too aggressive internationally. His failure has been in the naivete of his tactics and his unwillingness to reexamine his approach when it has failed.

Obama needs to "shift" in a way that shows this kind of understanding. Doing so doesn't make him a flip-flopper. It makes him capable of adapting to the reality evolving around him. That is a trait that is sorely needed in our president.

Sated Cow said...

I've been sorely disappointed by Senator Obama's shifts in position, especially those related to the FISA bill and campaign financing.

I know President Kennedy spent much of his general campaign and first two years in office shifting to the right to keep the Republicans and anti-Communists happy, and as a result greenlighted the Bay of Pigs invasion, and let the country slip further into the mess in Viet Nam.

My hope for Obama was that he was a man of principle, not politics, that he truly was a person who would take stands that were for the good of the country, regardless of whether they were popular or would help him get elected. That was the absolute number one reason I supported him over Clinton's calculating electoral war-making machine.

Now I wonder if there's any difference between the two, or if Obama just knows how to play the game even better than Clinton.

Sated Cow said...

Realizing I didn't answer your question, I'm somewhere in between #6 and #7. I'm certainly not donating any money to Obama's campaign from this point forward (which I'm sure will make him rue his decision to decline public funds), and I'm now mulling what would have been hard to imagine two months ago (voting for McCain or not voting for President at all).

Demographically, I'm a 35-yo white male. I've voted in every quadrennial election since 1992, with a few off years thrown in.

Sherman said...

I'm with 'sated cow'.

I certainly am not going to donate any more money (Obama's campaign was the first I had ever donated money to) and at this point I plan to vote for Ralph Nader (whether or not he is on the ballot).

If we keep voting for the lesser of two evils the downward spiral will only continue.

Carlos said...

Good JoB! :)