Thursday, July 10, 2008

Where Have You Gone, Barack Obama?

July 10, 2008, 6:25 a.m.

Links to prior, related blog entries on this subject can be found at the bottom of this entry.

Eric Lichtblau, "Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers," New York Times, July 10, 2008 ("[In] the end Mr. Bush won out, as [the FISA bill] . . . included almost all the major elements the White House wanted. . . . [Senator Obama] had long opposed giving legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in the N.S.A.’s wiretapping program, even threatening a filibuster during his run for the nomination. But on Wednesday, he ended up voting for [the bill].")

And for balance, see Gail Collins, "The Audacity of Listening," New York Times, July 10, 2008.

Just What Has Happened to Senator Obama?

What is Obama doing to himself, his campaign, and his one-time enthusiastic, hopeful young supporters -- and why? And what options do his disaffected former supporters now have?

Seemingly everyone's asking, and it's coming at me from all directions -- the chattering classes on cable, the newspaper stories in hard copy and online, the blogs (especially the comments in the FISA one on the Obama campaign Web site), comments on this blog, conversations with friends -- and personal emails. Here are excerpts from a couple from my inbox this morning.

One speculates the problem may be a switch in campaign staff since the primary:

What in heavens name is that man thinking? He should have gone on a two- or three-week vacation after the primary, is my diagnosis. OR: he needs all new campaign-gurus: almost every wrong turn taken since the primary, good Lord! (All the while, McC campaign ads on local TV ALL the time, and most of them are actually pretty solid—at least before I hit the mute!). Aside from the craziness of all his switches, they’re just so DUMB! I don’t get it—his intelligence was supposed to be one of his greatest virtues. I’m just glad I was for Biden so I don’t feel guilty or even more sunk than I do!
Another finds the Obama saga the only additional evidence anyone should need as to why the two party system has failed ordinary Americans, will continue to do so, and should therefore lead a rational voter to find a third party. Those who trust the two parties promises of "change" every four years, after repeatedly experiencing their failure to deliver, are no better than Charlie Brown relying on Lucy to hold the football:

If Obama doesn't change course immediately, it will be McCain's election to loose.

I haven't been following what McCain's people are saying right now, but if they aren't already doing so, they should be jumping all over this -- hammering Obama over his recent changes in policy . . .

"Who is Barack Obama? What does he stand for? Can we believe anything he says? McCain is a man of courage [blah, blah], patriot [whaa, whaa], steadfast [yadda, yadda], experienced...track record...etc, etc."

"We live in a dangerous world (it's very scary!!). We need an experienced elder statesman to lead us through these difficult times -- not a young man who hasn't even served a full term as a senator and can't make up his mind about what his position on various issues is from day to day. . . .

I think a lot of people are torn between hope and fear. Up until recently, Barack did a good job of playing on their hopes but fear is easy to exploit -- especially when the candidate of "change" and "hope" turns out to be a fraud.

We need a strong third party movement -- the dems and reps are too much alike and too entrenched. The system has been broken for a long time and continuing to expect those who benefit from it to fix it is -- if not the definition of insanity -- kind of like poor 'ol Charlie Brown, always trusting Lucy to hold the football.

That poor 'ol Charlie Brown -- he just never learns...

Nader '08!!
Many members of the Obama FISA blog are using the "lesser of the two evils" line (that Ralph Nader used to twist to "the evil of the two lessers"). It's an age old dilemma for voters, with solid arguments on both sides:

1. "The only realistic thing for a voter to do is to support the candidate who is at least slightly, marginally, better -- 'the lesser of the two evils.' The reality is that no third party candidate has a chance of winning; voting third party is just throwing your vote away -- which, in some states, could actually lead to victory by 'the greater of the two evils.' It's a sad reality, but it's the reality nonetheless."

2. "If you continue to accept disappointment and betrayal election after election, if you continue to let your corporate party's leaders (and their campaign contributors) take your vote for granted -- as the Obama campaign has made clear it is doing with those who got him the nomination -- because 'you have nowhere else to go,' you just perpetuate the system and its gradual worsening, decade after decade. 'Instant runoff' voting is the obvious win-win solution for both the major and the third parties. But since the major parties will probably continue to fight it, the only responsible move is to 'send them a message.' Third parties have brought about progressive change throughout America's political history and they can do so again -- it's a proud record of achievement -- but only when their membership had grown to sufficient size that they constituted a meaningful threat to the major parties. It's long past time we do it again."

What do you think? How do you come out on this choice? Or do you have a third option, or a better way of expressing those two?

Here are links to recent, related blog entries:

Nicholas Johnson, "Change We Can No Longer Believe In," June 22, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Holding Obama's Feet to the Fireside Chat," June 24, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "The Bundling Business," June 26, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Will the Real Obama Stand Up -- For Us?" June 27, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Pragmatic Idealism," June 28, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Obama's Geometry: Triangulation," June 30, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Obama's Move to Right Shows Self-Defeating Weakness," July 1, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Obama's Telephone Switch," July 3, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "'Producing' a President," July 5, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Request for Response: Your Reaction to 'Move to Center,'" July 7, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Obama Doesn't Get It," July 9, 2008.

Nicholas Johnson, "Where Have You Gone Barack Obama?" July 10, 2008.

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