Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Obama and Moving to the Center

I have to say, I'm so, so tired of the whining about Obama moving to the center. First: in some cases, this makes his positions more rational--e.g. with regard to Iraq. Second: this is one of the ways in which democracy works; a candidate compromises in order to take into account the opinions of those with whom he is not inclined to agree, and some of them, in turn, vote for him. Third: I'm getting the feeling that many lefties would prefer an ideologically pure Obama who loses to one who compromises and wins. Fourth: shut up.

The main points, though, are the linked second and third ones. And I say this despite my partiality to the fourth one.

So far, my favorite comment has come from the Huffington Post, which noted that many supporters were angry that Obama supported the death penalty for child rapists. Think about that for a bit.

I'm not wild about all his moves--look, I have no sympathy whatsoever with this horseshit about continuing "faith-based initiatives." But there's little doubt in my mind that an Obama who has moved to the center in order to help unify the country will be better than McCain.


Blogger lovable liberal said...

Most of the objections I've seen (and agree with) to Obama's temporizing have been to his moving to the Beltway center, not the popular center. On FISA, for instance, he changed his position to the less popular Washington-centric, Broderist position. I'm sure there are nuts who object to any softening of any position.

On the death penalty for child rapists, I thought the Supreme Court was nuts to rule that the supreme sanction is out of step with American views. Totally batshit crazy. The average American probably wouldn't have a problem with castrating these perps without benefit of anesthesia.

Of course, I'm opposed to the death penalty for murder in part because I believe the evidence is in, and we can't fairly administer it even though it's clear that some monsters deserve it.

I have no problem with the way Obama has advocated "faith-based" programs. He in fact would reverse Duhbya's advocacy of religion through social services.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Jim Bales said...

WS, I must take issue with
"Third: I'm getting the feeling that many lefties would prefer an ideologically pure Obama who loses to one who compromises and wins," at least with respect to FISA.

There was no compromise involved in the FISA vote. Bush and the Republicans gave up nothing that they had not already given up in the courts (e.g., the assertion that the FISA law is the only mechanism for foreign wiretaps).

They got:
-- Warrantless wiretaps
-- Immunity for their telco donors
-- Less oversight from the FISA courts
-- Less oversight from Congress
-- Permission to continue surveillance even after a court rules that surveillance to be unwarranted (as long as they can keep an appeal pending).

Note in particular, Obama has voted for a bill which allows the government to "conduct mass, untargeted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States, without any individualized review, and without any finding of wrongdoing."

Obama voted for this despite the 4th Amendment's requirement that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

If I had faith in the Supreme Court, I would expect this law to be shot down. However, our courts have ruled that
1) The government cannot be compelled to admit it has tapped one's phone calls without a warrant;

2) If the government should inadvertently release information that they have tapped someone's calls without a warrant, that information cannot be used in court;

3) If one cannot show that the government has tapped one's calls without a warrant, then one has no standing to start legal proceedings.

Catch-22 had nothing on these guys.

In short, there was no compromise. This was capitulation.

So, why should I shut up about the Democratic Party's standard-bearer selling out my 4th Amendment rights?

10:55 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Jim and LL,

I was in a hurry, but I had intended to indicate that I couldn't defend him on the FISA bill. It's hard for me to even see caving on the FISA bill as a movement to the center in any way...unless the Republicans are going to openly admit that they are in favor of a surveillance state.

I'm not trying to weasel out on Obama's behalf--I don't really buy his explanation, and to me (admittedly a non-lawyer), this just seems like a *complete* no-brainer. I just cannot see this as a move to any center I can bring myself to acknowledge. Just denial, I guess...but this I'd be more inclined to characterize as "a big f*cking inexcusable mistake" rather than a part of his move to the center. But I can see why this is a weird position.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Jim Bales said...


"[A] big f*cking inexcusable mistake" pretty much sums it up. The question, to my mind, is how do those of us who are disappointed, yet know that we need to get Obama elected, make certain that Obama feels enough heat to understand that he f*cked up, and reduce the chance of him repeating the mistake on the next major Senate vote?

For us to "shut up" sends Obama the message that simply being better than McCain is good enough, and that he does not have to try to be right as well.

It seems to me that, since Obama earned the heat, let him take it. If he cannot learn from his mistake, we have a real problem.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, again, my claim wasn't that anybody should shut up about *this*--because I'm not characterizing this as part of his "move to the center." I was asserting that people should shut up about the OTHER stuff.

On this...jeez, almost no amount of squawking is enough, IM VERY H O.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Jim Bales said...


Thanks for the follow up -- my most recent comment above (time-stamped 1:08PM) was not meant to be criticizing your original post, but was driven by my musings on this general question:

Since I want
1) Obama to win the Presidential Election, and
2) Obama to uphold the Constitution in all respects, and
3) Obama, as President, to undo as much as possible the damage the Bush administration has inflicted on our nation and the rule of law;

How can I (and other, like minded people) best act and speak to achieve all three goals?

All thoughts on this are appreciated!

12:37 PM  

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