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Saturday, November 15, 2008


Todays edition features fewer links, but more of my opinions... proceed with caution:

Allow me to complain about this article: Obama faces online backlash for centrist views

In recent days, Obama has criticized the Supreme Court for saying that child rapists cannot be executed and refused to oppose a decision knocking down a handgun ban. He announced a plan to support "faith-based" social work and said he would vote for a bill giving immunity to telephone companies that allowed warrantless wiretapping of their customers.

Those centrist positions may help woo swing voters, but they infuriated some of Obama's core supporters. Nearly 12,000 of them have formed an online group on Obama's presidential campaign website, urging him to vote against the domestic wiretapping bill.

Note that evidence for backlash on all these issues is an online group that is angry about... one of those issues. And to call the FISA bill 'centrist' is quite a bit of editorialization in my opinion, but they get away with it by lumping it in with all those other stuff.

As Kos puts it

there's nothing "centrist" about the FISA vote. There's nothing liberal or conservative about protecting the constitution. And given libertarians and liberals are both for keeping the Constitution out of the shredder, it's hard to pretend the issue sits on the simplistic left-right axis.

So, I'm unhappy about FISA, but here's how I see all these other issues:

- The Supreme Court ruled that a child rapist could not be executed because murder was not committed: Ok, I agree with the ruling and disagree with Obama. The ruling was meant to leave an incentive for rapists not to kill their victim (if you know you'll get the death penalty either way you might as well eliminate the witness). Also, I'm against the death penalty in general so I guess I'm in favor of anything that limits it. So I disagree with Obama, but then again I can't recall him talking about the death penalty so I don't see him "moving" in any direction here (one of the benefits of being so new on the scene I guess). And let's face it sticking up for the "rights" of child rapists is not the most politically astute thing to do. Obama's words really have little real world effect beyond how they affect public perception of himself, so I can deal with this.

- I have mixed feelings about the SC's decision to overturn DC's handgun ban. I support gun control, but this was a complete ban, and the fact is the Second Amendment does exist and it would be hypocritical for me to be up in arms about the Fourth Amendment and blasé about the 2nd. If we want to change the law we have to change the Constitution (which would be political suicide in this case, so nothing's going to change). On the plus side I understand that now the basic right to have a gun is secure that groups like the NRA may get less support, which is good because they've been a major obstacle to more common sense things like closing background check loopholes and banning assault weapons. In regards to Obama's statement I was already aware that Obama supported gun rights for hunting and self-protection (liberal classmates of his at Harvard have recalled being annoyed with his regard for the 2nd amendment). So his statement didn't surprise me.

- My understanding of the faith based programs is that if you listen closely to what he said it's actually quite a bit different from what Bush was doing. Obama said that these programs would have to actually work. (read: no more abstinence only education), and they would have to obey all the discriminatory laws that federal programs have to obey, which will, for instance, eliminate any group that refuses gays from the federal payroll. So I really don't see anything particularly objectionable here, and the politics of it are great.

- And now there's been a lot of talk about how Obama has changed his stance on withdrawing from Iraq, but that's just false. Sure in the primary he placed more emphasis on getting out, but he always included caveats about being responsible and listening to commanders on the ground. Now he emphasizes the latter part with the caveat that we probably do need to get out soon. So he's just emphasizing what appeals to the voters he's pursuing. That's politics, but he's been as consistent as you could hope for a politician.

As Matt Yglesias notes:

It's worth recalling that all throughout 2007 it really seemed like Obama was going to lose the primary and that getting to Hillary Clinton's left by sketching out a clearer and more unambiguous withdrawal plan would have been a plausible gambit to beat her.

But he didn't do it because he wanted to preserve some flexibility in the event that he became president, and I have every expectation that he'll stick with that built-in flexibility during the campaign. After all, Obama's stated position on Iraq is fairly conservative. He's calling for the withdrawal of combat forces on a 16 month time frame. Realistically, that would mean the last combat forces leaving Iraq in June 2010 or maybe a little bit later depending on how long it would take between inauguration and actually setting the wheels in motion. Substantively, that's plenty of time to continue to try to have a constructive influence on the course of events there. And politically, if John McCain wants to make a big deal about how two more years of war isn't long enough, then he's going to lose badly.

There is a separate way of looking at all this, that Arrianna Huffington put rather well, which is that emphasizing these supposedly "centrist" views may actually not be the best politics. Perhaps those undecided voters are really looking for someone who takes strong stands and seems confidant they know they're right. I certainly sympathize with this view. But as Obama "moves to the center" the only thing that really bothers me on the substance is this FISA business. The rest I can deal with.

Anyway, perhaps the best press Obama could get would be that people like me are up in arms and that he's bucking his party faithful. That's what the pundits seem to love.

MoDo strikes again:

Yes, the nefarious "fist bump" controversy reappeared.

It began a few weeks back when Obama and wife Michelle exchanged a playful knuckle knock on-stage after a breakthrough victory. A dimwitted Fox News anchor suggested some might see that as a "terrorist fist jab."

The story inadvertently got new life this week when a Los Angeles Times reporter at an Ohio campaign event filed a pool report (intended for use by journalists who can't fit into smaller venues) saying that Obama declined to bump fists with a young boy.

Actually, it only appeared that way from behind a rope where journalists were held, mostly out of earshot. It turned out that Obama told the boy only that he wouldn't autograph his fist, concerned that his mother might not like it.

It all would have died quietly, but New York Times uber-columnist Maureen Dowd got hold of the pool report. And she cited the allegedly spurned fist bump as evidence that Obama has tied himself in knots to appear "conventional." A correction ensued.

Bush boosts porn industry

Abbreviated Pundit Round-Up

Here's a radio program on Obama's Hyde Park roots that might be good

Semi-off topic, check out these proposed floating cities (Jimbo, I'm waiting for your counter-proposal... a flying city? underwater? in a volcano? I want a high quality rendering)

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