Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

The Case Against Barack Obama (David Freddoso, 2008) [2008-09-13]

This is a quick read -- and a depressing one.

Obama's long association with black power and commie radicals might not be a particularly dissuasive argument for many liberals, but stuff like his involvement in Chicago Machine politics is depressing -- especially since he touts himself as such an agent of hope and change.

And yes, I know to do opposition research.  After I read the book, I Googled the title to look for rebuttals.
* "Misinformation in Freddoso's anti-Obama book comes early" (MediaMatters.org)
* "David Freddoso's Hatchet Job" (HuffingtonPost)

Random sidebar: Andy Bryan of Enter the Rainbow wrote:
Obama says, We are going to change things but they are not. Whereas McCain says, We both are going to change things, but ours will be 'good change' whereas theirs would be 'bad change.' This is a pretty big philosophical difference. I like McCain's approach better, because at least he is acknowledging that Obama has some new ideas. He just doesn't like them. Obama is just saying that McCain just has old ideas, and would offer nothing new. I don't think that's fair.

Actually, what I truly believe is that neither one of them is going to change things all that much. The two-party bureaucracy that is the U.S. federal government is so entrenched, so ingrained, things are going to pretty much function as they have been for a while, and a new president is not going to make that much of a practical, policy level, this-is-how-we-get-things-done kind of way. I mean, the checks and balances of our system of government are there for a reason, right? I remember high school civics class - the president just doesn't have unlimited power.

How the president can change things, in my opinion, is by the tone that is set, the atmosphere in which the government operates. Truly great leaders motivate the people around them by creating an atmosphere of enthusiasm, support, and encouragement. This atmosphere is contrasted with bitterness, selfishness, and just downright meanness that can cripple any environment in which people work together - a business, a church, or a government.
Throwing everyone else off the ballot (when running for state Senator) reminded me of Glenn Reynolds commenting (on the Palin per diem thing), "The legal-vs.-right distinction is an important one, though it's one that's usually missed in political discourse today."

Obama's reneging on taking public financing still makes me sad -- much like Hillary Clinton's disingenuousness re: Michigan and Florida.

The HuffPo rebuttal says:
Freddoso also repeats a common lie that I've exposed about Obama's decision to reject public financing: "A few months earlier, Obama had supported the system. He had praised it repeatedly. He had promised to stick to it."(86) Freddoso quotes Obama's statement to the Midwest Democracy Network: "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." Freddoso even quotes Obama again from the same questionnaire. Yet he somehow misses this part of Obama answer: "My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election." As this makes clear, Freddoso is wrong: Obama never made an unconditional promise to take public financing, and his plan required McCain to "agree on a fundraising truce" that included party funding, something that Obama's campaign says McCain refused to do.
The earmark portion is depressing.  I mean, my instinctual reaction to something like this is, "Surely this is more complicated than it sounds," but still.
After Hurricane Katrina, Coburn twice proposed measures that would have pulled money from legislators' pet projects---for example, a baseball stadium in Montana and a visitor's center in Morgan City, Louisiana---in order to redirect the case toward shoring up levees n New Orleans and rebuilding the city.  Obama voted against the reform position on both of those occasions, and in favor of the pet projects.66
    -p. 94 (Ch. 5)
66.  1110th Congress, 1st Session, roll call votes Nos. 164 (May 15, 2007) and 335 (September 12, 2007).
And given recent developments, I laughed sardonically when I reached this bit:
In 2005, when he voted to preserve the "Bridge to Nowhere" and two other wasteful projects,71 he also voted to eliminate an earmark.72"
    -p. 95 (Ch. 5)
71.  109th Congress, 1st Session, roll call votes Nos. 230 (September 14, 2005) and 260 (October 20, 2005),
72.  109th Congress, 1st Session, roll call vote No. 192, July 19, 2005
Other excerpts:
    In his book, Obama worries about the creation of tax-exempt Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which 6.1 million Americans have signed up for since their creation four years ago.40  "[W]hat if you work for an employer who doesn't offer a health-care plan?" he asks.41  This is precisely the person an HSA can help most.  An HSA lets you save money, tax-free, to pay deductibles and out-of-pocket health costs.  Your employer can contribute to it and even provide the accompanying insurance plan (or you can buy a plan yourself), but you get to keep the money in it if you lose your job or change jobs.  You can even pass that money along when you die.  It makes you less dependent on your employer for your health insurance.  It's a win-win if you own one.
    -p. 112-113 (Ch. 6)
40.  "January 2008 Census Shows 6.1 Million People Covered by HSA/High-Deductible Health Plans," Center for Policy and Research, April 2008, http://www.ahipresearch.org/pdfs/2008_HSA_Census.pdf
41.  Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope, (NY: Three Rivers Press, 2006), 179.
    Obama's liberalism extends beyond his position on issues to other aspects of his world-view.  The reason civility has decline in America, he suggests, is that today we lack a nice, liberal television anchor whom we all trust to tell us the way things are: "We have no authoritative figure, no Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow whom we all listen to and trust to sort out contradictory claims."52  Most conservatives would view this as a positive development.
    -p. 115 (Ch. 6)
52.  Audacity, 125-6.
I haven't read The Audacity of Hope, so possibly this statement is more nuanced in context, but doesn't everyone (including the liberals) complain that the mainstream media pulls a single a narrative out of contradictory claims and presents it to the public as authoritative?

Freddoso points out that Obama hasn't always been as anti-Iraq War as he likes to paint himself as (though liberals would characterize some of that as being thoughtful and willing to change his mind, rather than simply politically expedient).  On p. 177 (Ch. 9) he does say, in talking about Obama's famous 2002 speech on the war: "the idea of war with Iraq, though deeply unpopular today, was popular enough in 2002 that his principled stand could have cost him dearly."

I'd heard of the speech, of course, since Hillary Clinton had quipped during the primaries, "I have a lifetime of experience. John McCain does. All Barack Obama has is a speech he gave in 2002."  But I hadn't actually looked up the speech in question.

Turns out, it's a really good speech.

Freddoso quotes the part about "I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein.  [...]  I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors [...]  I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda."  This resonated with me who ever since the beginning was inclined to support the war for humanitarian reasons (e.g., Saddam Hussein is feeding people into meat grinders, perhaps as the world's superpower we have some obligation to step in) but was still very ambivalent 'cause, y'know, war.

Freddoso goes on to argue that:
    In fact, the Left's failure to convince the public in 2002 that the Iraq war was a bad idea stemmed in large part from the Left's historical lack of credibility on foreign policy.  That, in turn, goes back to its reflexive opposition to almost all anti-Soviet American military activity---hot or cold---from the Nixon era until the fall of the Soviet Union.
    -p. 187 (Ch. 9)
which I found interesting.

HuffPo counters:
For example, Freddoso writes: "He is especially disdainful of the so-called 'Star Wars' program, which was crucial to bankrupting the Soviets then..."(189) The failed Star Wars program, which still doesn't work 25 years and many billions of dollars after its inception, didn't bankrupt the Soviets or cause perestroika and glasnost. It was the failure of the Soviet system, and the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, that caused reforms.
Freddoso also criticizes the "John McCain is willing to send our troops into another hundred years of Iraq" meme -- though I don't understand why he doesn't exact-quote McCain's actual statement rather than restating it himself -- "McCain hadn't said that---he said that we might still have bases there for a long time (even a hundred years), like we have in Japan and South Korea" (p. 185).
Tags: books: read, issues, issues: health care, issues: iraq war, issues: u.s. presidential race: 2008, vast left-wing conspiracy

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