Saturday, January 05, 2008

Uh-oh, Obama

I was going to stay clear of politics for a while, but as some of you may have figured out I am a bit of a political junkie and I can’t really help myself.

As we all know
, Barack Obama scored an impressive win in Iowa and now stands to reap the rewards with a probable victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday, where he is starting to lead in the polls. Could it be that the presumed Democratic nominee and next president, Hillary Clinton, is watching her dreams evaporate as Obama’s sunny message gets hotter and hotter and threatens to go supernova?

I saw Obama’s victo
ry speech on Thursday and it was, indeed, a fine oration. Obama can effectively weave together our national story and his personal story and what it means to believe in ideals larger than ourselves. He is not quite so good at debating, or at one-on-one interviews, but give him a platform and a microphone and a prepared speech and he is right up there with Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Hope is always a powerful force in politics. And I think that one of the reasons it resounds so much now in the Democratic primaries is that for the past seven years most Democrats and many independents have felt profoundly hopeless and powerless. We have watched the country go downhill in almost every respect, often betraying those ideals we were raised to believe in, which has made it all the more painful. And until the Democratic victory in 2006, we were shut out of the process of governance by a take-no-prisoners approach exemplified by the leadership of Tom Delay in Congress and Bush, Cheney, and Karl Rove in the White House. All this happy talk from Republicans about “reaching across the aisle” didn’t start until after they became the minority party on Capitol Hill.

Barack Obama is a thoughtful man who offers an idealized version of how things ought to work, but I fear that is not the way they do, in fact, work. Almost every significant reform that has been accomplished in this country has come through, as Winston Churchill once said, “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” The civil and voting rights acts of the 1960s passed
not because everybody suddenly realized that it was criminal to deny people equal rights based upon race but rather because Lyndon Johnson twisted arms and busted heads to get the legislation through Congress. How did FDR get a conservative US Supreme Court to stop blocking some important aspects of the New Deal? By threatening to increase the number of justices and pack it with his own people. How did labor unions become established? Not by asking politely, but by workers striking and being beaten and dying in the streets. (The same is true, of course, of those who fought the long struggle for civil rights, without which the stage for Johnson's legislation could not have been set.)

Not everything has to be confrontational -- and I think most Americans are tired of the hyper sense of divisiveness that has characterized the Bush era -- b
ut history is written by those who stand their ground and fight. For good or ill, Dubya has done just that on Iraq: he won’t take “no” for an answer, he insists on the rightness of his policy, and he has indeed kept us in there long after most Americans thought it wise.

And elections are won by negative things as much as positive ones. Attack ads work. Swiftboating works. Wedge issues work. And sad to say, as much as most Americans say they don’t like th
ese things, they are indeed swayed by them.

Now, has s
omething finally happened to change all that? Has there been come cosmic shift in the political landscape? Maybe I’m just getting to be an old fuddy-duddy, but I am skeptical.

That is the reality of politics, and that is why I prefer the John Edwards “fighting” approach when it comes to getti
ng things done. My fear about the rather inexperienced (and possibly naive) Obama is that he could suddenly find himself facing bare-knuckled politics and not be capable of coping with it effectively. When was the last time, if ever, that we had a “gentlemanly” general election in this country? 1792?

It’s an exaggerated example, but Marilyn put her finger on it the other day when she
said that what we Democrats need is not a Neville Chamberlain but a Winston Churchill. Chamberlain compromised with a man who had absolutely no interest in compromise and he accomplished nothing. I fear that there can be no real compromising with the GOP leadership, or with the entrenched corporate interests that try to run the show in Washington. Like Churchill, we need to recognize the opposition for what it is and we need to fight like hell.

In other words, blood, toil, tears, and sweat.

Is Barack Obama the man to lead that fight? Or would I rather have John Edwards or even Hillary Clinton at my back in a brawl?

Maybe I am wrong about Obama, maybe something has indeed changed in this country -- Mike Huckabee's "positive message" campaign is a breath of fresh air
on the GOP side (good luck getting past the GOP establishment, Mike) -- but I have seen too much in history to believe that we will get, say, universal health care, without kicking some major ass.


Prof. Goldblatt Ph.D. said...

Machinists President Chides Obama for Maytag Remarks International
Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 -- The president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is urging Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to dry his crocodile tears over the loss of more than 1,600
jobs when Maytag moved from Galesburg, IL, to Reynosa, Mexico.

"He didn't lift a finger to help those people when they needed help
the most," said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, whose union
represented the workers at Maytag. "Even now, he doesn't have a clue and thinks those jobs went overseas and not to Mexico."

In recent campaign speeches, Sen. Obama has repeatedly cited the
plight of Maytag workers in his bid to win sympathy and support from union members battered by factory closings and lost jobs.

Oy Vay Zmeer!,

--- Leland Milton Goldblatt

Anonymous said...

Hi David,
You are really going to get the ball rolling! Oh what fun. There are some things in all three I respect, adding to the confusing. For me Bill Richardson popped out of nowhere (well N.M., one of my fav states), I must have had my head in the sand. So let the party begin, already I am tired yet excited!

Hope you guys are well.

Anonymous said...

Thought of something funny. The next nine months are like a pregnancy. It will get more uncomfortable and big to the popping point.
Don't know if you get a boy or girl. And then there is the possibility of a hemorrhoid! How is that for poor taste?

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Now you like Obama, and he's near death, death, death.

Why didn't you live 70 years ago and endorse Hitler?

Anonymous said...

You have such little recollection of history it's pitiful.

You forget the 'take no prisoners' attitude was the exclusive province of the Democratic party. Have you forgotten John Tower? Smeared by Democrats. Robert Bork, a deeply thoughtful and brilliant man, smeared by Democrats. Clarence Thomas, smeared by Democrats.

Your statement that Republicans wouldn't 'work across the aisle' is so wildly inaccurate it's laughable. The problem is, is that they worked TOO well with the spendthrifts 'across the aisle.'

You say the Democrats felt 'powerless'. So laughable. Have you forgotten that the Democrats control Congress? That's powerless?

How typical of you unthinking liberals. 'I control Congress!' I am powerless!'

And you cite Lyndon Johnson 'twisting arms' to pass the civil rights bills. Would you acknowledge that it was the Republican party that led the fight for those bills?

If you knew anything, you'd know the principal foes of civil rights in the 1960s were the Democrats.

Here's the vote breakdown:

House of Representatives:

Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)

Republican Party: 186-35 (80%-20%)

In the Senate:

Democratic Party: 46-22 (68%-32%)

Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

What a shock! The mean old Republicans actually outvoted the nice Democrats on civil rights!

I'm sure you will lie and call the Republicans racists. It fits with your mindset, never mind the facts.

David Arenson said...

Looks like the last two anonymouses (anonymi?) have reading comprehension problems. How the first one got that "I like Obama" is a little strange. What I wrote is that despite his high-toned speechmaking, I am WORRIED about Obama. The second one somehow assumes that I believe the Democrats were responsible for passing the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. I never said that. In fact, the arms LBJ had to twist were those of his own Southern Democrats, who were about as racist as they could get. Indeed, the Republicans were as a whole better on civil rights -- until all those Southern Dems moved over to the GOP starting with Nixon's "southern strategy" of the 1970s. Which now explains why the Dems are more progressive in civil rights issues than the GOP . . .

Anonymous said...

Oh, David! I really hate to say this, but you really have no clue when it comes to politics OR history.

'What the Democrats need is Winston Churchill.'

David, Mr. Churchill was a CONSERVATIVE. Don't you remember what he is reputed to say, 'If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you are not conservative at 40, you have no head?'

Mr. Churchill was indeed a great leader, and he probably saved the West from certain defeat by Hitler.

I do agree with what I think you might be hinting at, that the country needs a Winston Churchill. However, I don't think you and your left-wing buddies would have anything good to say about him if this were the case.

He was a tough old bird by the time of his 'finest hour' and staunchly conservative.

Next you'll be wishing you had Ron Reagan running.

Terry Hamblin said...

Actually Sir Winston was at various times a Conservative and a Liberal. In WW1 he was a member of LLoyd George's Liberal cabinet and in WWII he was head of a government of National Unity with Labor leader Clement Atlee as his deputy.

David Arenson said...

Anonymous continues to engage in sophistry. I am not discussing Churchill's views on the issues of his day, which are irrelevant to 2008 America. What I am saying is that politics is a dirty business and that we Democrats need the qualities of a Churchill -- someone who stands his ground and fights when compromise is impossible.

Last night I heard Pat Buchanan say of Obama: "The Republicans are going to eat this guy alive" in the general election. That is exactly my fear -- nice guys finish last in politics.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but your girl, oops, boy Edwards is a cooked goose.

Hillary and Bill (or is it Bill and what's yer name?) are the nominees.

I'm sure you'd vote for Billary over Lincoln, Washington, AND Churchill.

You left-wingers would be amusing except you have (sadly) the right to vote.

David Arenson said...

Oh yeah, we have the right to vote and we're gonna use it. Either Hillary or Barack will be the next president. You can start savoring the thought now.