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Tag: "barack obama"

Dog Bites Man II

[ 12 ] July 21, 2008 |

The CENTCOM non-denial-denial came only after a call from the U.S. government:

The statement by an aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling his remarks in Der Spiegel “misinterpreted and mistranslated” followed a call to the prime minister’s office from U.S. government officials in Iraq.

Maliki had expressed support for a withdrawal plan similar to that of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in an interview with Der Speigel. U.S. troops should leave Iraq “As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned,” Maliki had said. “U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.”

As for the feeble content of the response, Ben Smith states the obvious:

It’s almost a convention of politics that when a politician says he was misquoted, but doesn’t detail the misquote or offer an alternative, he’s really saying he wishes he hadn’t said what he did, or that he needs to issue a pro-forma denial to please someone.

The Iraqi Prime Minister’s vague denial seems to fall in that category. The fact that it arrived to the American press via CENTCOM, seems to support that. It came, as Mike Allen notes, 18 hours later, and at 1:30 a.m. Eastern, a little late for Sunday papers; his staff also seems, Der Spiegel reports, not to have contested Iraqi reporting of the quote, even in the “government-affiliated” Iraqi press.

Obviously, unless CENTCOM can actually some specific examples of mistranslation or why they’re irrelevant, the follow-up shouldn’t be considered a “retraction” in any sense at all. And that story that still stands should be considered extremely important.


Maybe Latin America Doesn’t Need Our Leadership

[ 6 ] July 15, 2008 |

Mr. Trend on Obama’s proposed Latin America policy:

Certainly, it’s tough at this stage to say exactly and concretely what kind of plans or policies he has for Latin America, because he’s not offered much beyond general, open-ended comments. Still, the two clearest models, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, the two Democratic presidents that might offer the clearest examples of what foreign policy from a Democratic president could be, are pretty poor examples (I think we can exclude Carter because his policy was based almost strictly on human rights violations in military dictatorships, which simply no longer applies in the Americas). However, drawing on vague, Kennedy-esque notions of an “alliance of the Americas” strikes me as the kind of paternalistic rhetoric common to the mid-20th century. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress, while beneficial for some countries in various ways, was also extremely patronizing, imperial, and too closely bound to Cold War polarizations to be as effective as Kennedy’s supporters would like to have us believe. And Clinton’s insistence that Latin American countries join in his neoliberal Washington Consensus (which, let us not forget, South American leaders like Menem and Cardoso agreed to do) resulted in the Argentine economic collapse and also caused long-term negative consequences that leftist leaders in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil (among others) are only now overcoming. Far from being some benign program of social and economic improvement, the Alliance for Progress and the Clinton administration’s Washington Consensus were just two in a series of presidential (Democratic and Republican) efforts where the U.S. government presumed it knew what was best for Latin America, regardless of whether the individual countries wanted that help or not.

On Causation…

[ 0 ] July 12, 2008 |

Nate Silver, 6/25:

If the media believes that Barack Obama is ahead by 5 points, then if a new poll comes out next week showing him ahead by 3, it will not get any attention. But if the media believes that Obama is ahead by 12 points, that same poll would create the perception of McCain momentum, and perhaps trigger a couple of days’ worth of bad press for Obama as whatever had been going on over the past couple of days of the campaign would be taken as the cause for his polling decline. It might lead to harsher treatment of Obama’s decision (flip-flop?) on campaign finance, for instance, or if Iran had been the subject of the week, as evidence that Obama wasn’t resonating with voters on foreign policy.

Matt Stoller, 7/11:

Some Evidence FISA Hurt Obama

Obama has dropped in the latest Newsweek poll. He’s gone from 51-36 over McCain to 44-41. The most striking piece of data though is that 53% of registered voters think that he has changed his position on key policy issues to try to gain political advantage since becoming the nominee.

That is stunning. Over half of the public, though perhaps has not heard of the FISA fight specifically, believes he shifts positions for political advantage. And why shouldn’t they? He did.

I’m sure Matt would like to believe that Obama’s FISA failure is the proximate cause of the Newsweek polling change. It’s unclear to me how he could actually believe that, though; FISA (as he notes) is a high salience issue for a small number of people, and a low salience issue for a much larger number of people, and moreover the initial Newsweek poll was a substantial outlier. Silver, as far as I’m concerned, is entirely correct; the next Newsweek poll was quite likely to show regression to the mean, and pundits (some of whom, like Matt, should know better) would inevitably blame that on either the most temporally proximate event or on a favored issue.

This is not to say that Obama won’t suffer some harm from the FISA decision. I’m not convinced, but it could happen. But to say that he’s already dropped nine points in the polls is absurd.

The Late-Term Abortion Diversion

[ 10 ] July 7, 2008 |

Professor B provides some useful data about late-term abortions in light of Obama’s dumb (and I guess now clumsily partially retracted) comments about abortion policy. Admittedly, the policy consequences of what Obama is proposing would probably be negligible; as long as the decision rests with individual doctors rather than a panel, the precise definition of a health exemption makes very little difference on the ground. (Pre-Roe, some states with very strict-sounding statutes had relatively easy access to abortion in practice, while other state with broader access on paper had limited access in practice.) Of course, this cuts both ways: because most women don’t choose to get post-viability abortions and most doctors won’t perform them, there’s no “problem” that needs to be solved here by changing the law.

So as Jill, Amanda, and Jan Crawford Greenburg point out, the problem with Obama’s statement isn’t so much a policy issue as that it plays into right-wing frames about the abortion issue. As Greenburg notes:

History shows that those proposals — offered and embraced by legislators who would call themselves “pro-choice” — have been seized by conservatives who oppose abortion. As Dailard wrote, the attacks on the mental health exception have had “significant repercussions beyond that significant issue, seriously reviving a legislative attack on abortion rights that largely has been dormant for two decades.”

Given the unpopularity of the Republican position of banning pre-viability abortions, it’s obviously in their interest to focus on the tiny minority of (already restricted) post-viability abortions, and pretend that women routinely seek them for frivolous reasons. The appropriate Democratic response is to note that the vast majority of abortions are pre-viability and there’s no reason to believe that the ;aw restricting the tiny fraction of post-viability abortions don’t work. The Democrats have to stop playing on Republican turf, and Obama’s comments show that he doesn’t seem to understand that. As with foreign policy but with even less reason, national Democratic politicians seem to think that the Permanent Defensive Crouch is the way to go.

And since this isn’t the only place I’ve seen the conflation, I suppose I should note yet again that 1)bans on “partial birth” abortion apply to some pre-viability abortions, and 2)don’t prevent any abortions at any stage of gestation from being performed, but rather require doctors to perform abortions with methods that aren’t as safe. And hence, not only do such bans have nothing to do with restricting post-viability abortion, they are facially irrational.


Obama wants to expand the role of faith-based organizations in American public life.

Maybe there is a lot of good to be said about this — particularly in poor, religious communities where the church (or mosque or synagogue) is the center of the community.

But after 8 years of Bush policies where investment in faith-based organizations has meant more money for “crisis pregnancy centers” and abstinence only programs, I’m a bit uneasy.

Good, If All Too Quixotic

[ 15 ] June 25, 2008 |

Dodd and Feingold to filibuster the House’s awful FISA bill in the Senate. And Reid is co-sponsoring an amendment stripping the bill of the provisions providing retroactive immunity for corporations who illegally violated the privacy of their customers.

I wish I could disagree with Jonathan Zasloff:

Presumably, [Obama] will vote for Harry Reid’s amendment stripping retroactive telecom immunity from the bill. The Republicans will filibuster it. Then Reid, showing the spinelessness that has distinguished his term as Majority Leader, will pull the amendment. Then Dodd and Feingold will try to stop ending debate.

What does Obama do?

If he votes to filibuster, then he looks foolish because just last week he supported the House bill, with a weak statement that was really beneath him. If he does this, then he’s “flip-flopped in four days.” (Not as agile as McCain, of course, but that never matters according to the Beltway press.). But if Obama votes to end debate, then he plays along with Republicans and further infuriates the base (and by the way all those who believe in accountability). Either way, he does not look good.

I suspect he will vote to end debate. And that will leave a very bad taste in the mouths of many Democrats. One might even call it “bitter.”

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Obama voted against cloture, using the fact that he nominally opposed the retroactive immunity provisions as a justification. The problem is that unless the vote is decisive, such a vote wouldn’t actually matter. The time for Obama to stop the bill would was to persuade the House leadership to prevent it from coming to a vote.


[ 13 ] June 21, 2008 |

A few months ago, I foolishly claimed that Pat Oliphant could never get away with open racism comparable to his misogyny. I was certainly mistaken. (Latter link via Ez.)

To Reiterate

[ 37 ] June 19, 2008 |

Since the first three comments manage to miss the point entirely, allow me to try this again:

  • Like any Democrat capable of winning a national election, Obama will make all sorts of compromises and advance suboptimal ideological positions. It is good for progressives to point his failings, although arguments that move in the “since he isn’t a social democrat, we might just as well have McCain in the White House” direction are where I get off the bus.
  • Such critiques that take the form “many [always unnamed and uncited, because where progressives of any influence are concerned they pretty much don’t exist] Obamabots think Obama is a God Among Men who Transcends Politics but, in fact, he’s a politician who is not about to turn the United States into Denmark singlehandedly! Haha, Obamabots are so stupid!” are incredibly irritating, and I for one will ignore any substantive points made in such frames 100% of the time.

A Point Endorsed

[ 20 ] June 19, 2008 |

Indeed. One of the most irritating aspects of blog discussion about the primary was the “See — Obama’s a politican, no matter what his supporters say!” / “Obamabots don’t understand that he will not suddenly make Republicans disappear!” talking points, along with similar assorted strawmen.

the smear machine isn’t functioning properly.

[ 7 ] June 10, 2008 |

Below, Bean points us to the NRO’s campaign spot blog, calling for the release of Obama’s birth certificate for some truly strange reasons (more good snark on the logic behind these “controversies” from marvelous Jesse Taylor, fresh off his sabbatical in The Real World).

Inexplicably, I’ve perused NRO’s The Corner blog occasionally over the years, but this is my first exposure to The campaign spot blog. This would seem to be a good place to watch the right wing smear machine functioning in the early stages. So, let’s see what they’ve been up to lately.

The issue that seems to be generating the most excitement at the moment is the “Jim Johnson controversy,” in which Obama places a businessman tied to the home mortgage crisis on his VP selection committee. See here, here and here. This is going to be a tricky one, as the ability to score any kind of relative gains with this is reliant on no reciprocal attention to the unsavory connections of McCain’s associates. Since he’s already been forced to bid adieu to his Myanmar junta lobbyists, I’m not sure this is a winning strategy overall for the GOP.

So what else have they got? Other than the birth certificate nonsense, the last few days have seen:

Some people like Obama a lot, and he’s not doing anything to stop them!

McCain’s full-throated support for a disastrous and unpopular war doesn’t actually make him a warmonger like those mean democrats say.

McCain would be in fine shape if only white people voted.

McCain responds to comments tying him to the sitting president whose central policy commitments he overwhelmingly supports by trying to tie Obama to a president who left office 28 years ago (omitted: similarities between Carter and Obama) Zing!

Obama may have written some of his first book ON FOREIGN SOIL!

Those Newsweek bastards didn’t let Lieberman aides spin their story, proving they are in the tank for Obama.

That, aside from a bit of McCain campaign stenography, is all they’ve got. I am a worrier and a pessimist, and I was expecting to find something that would feed those impulses, but it’s just not there. We’ve worked very hard to steel ourselves for the onslaught of the right wing smear machine, perhaps for good reason. But, a) that machine has suffered some collateral damage from the hit the Republican party has taken in the last four years, and b)some on the left may have been so concerned about underestimating it that we ended up overestimating it instead.

And this is necessary because?

[ 0 ] June 10, 2008 |

The NRO is echoing conservative calls for Obama to release his birth certificate to debunk…something or other that is unclear (vague claims that Obama was not actually born in the U.S. and other bunk like that).

My favorite rumor that the NRO would like the birth certificate to debunk: that Obama’s middle name is Muhammad not Hussein. Because Hussein is sooo much less “muslim-sounding” that he must be hiding something.

Is this the best the right wing can do?

The Effects of History Stopped In 1964

[ 11 ] June 5, 2008 |

Shorter Tom Maguire: All institutionalized racism ended immediately after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, because these changes to formal law both ended racism and erased the ongoing impacts of past racism. So it’s crazy to think that any person of color born in the United States after 1970 could suffer from any disadvantage based on their race!

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