Daily Archives: July 15, 2008

Slightly Redacted and Annotated Letter to a Friend Regarding Obama’s Lurch to the Right

I’m not sure, [name], that what Senator Obama’s doing is all that drastic. I know it’s not what I want, but, as the man says, he’s not running to be president of Red America or Blue America (or Ed’s America or [name]’s America); rather, he’s running to be president of the United States of America. Part of moving beyond Rovian politics is being in the center, which is somewhere to the right of you and me. That’s maybe where Obama should be, or needs to be for November. In general, that’s where most Americans are as well, no? See this here column by Gail Collins in the NYT for more on this point.

As far as some of the specifics:

Like you say, the gun-ban thing is a really honestly debate-able parsing of the 2nd Amendment. (And especially given that I’m in DC and have no votes in Congress and here’s Justice Scalia legislating from the fucking bench on me, you’d think I’d be upset about this one.) And so says Obama, basically that we all, even Scalia, agree that guns should be controlled — licensing, background checks, certain weapons more controlled than others — we just disagree as to the extent of that control. That’s a very reasonable position, yeah?

And I’m not so sure the whole recent FISA thing is what it’s cracked up to be either. Look here for a Libertarian-ish law professor’s take on the new legislation. I personally don’t give much of a damn about telecom immunity one way or the other, I suppose. It’s the president who’s the criminal here. It’s the president who’s been spying on us. If he twisted Verizon’s or ATT’s arms, I want him to face the charges, not them.

I should have added here that I’m not that thrilled with most wiretap warrants to begin with, much less warrantless wiretaps. Plus the FISA court has always been notoriously lenient towards government requests anyway, which is why the current administration’s readiness to bypass same is somewhat baffling.

And the faith-based initiative stuff? I haven’t read either of Obama’s books, but seems to me that as a community organizer in south Chicago, much of his organizing probably took place in church basements and halls, in addition to the union halls and government & neighborhood community centers. I think Bush’s faith-based policy was some sort of triangularization between him and Rove and Mike Gerson. Gerson really believed in it, Rove saw the politics in it, and Bush just did as he was told (as usual). I see Obama as more like Gerson, really believing in what it can accomplish, even if he’s no dummy, understanding the Rove side as well. See Andrew Sullivan’s post here for what I think are the two important points with respect to the Constitution and bottom-up organizing.

I’ve since been reading the Ryan Lizza New Yorker article. You know, the issue with that cover. Article itself is just great, great background on Obama. Makes me realize that not just his early community organizing career but his entire Chicago machine politics experience has been key to his organizing skills, and key especially to the way he out-organized Senator Clinton this spring.

I was in Ireland, completely & blissfully cut off from politics for over a week, when this lurch to the middle happened, so maybe that took away from the sting for me. But I’ve also been consciously bracing myself for the inevitable let-down from Obama, knowing that he was going to disappoint me. And so here it is, and I find that I’m taking it quite well. Part of it also is that I don’t think it’s all that much of a let-down, when I really look at it.

But I also know that I’m rationalizing some of it as well. Because I know we just need to calm down and still try to focus on the big picture here. Do you want Senator McCain for Bush’s third term? Me neither. Send in that Obama contribution after all.

I wrote this to my friend on Monday morning. Hadn’t gotten a response, so I was thinking that maybe I had upset this friend. So I called and spoke with both friend and friend’s spouse. All is well. No offense. Was just busy. Didn’t necessarily agree with me, but neither was offended.

Washington Times Reminds Me of Dave Eggers

I’m still trying to figure this one out. Check out the first two paragraphs from this Washington Times editorial.

After seven years of unprecedented strength, the U.S. economy is floundering as the mortgage crisis and gas prices force businesses, small and large, to slash jobs.

It is a given that President Bush presided over one of the strongest economic periods in history, with staggering job creation of 2.6 million jobs, record minority home ownership and a market flush with investment. But in just six months, the stock market has dipped below 11,000 for the first time in two years, nearly a half million jobs have been lost in the construction industry since last year – equal to the losses in all other sectors since December – and mortgage foreclosures are now at record highs.

Seven years of unprecedented strength. Really? We’ve never had such good times. Not the nineties? The fifties? The twenties? Really? Unprecedented.

Staggering job creation of 2.6 million jobs? Really? If 2.6 million is staggering, then what do you call President Clinton’s 23 million jobs?* Almost ten times as many, clearly. Hyper-staggering? And, um, about those losses of a half million in construction and another half million in other sectors. Isn’t that a million, just about half of a staggering 2.6 million?

Oh, and by the way, dear reader(s), the editorial, written specifically to address Senator Gramm’s “mental recession” comment, is entitled “Economic reality, not fantasy.”

Nope. Not kidding. You can’t make this shit up. Well, I mean, I can’t. The Washington Times clearly can.

What this brought to mind was the Dave Eggers book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, (oddly subtitled A Memoir Based on a True Story, as if a memoir itself isn’t true, or supposed to be anyway.) I was, like a lot of people I imagine, intrigued by the sheer balls of titling one’s book that way. So I gave it a read. Eh, didn’t do much for me. Didn’t break my heart. Didn’t impress me as to Mr. Eggers being endowed with a staggering genius. But then neither did it amuse me enough to be willing take the title with its clearly intended irony. Was just, like I said, eh.

Oh, but also, please don’t think I’m constantly reading Washington Times editorials. More of a recent thing, clicking through interesting-looking links over at Real Clear Politics. I used to read Washington Post and New York Times editorials pretty religiously, years ago. Stopped after the devastating 2004 election. This year, this time around, I’m trying very deliberately to get more news from more diverse outlets, trying to avoid maybe the echo chamber I was in c. 2004. Won’t get fooled again.

* Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. See ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/suppl/empsit.ceseeb1.txt accessed 7/15/2008.