February 14, 2008

Why I'm voting for Barack Obama in the Wisconsin primary.

That's the title of a blog post I think I'm going to write over the weekend. I'm not writing it today because it's a big writing project following the model of my "How Kerry lost me" post from September 2004. The idea is to see the blog archive as a site for the archaeology of my own opinion.

With over 200 posts tagged "Obama," I can trace how I reacted to him at various points in time beginning with his speech at the Democratic convention in July 2004:
Now here is a speaker I can stand to listen to. He's modulating his voice and he seems to have the speech memorized, so he doesn't have that awful teleprompter stare. He places some emphasis on personal responsibility. Parents need to turn off the television!...

Obama does a great job delivering the speech, even though the words of the speech are quite banal. There are many references to hope. The speech is blessedly short. Cheers, waving sign
There are many references to hope. Ha ha. That's funny now. Quite banal: Why didn't increased exposure to the same banalities become horrifyingly insipid? Strangely, that first post seems to be something I could have written last Tuesday night. But there is nevertheless a trajectory. My second assessment of Barack Obama — over a year later — is very negative, close to a pledge never to vote for him, written the day the Senate confirmed John Roberts:
Great! Roberts is confirmed by a margin of 78 to 22. As to those 22 Democrats who voted no, they have openly embraced an ideological view of the Court from which they can never credibly step back. For them, appointing Supreme Court Justices is a processes of trying to lock outcomes in place, and we shouldn't believe them if in the future they try to say otherwise....

I hope no one on that list is running for President.
Obama (and Clinton) are on the list, and a few days later I get into a big debate with Amba over whether Obama's reasons for voting no were someone special and different from all the other politicos. Amba was "impressed [with] his civility and collegiality towards those with opposing views" and "surprised at the intensity of [my] venom." I was immune to the Obaman rhetoric:
To me, it doesn't matter what the written justifications his lawyers wrote out are. Those are not the actual reasons. As writing, it amounts to the same blather I heard throughout the hearings....

I'm sure he has excellent lawyers and speechwriters working with him, setting up his career. They take the tone that it is advantageous to take. The bottom line for me is what it is for all of the no-voting Senators. There was no decent reason to oppose [Roberts]....

I'm a fan of no politician. I'm sure plenty of them are decent enough as they ply their trade, and I'm willing to believe Obama is decent enough, but he's an ambitious man with a highly skilled staff.
But I can't go on like this today. As I said, it's a weekend project.

41 comments:

save_the_rustbelt said...

In the past week both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have appeared at a General Motors plant pledging to save the jobs of US auto workers.

Obama hit a plant in Wisconsin.

Other than being 20 years too late, and other than both have been bad mouthing the auto industry to the greenies, this is a real show of political courage.

Both have gone "Romney."

Will politicians say anything?

"None of the above" this year.

Verso said...

*both have been bad mouthing the auto industry to the greenies*

Hahahaha, good one. Was this in one of those secret speeches delivered at a frequency only conservatives can hear?

rhhardin said...

The reason that you sometimes get a good car from a car salesman is that he's actually indifferent to whether it's a good car or not. He just wants you to buy it.

If he were positively evil, you could do well by doing the opposite of whatever he said.

As it is, you take your chances, with people motivated otherwise than they claim.

MadisonMan said...

Maybe a better question should be: What does Obama look like through a fish-eye lens!

Palladian said...

"Maybe a better question should be: What does Obama look like through a fish-eye lens!"

Like he does through any other lens: like God. Better stop down that lens, Ann, the sheer radiance of his nimbus of heavenly light might blow your CCD sensor.

Simon said...

I think that's about the most depressing post title I've ever read on this blog, but with due deference will hold further comments for the later post it refers to.

Pogo said...

And I always thought surrender was not an option.

WWJD?
Would Jesus turn the other cheek at islamic terrorism?
Or would he overturn the tables in righteous anger?

AllenS said...

Earlier this month you asked who we thought you were going to vote for and I said: "Prof. Althouse, in the Democratic Primary, for Obama. I think that you're looking for somebody that has character." Correct?

Middle Class Guy said...

Since I live in Chicago, and Republicans are rare, I had to register as a Democrat, so I could vote for candidates running for important local offices. I voted for Obama. First, it is a vote against Clinton. She can say she has been tested and vindicated all she wants. She was criminally investigated. The investigations revealed egregious ethical and moral lapses in her and Bill’s conduct; sex scandals excluded. She has no moral fiber or character. She only has flaws. She claims to have thirty five years of experience. There is no documentation or verification of this. Being appointed to boards or other positions is meaningless, unless she actually did something. She may have been a good Senator for New York, but that is about it. Obama has character and few flaws that are known.

Secondly, I believe that the Republicans cannot win the White House this year. People, even Republicans are too angry. The party shot itself in the foot. I will vote Republican in the general election, but if the scenario plays out, I would rather have Obama in the White House. He can do less damage and maybe some good, if his claims of bi-partisanship are true.

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: Don't get too distraught. It's the primary. The Republican race is over, so there isn't a question of crossing over to vote in the Republican primary. (I've never voted in a Republican primary in my life.)

Mortimer Brezny said...

Plus, Simon, she voted for Jesse Jackson! This is an improvement!

Sloanasaurus said...

Obama represents the American dream - a black man aspiring to be president.

However, Obama will fail because his dream is all about himself and not about the rest of us. His campaign is based on a cult of personality. He reduces the rest of us to only "small dreams," things like tax credits and cheaper college education for poor citizens.

EnigmatiCore said...

Are we going to get an Althouse "Obama-girl"-style video, perhaps done with the fish-eye lens?

former law student said...

W.'s dream was all about the people in the highest tax bracket. Is that your big dream, to be in the highest tax bracket?

Trevor Jackson said...

Sloan, if you ever actually listened to one of Obama's speeches you would hear a lot more "you" and "us" and "we" than you would "I" coming from him. Even John Edwards had a lot more "I'll fight for you" in his speeches. Obama regularly talks about citizen responsibility and our need to practice accountability over our elected officials.

Any Bush supporter bemoaning "cults of personality" gets no sympathy from me.

George said...

"Leadership grounded in charisma...inevitably becomes misleadership. I am amazed that today's prominent writers on leadership do not seem to realize that the three most charismatic leaders in all recorded history were named Hitler, Stalin and Mao."

Peter Drucker believes that, without exception, all the charismatic leaders of the last 50 years -- whether in business, government or religion -- have ended in failure and disgrace and left a legacy of mismanagement and chaos.

"The test of any leader is not what he or she accomplishes. It is what happens when they leave the scene. It is the succession that is the test. If the enterprise collapses the moment these wonderful, charismatic leaders leave, that is not leadership. That is -- very bluntly -- deception."

I'm not implying that Sen. Obama is anything like the three abovementioned leaders, but while his euphoria cloud is fun for campaigning, it won't get him far on planet Earth.

Zeb Quinn said...

Just remembering with ease you repetitively saying over the last numerous months that you would probably end up voting for Hillary. You probably intend to, but please factor that into your weekend project.

Greg in Madtown said...

More importantly, please help us to understand why you won't be voting for Mike Gravel.

Middle Class Guy said...

former law student said...
W.'s dream was all about the people in the highest tax bracket. Is that your big dream, to be in the highest tax bracket?



Isn't that everyone's dream? To make the most we can and move up the ladder? Some make it some don't. I don't know too many people who strive to earn less or be in the non-tax bracket.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Vergo:

Assuming you can read, start with Obama's appearance at the Detroit Economic Club and work your way forward.

Paddy O. said...

Any Bush supporter bemoaning "cults of personality" gets no sympathy from me.

Really? This is curious because I would say that one of the biggest frustrations with Bush supporters, myself included, is that he so didn't express any personality.

He went his way but refused the communication about it, and let his policies continue to be defined by opponents. His lack of public speaking skills and inspirational moments have almost entirely undermined his policy stances.

If Bush had a cult of personality, he would be much, much higher in polls.

Can you really see someone saying, "Well, I might disagree with his policies, but boy I'm entranced by Bush's charisma."

His support comes from the fact that on key issues people just agree with him. Not because he's done a marvelous job of salesmanship.

So it's the Bush supporters who are likely the least, not the most, given to cults of personality.

former law student said...

Isn't that everyone's dream? To make the most we can and move up the ladder?

I expect not. I don't want to lower my chance of entering the Kingdom of Heaven to that of the camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Trevor Jackson said...

"he so didn't express any personality."

Nobody voted for the brush-clearing, straight-shooter that didn't truck with no backtalk? The guy you want to have a beer with? The flyboy that landed on the deck of that aircraft carrier. Come on.

The reason Bush's approval ratings are in the tank is because people realized the personality they were sold--the compassionate conservative--was a ruse. Turns out he doesn't give a shit about the people or what they think, whether it was compassion or conservatism they wanted from him.

For awhile, the folks on the right just assumed he only didn't give a shit about the folks on the left, and they loved him for it. Then, amnesty and Harriet Miers. Gasp!

BaCrackstar Obambi said...

I love this website. When I heard Michelle Obama say "we need politicians who not just speak the truth, but who know the truth," and Orpah told me "he is the one" I KNEW there was no way in hell I was supporting this FRAUD.


In a colorblind society where merit should hold ultimate sway, OBAMA isn't even qualified to be assistant majority whip. He's missed a 1/3 of his votes during the 2005-2006 session, and he hasn't held a single hearing as member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His policies are also awful for the nation. He believes in granting drivers licenses to illegals, he wants to ease burdens on employers when it comes to checking the status of workers, he wants to raise taxes on the middle class by trillions of dollars by eliminating the cap on social security contributions, he fails to protect our troops from the iranian revolutionary guard and then attacks his opponents for doing so EVEN WHEN HE MISSED THE VOTE, he was the only person to vote "present" instead of yes or no on bills banning adult shops near schools, and sealing court records of victims of sexual assault.

Obama is little substance, all hype. The key to his success: a freshness, a lack of record to run on, the constant repetition of simple feel-good platitudes that lull listeners into a sense of trust and induce in them a yearning to believe. No wonder Barack Obama is so popular among denizens of Hollywood like Oprah: they certainly have an eye for those who can create an image, can generate a buzz that compels others to suspend their disbelief, and who can induce a trance-like stargazing. But the fact is that Barack Obama does have a record to run on and its a record of vote dodging and triangulation. Barack Obama talks about the audacity of hope... but how about the audacity to show up and vote.. and not criticize others over resolutions you conveniently missed while campaigning


I was elected yesterday, Obama said. I have never set foot in the U.S. Senate. Ive never worked in Washington. And the notion that somehow Im immediately going to start running for higher office just doesnt make sense. So look, I can unequivocally say I will not be running for national office in four years, and my entire focus is making sure that Im the best possible senator on behalf of the people of Illinois. He further elaborated: Look, Im a state senator who hasnt even been sworn in yet. My understanding is that I will be ranked 99th in seniority. Im going to be spending the first several months of my career in the U.S. Senate looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work.

So, in four years, Obama went from figuring out how to use the telephones and finding bathrooms, to becoming a foreign policy expert, while missing 1/3 of his votes and failing to hold a single hearing as the CHAIR of Senate Subcommittee on European Affairs. Right?

Paddy O. said...

"Nobody voted for the brush-clearing, straight-shooter that didn't truck with no backtalk?"

Nope. Maybe a tiny bit in 2000. Mostly they, I, voted for him because I agreed with his policies.

His communication skills are exactly the thing that has been mocked since the beginning. He has very little communications skills. He has an identity, sure, but not anything like what a real cult of personality has.

Though, I hear those close to him see that quality. He certainly hasn't expressed that publicly and broadly. And that's been one of the biggest reasons I've lost enthusiasm for him. I got too frustrated wishing he would express some personality and sell what he was thinking.

He wouldn't do it. And his numbers and support tanked.

But to think that he was elected primarily on his personality and charisma seems to entirely misunderstand the voting of the right over the last 8 years.

Smilin' Jack said...

Why I'm voting for Barack Obama in the Wisconsin primary...I was immune to the Obaman rhetoric...

Until now? I'll reserve final judgment until I read the post, but unless it's built around the phrase "lesser evil" I suspect I'm going to lose some respect for your political intelligence.

Now here is a speaker I can stand to listen to. He's modulating his voice and he seems to have the speech memorized, so he doesn't have that awful teleprompter stare.

Just that awful teleprompter content. But if it's vocal modulation that lights your candle, I suggest you watch some tapes of truly effective orators (e.g. Hitler), then come back and watch Obama. He won't seem so special.

Beldar said...

So I'm feeling pretty smug as I read your title to this post, and smugger still as I read your exchange with Simon in the comments, Prof. A.

I'm thinking I'm the only commenter who nailed it in the comments to your earlier post in which you asked for predictions as to how you were going to vote in the Wisconsin primary: I said you'd vote for Obama now (but McCain in the general election).

PatCA said...

So are you voting for him for some strategic reason or because you..love...like...admire him?

Ben (The Tiger) said...

If Althouse goes the Obama in the primary, McCain in the general, she'll be matching how my mother is voting in this election...

Look forward to seeing either how Althouse no longer sees Obama as a gasbag, or how she is voting strategically because she thinks that McCain can destroy him in the general election.

Which will it be?

montana urban legend said...

The second post in this retrospective describes a dislike for Obama due to his refusal to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice. But I don't see how that move was a partisan thing. Obama is a professor of constitutional law. He noted in his comments that his refusal to confirm Roberts was based on his belief that Roberts would not respect the separation of powers. I don't see how that could have been a partisan reason. Sullivan blogged this out a few months ago.

EnigmatiCore said...

"But to think that he was elected primarily on his personality and charisma seems to entirely misunderstand the voting of the right over the last 8 years."

I think it is almost completely accurate to say he was elected primarily on the personality and charisma (or lack thereof) of first Al Gore and then John Kerry.

Thank God the Democrats seem to be about to nominate a likable person. For a while it looked like they would foist Hillary on us, and then wonder after the fact what went wrong.

Beldar said...

Note: I didn't accuse Prof. A of "strategic voting" in the primary (although that's precisely what I presently intend to do myself, in the upcoming Texas primary, in which I'll vote for Hillary).

To the contrary, I think that both of her votes will be sincere. (But not equal.)

Beldar said...

Note: I didn't accuse Prof. A of "strategic voting" in the primary (although that's precisely what I presently intend to do myself, in the upcoming Texas primary, in which I'll vote for Hillary).

To the contrary, I think that both of her votes will be sincere. (But not equal.)

Eli Blake said...

Hey, I voted for Obama last week. And I am very happy that I did (even though Clinton carried Arizona in the primary.)

Here are some of the reasons why:

1. He has promised to replace the emphasis on a military solution with a diplomatic effort and thereby get us out of Iraq. Even if you supported the Iraq war, that was five years ago. It's time to focus on something else.

2. Like even arch-conservatives Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan recognizing the benefits of meeting with the leaders of the Soviets, Obama recognizes that without taking the diplomatic initiative the enemies we have today will still be enemies in the future.

3. Obama's plan to help pay college tuition in exchange for various forms of service after graduation is a great alternative to expensive student loans.

4. When he signs trade agreements he will make them contingent on environmental and labor standards. He will also double our present federal investment in basic research and make the research and development tax credits permanent(see his website on the economy,

http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/)

5. This a big one with me (culled from the same link above)

Protect the Openness of the Internet: Obama supports the basic principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others.

We've seen the telecom bill that was passed last year that has begun to choke off the internet, and Obama at least recognizes this as being a bad thing and proposed to work towards an unobstructed and open internet.

6. Obama recognizes that the bankruptcy law that Congress passed a couple of years ago goes too far in not recognizing that there is a big difference between someone who is filing for bankruptcy due to expensive cancer treatment vs. for example someone who just went on a spree at the mall. So he (also culled from his website) proposes:

Reform Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Families Facing a Medical Crisis: Obama will create an exemption in bankruptcy law for individuals who can prove they filed for bankruptcy because of medical expenses.

7. Obama's health care plan helps subsidize insurers for the cost of his requirement that they be willing to offer insurance to everyone, and at market rates that vary little regardless of past medical history. This is important because many people who can't afford insurance now can't afford it because they have risk factors such as being cancer survivors or having a chronic illness that makes insurance affordable. At the same time, while mandating coverage for kids, he still makes it voluntary at the level of the individual adult (so that if you really, really don't want to buy insurance, you don't have to.)

Also: For those of you complaining about Obama's promises to auto workers, try reading his website:

American Jobs: Barack Obama introduced the Patriot Employer Act of 2007 to provide a tax credit to companies that maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in America relative to those outside the US; maintain their corporate headquarters in America; pay decent wages; prepare workers for retirement; provide health insurance; and support employees who serve in the military.

He has a specific plan for keeping U.S. jobs in the U.S. (essentially by subsidizing corporations who do so, in direct contrast to the Bush tax cuts which helped finance the construction of overseas workplaces) and he states exactly how he plans to do it. The difference between a plan and a pander is that a 'pander' is empty rhetoric while his 'plan' states exactly what he plans to do and the mechanisms by which he plans to do it.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Beldar,

I think the strategic vote for you is voting for Barack Obama. The best race this year for Republicans is a positive one.

Fen said...

Here are some of the reasons why [to vote for Obama]:

1. He has promised to replace the emphasis on a military solution with a diplomatic effort and thereby get us out of Iraq. Even if you supported the Iraq war, that was five years ago. It's time to focus on something else.


I don't understand what you mean. Are you saying we should have a clock running on any war effort, and cease and desist when it hits some magical number derived from a previous conflict, like WW2?Sorry Europe, we're off the clock and out of here. Good luck.

And why would the "soft" power of diplomacy be effective if our enemies know our "big stick" has an expiration date? You do realize that diplomacy is worthless if not backed by the threat of force?

2. Obama recognizes that without taking the diplomatic initiative the enemies we have today will still be enemies in the future.

We've already done the diplomatic dance with Iran. They won't budge from their desire to produce nukes or sponsor global terrorism. Again, this approach only weakens the soft power of diplomacy - it instructs despots like Ahmadinejad that the longer he rejects our demands, the more likely we are to "talk". He'll exploit the time & space we give him to solidify is nuclear weapon's program. North Korea is a perfect example.

Fen said...

Again, I'm all for diplomatic methods, but the primary motive should not be anything to avoid war. If Obama thinks Ahmadinejad will respond to diplomatic talks in good faith then he's a fool.

Fen said...

Obama: We want you to give up your pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iran: No.

Obama: We'll throw in two reactors

Iran: Hah. Sure. Okay.

Obama: But we want UN monitors allowed to make sure nothing is diverted to any nuclear weapons program.

Iran: Only if the inspectors are Syrian

Obama: And we want language in the treaty that calls for UN sanctions against you if you break the deal

Iran: No

Obama: Then how about a UN condemnation?

Iran: No

Obama: A UN resolution, with harsh words?

Iran: Heh. Sure

[...]

To paraphrase Manchester: One imagines Chamberlain sitting across the table from Satan, with a mortified expression as he realizes he just traded away his soul for the promise of future negotiations on it.

PatCA said...

What Fen said.

"It's time to focus on something else."

Yes, I'm bored with it all. I'm sure the Iraqis will realize that and forgive us, and everybody will trust our word in the future.

As for his Patriot companies, why is he strongarming a British company? Could it be as a sop to his special interest (union) supporters? http://hotair.com/archives/2008/02/13/obama-puts-his-patriot-corporation-aims-into-practice/

And, how is working for The Man for years any less onerous than paying back student loans?

SGT Ted said...

Ann couldn't possibly vote for Obama. I have it on good authority from many genuine leftists here that she's a conservative Republican.

Simon said...

montana urban legend said...
"Obama is a professor of constitutional law. He noted in his comments that his refusal to confirm Roberts was based on his belief that Roberts would not respect the separation of powers."

So is Sandy Levinson. Just because you teach it doesn't mean you have any particular respect or affinity for it. It doesn't even mean you know anything about it - I've never sat in Joe Biden's conlaw class, but if his public remakrs are reflective, Biden is almost totally ignorant of the Constitution.

And I find it almost impossible to take seriously a vote against Roberts based on the idea that it's the conservative side of the court that doesn't respect the separation of powers. I honestly struggle to think of a case where the court broke along ideological lines where it wasn't the liberal wing wanting to blur the lines. I wanted to say that Clinton v. City of New York was a rare counterexample, but looking it up, I see my memory fails me: it was 6-1-2, and by no means along partisan lines. Anyone got any others to bring forward?