August 4, 2008

"Barack Obama does have an ideological core."

Stanley Kurtz on "Barack Obama's Lost Years":
[T]he time between his first campaign for the Illinois State Senate in 1995 and his race for U.S. Senate in 2004-can fairly be called the "lost years," the period Obama seems least eager to talk about.
But Obama wrote 40 columns for the Hyde Park Herald during those years, from which Kurtz extracts that Obama is "profoundly race-conscious" and "exceedingly liberal." I'm not so sure. Wasn't Obama saying what was politically advantageous for him to say at the time, in Chicago? And wasn't it good leverage for him to begin his climb to power in Chicago? I'm not convinced Obama is motivated by ideology.

IN THE COMMENTS: EnigmatiCore responds:
Would it be safe to say that he either:

* Is motivated by ideology, which evidence suggests is extremely liberal,

or

* Is not motivated by ideology but rather political expediency, and would be working with a Congress that is likely to be very liberal, meaning he would have to take non-expeditious stands in order to go against them?
I agree that if he's motivated by ideology, he's liberal, though maybe not all that extremely. I think it's more likely that he's a politician seeking prestige and power, and I agree that we need to analyze how he would interact with a liberal Congress. But I do not assume that he will go along with a runaway liberal agenda. In fact, I'm concerned that McCain may be more oriented toward getting along with the Democratic Congress. Obama, unlike McCain, will want to be reelected, so he will take account of what the people want and establish his independence from the deeply vested interests of the congressional Democrats. McCain has a lifetime of strong ties developed within Congress, and Obama has scarcely spent any time in the place. So I'm thinking Obama will be more finely attuned to what is good for the country and less beholden to Congress.

42 comments:

rhhardin said...

It's a find something nice to say about Obama contest.

Plain-spoken gets points from me. I look for alarmed women scooting away, clutching their pearls. There's my man.

P. Rich said...

AA said: I'm not so sure.

When it comes to your views on Obama, that is some kind of galactic understatement, Althouse. Have you auditioned yet for formal inclusion in his Perpetual Excuse Cadre? Your qualifications are impeccable.

Middle Class Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Middle Class Guy said...

Obama is motivated by the same things that motivate most successful people. He also benefits from timing. He was and is in the right place at the right time; he is also the right person who came along at the right time.

From listening and reading about him I do not see a binding ideology. He has not partaken of the Democratic Party Kool Aid. He may be a believer, but he is not a true believer. He has flexibility.

Obama is a good politician. The question is will he be a good leader and has he been an effective Senator?

Scrutineer said...

Obama wrote 40 columns for the Hyde Park Herald during those years, from which Kurtz extracts that Obama is "profoundly race-conscious" and "exceedingly liberal." I'm not so sure.

Did Obama cut himself off from his half-brother in part because of his "lack of black ethnocentrism", or is that a misreading of Dreams from My Father? I haven't read the book, but you have, so maybe you could comment.

If that interepretation is accurate, then Obama does appear to be "profoundly race-conscious."

Randy said...

Wasn't Obama saying what was politically advantageous for him to say at the time, in Chicago? And wasn't it good leverage for him to begin his climb to power in Chicago? I'm not convinced Obama is motivated by ideology.

Yes. Yes. I basically agree. I think MCG's observation is spot-on as well.

It seems to me that the stories about his editorship of the law review, community organizing, teaching at law school, etc, reveal a common thread. Kurtz makes some good points but he's far too heavy-handed about it.

Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy has done an impressive job of compiling good sources of material on Obama while providing novel insights.

Outis said...

Obama is motivated by the same things that motivate most successful people. He also benefits from timing. He was and is in the right place at the right time; he is also the right person who came along at the right time.

He is who he's been waiting for.

The Drill SGT said...

Ann said...Wasn't Obama saying what was politically advantageous for him to say at the time, in Chicago? And wasn't it good leverage for him to begin his climb to power in Chicago?

so in other words, he has no ideology? He'll say anything, pander to any group, toss anyone under his bus, if it gets him elected then and now?

well that's good to know. I know whenthe chips are down Barack will be there for me :)

Randy said...

so in other words, he has no ideology? He'll say anything, pander to any group, toss anyone under his bus, if it gets him elected then and now?

Yes. Rather like his opponent, in fact.

vbspurs said...

Yes. Rather like his opponent, in fact.

Rather like any politician running for office, in fact.

The difference is that Obama is running as the un-Cola. He's DIFFERENT. NOT LIKE THEM. Remember?

As such, when he behaves like any other politician, he should have that original stance flung back at him as the rank hypocrisy it is.

Cheers,
Victoria

Methadras said...

You mean that when Mr. Barely is attempting to become something for everyone, he really ends up being nothing to anyone?

Middle Class Guy said...

Obama is motivated by the same things that motivate most successful people.


I'm successful, but I don't have the same motivations as Mr. Barely? How about yours?

He also benefits from timing. He was and is in the right place at the right time; he is also the right person who came along at the right time.

What a vacuous proclamation that essentially means really nothing. No, he benefits from the fact that he beat Hillary Clinton because the DNC only allowed half of Florida and Michigan's votes to count.

From listening and reading about him I do not see a binding ideology.

What part of Leftism, Liberalism, Black Liberation Theology can't you see? Cognitive dissonance is really something you should see a mental health professional about. You may not see his binding ideology, but I can see that you have some binding delusions.

He has not partaken of the Democratic Party Kool Aid. He may be a believer, but he is not a true believer. He has flexibility.

He doesn't need to partake of the Kool Aid since he is the one creating it. I'm sure if you showed a picture of yourself we would see a red Solo cup and a little red jokerish 8 year old kool-aid mustache. Hmm, I wonder what that little extra flavor is?

Obama is a good politician. The question is will he be a good leader and has he been an effective Senator?

If you really haven't been able to ascertain the answers to this seemingly beguiling set of questions, then I really wonder what you are trying to get at? Are you so incapable of looking at someones resume like Obama's and not see his lack of leadership skills or are you trying to harken to his halcyon days of community activism in Chicago as leadership? Also, to question whether one has been a good Senator requires you to at least understand what makes a good Senator; statesmanship, the use of the duplicitous language of diplomacy, the amount of times your name appears on legislation, the number of pieces of legislation you've been able to pass, the amount of committees you sit on, and the ratio of all the above and your time as a sitting senator.

You know, maybe you are suffering from that dreaded new disease, ASS (Andrew Sullivan Syndrome). Horrible thing really. Symptoms include sweating, heart palpitations, increased euphoria, delusions of grandeur (not your own), questioning of ones objectivity and subjectivity, messianic complex and a range of other symptoms that manifest themselves as time goes on. I'm sure there is a treatment for it but the list of side-effects may be worse than the cure. See your health care professional immediately to determine whether or not you may be a sufferer of ASS.

EnigmatiCore said...

"I'm not convinced Obama is motivated by ideology."

Would it be safe to say that he either:

* Is motivated by ideology, which evidence suggests is extremely liberal, or
* Is not motivated by ideology but rather political expediency, and would be working with a Congress that is likely to be very liberal, meaning he would have to take non-expeditious stands in order to go against them?

Randy said...

As such, when he behaves like any other politician, he should have that original stance flung back at him as the rank hypocrisy it is.

That's true. Many people can't stop there, though. They go in for over-kill and destroy their message in the process. Rather like Obama's Berlin speech overwhelming everything else about his trip.

vbspurs said...

Ann wrote:

I'm not convinced Obama is motivated by ideology.

The thing is, American politicians and their electorate throughout history have been unmotivated by ideology.

Well, actually, Americans DO have an ideology which might be called "Americanism".

Like Marxism, their adherents have written documentation which guides them. In the Marxists' case it is Das Kapital. In the Americans' case it is the Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution including the Bill Of Rights.

Unlike Marxists, Americans are not doctrinaire. Rather, they are embued with the spirit of their country, traditions based on an idea of a country, which guides their principles.

Stray too far away from that, and politicians falter.

We've had very Leftist Presidents in US history before. FDR, LBJ, Carter.

Each would be considered on the centre-right of any European politician (Carter due to his religiosity).

How Obama differs is that he is the first man who came after the ideological shift in American politics -- the post-Vietnam era, where colleges were filled with extreme Leftist professors.

I am not convinced that he is Marxist, or follows any other extremist precepts (like black liberation theology), but his INFLUENCES certainly have been those.

Even Clinton emerged from the Vietnam era as a recognisably American politician.

But Obama is of a different breed. His entire way of thinking is foreign.

In The Audacity of Hope, he speaks about his fellow Americans as almost as if he were speaking of specimens under a microscope -- he's observing them, but never being one of them.

That is his Achilles' heel.

Americans can't quite put their finger on why they don't trust him (though many want to very much).

The answer is simple:

He doesn't trust America. In fact, he wants to reinvent her.

Cheers,
Victoria

Randy said...

Is not motivated by ideology but rather political expediency, and would be working with a Congress that is likely to be very liberal, meaning he would have to take non-expeditious stands in order to go against them?

How about the idea that he'll pick and choose his fights with his own party when those fights are beneficial to him?

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vbspurs said...

Obama is a good politician. The question is will he be a good leader and has he been an effective Senator?

Actually, I don't think Obama OR Hillary Clinton were good politicians. By this, I don't mean they aren't successful, but that I perceive they have few innate political instincts themselves.

Both of them were uplifted by a political machine to their respective positions. Both had other fish to fry, just as soon as they thought it was expedient to run for US President.

Whereas Hillary Clinton grew in her candidacy, displaying tenacity, she still faltered. Obama has faltered interminably, one gaffe after another, but he's got momentum and press on his side.

McCain is not a good politician, either. He bucked his Party too many times, and risked his career in ways a really good politician never would. He is mediocre at best running for the Presidency (twice).

Now Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, THEY were amazing pols.

The mark of an innate politician is that you are never able to pin them down completely, and they slip away practically unscathed, even when all of Washington and MSM are against them.

They are anything but empty suits. In fact, you can say there is too much inside those suits, to quite be able to get a grasp on.

Cheers,
Victoria

TitusSantaClaraVanguard said...

Stanley Kurtz is a big homophobe. He is obsessed about everything gay.

Roger J. said...

I think Victoria has the basic critique of Obama down pat: The more we find out about him, the less he is a transcent politician who believes in change and hope; he's just another crummy chicago pol with a good PR machine and a gullible public combined with a fellating media.

AlphaLiberal said...

When you're a State Senator you tend to be pretty busy with constituent and nuts and bolts policy issues like budget allocations, etc.

Actually, part of the reason I held off on backing Obama is his then-perceived lack of dedication to ideals. I was concerned he'd be too eager to bargain away previously won gains for his own glory (see: Bill Clinton).

I now think I understand his approach better, though I still wish he'd compromise less, or later.

rhhardin said...

The more we find out about him, the less he is a transcent politician

I simply do not see how that isn't obvious from the first word out of his mouth.

Are people so brimming with inexperience that they've never seen this before?

Randy said...

Are people so brimming with inexperience that they've never seen this before?

It seems to me that people tend to see what they want to see and not muchmore.

vbspurs said...

Are people so brimming with inexperience that they've never seen this before?

It's not inexperience. It's that human memory is selective and emphasises the present.

Even if Obama is elected, he won't be the worst president America has ever had. Sure, if his plans are turned into reality by a majority Democratic Congress, it'll sure feel that way.

But just remember Carter. Just remember Hoover. Just remember Harding. Just remember Grant. Just remember Johnson. Just remember Buchanan...

You get the drift.

Randy said...

Nobody wants to remember Buchanan. Or Fillmore. Or Pierce.

TitusSantaClaraVanguard said...

I would do Obama.

ricpic said...

What the hell does transcent mean?

ricpic said...

Obama is motivated by the desire to stick it to his own grandmother. No joke. Think of what she did for him. Think of the nothing he'd be without the stable environment she provided. Then think of her "sin." After having had the wits scared out of her by a threatening stranger who happened to be black, she admitted to The Anointed One that she had been scared by a stranger who happened to be black. That was enough. That outweighed in Mister Putz' mind, in Mister Knave's mind, in Mister Ungrateful Wretch's mind, everything she had done for him, all the care she had lavished on him, all her sacrifices. That warranted throwing her away.

But go ahead, be my guest, vote for hope and change, vote for Mister Dreck.

blake said...

The mark of an innate politician is that you are never able to pin them down completely, and they slip away practically unscathed, even when all of Washington and MSM are against them.

Best portrayal of this in cinema history? Jeff Bridges as the President in The Contender. Yeah, it's badly aimed Clinton apoologism, and it ends with a stunningly leftist polemic from Joan Allen, but Bridges (fresh off his performance as "The Dude") perfectly captures the warm, genuine smile of the master politician, which in no way is affected by the fact that he just stabbed you in the back.

Bridges is gonna end up with one of those honorary Oscars because he does great work in the sorts of movies that Hollywood doesn't reward.

Oh, I'm sorry. You were having a serious conversation here.

Methadras said...

Randy said...

It seems to me that people tend to see what they want to see and not muchmore.


Really? Interesting choice of words there, Randy boy. I wonder what the weather is like in the state of irony today? Looks like you might have a case of the ASS as well. Better get that taken care of before it gets out of hand.

blake said...

Did I mention that Bridges shows up to Lebowski conventions to sing Bob Dylan songs from the movie?

How cool is that?

Jeff Bridges for President!

Methadras said...

TitusSantaClaraVanguard said...

I would do Obama.


Not before he does you first, but somehow I won't hear you complain about that. Oh my. Now I await a smarmy retort from the smarmy tart.

Revenant said...

"[Obama will] say anything, pander to any group, toss anyone under his bus, if it gets him elected then and now?"

Yes. Rather like his opponent, in fact.

That must be why he favors the war in Iraq. Because it is so popular with voters.

Of course, at least a majority of Republicans still favor winning the war, so maybe he's pandering to them. But then how do you explain his renewed opposition to ANWR drilling? That position is not only unpopular with Republicans, but with swing voters too.

All politicians pander. *Most* politicians, however, have core beliefs that influence their voting and positions, and most have positions they stick too even when the position becomes unpopular. McCain is such a person. Obama might be; we don't know yet if he's truly a leftist or if he just pretended to be one to win office in a left-wing city and state.

Randy said...

Revenant: It seems to me that McCain doesn't have much of a claim to consistency save the Iraq War. I agree that little is known about what Obama in that regard.

Revenant said...

The thing that made "The Contender" a ridiculous film wasn't its overt bias towards the left-wing characters (you expect that in Hollywood films) but the fact that the Allen character turns out to be genuinely innocent of the accusations against her. Her behavior throughout the film makes no sense in light of that fact.

Revenant said...

Revenant: It seems to me that McCain doesn't have much of a claim to consistency save the Iraq War.

There's ANWR drilling, campaign finance "reform", and (in my opinion) support for illegal immigrant amnesty, even if he won't publicly admit to favoring the latter. He also consistently defers to the Executive on the subject of Supreme Court nominees, voting for qualified candidates without regard to their ideology (i.e., the way Senators are supposed to behave). Voting for Ginsberg didn't win him any friends with the base. :)

We know enough about McCain to know that there are positions he sticks to. Unfortunately several of them are positions I loathe. :)

The Drill SGT said...

All politicians pander. *Most* politicians, however, have core beliefs that influence their voting and positions, and most have positions they stick too even when the position becomes unpopular. McCain is such a person.

McCain at his core isn't strongly tied to a conservative ideology. To the extent McCain has a set of core principles, it is "Duty, Honor, Country". He can be flexible about a lot of things, but if to him, a position threatens one of those three, compromise is not in his vocabulary.

Beldar had a good post about this last week.
http://beldar.blogs.com/

His section on McCain used this great quote from McCains stump speech:

"In war and peace, I have been an imperfect servant of my country. But I have been her servant first, last and always. Whenever I faced an important choice between my country's interests or my own interests, party politics or any special interest, I chose my country.
Nothing has ever mattered more to me than the honor of serving America, and nothing ever will.

"If you elect me President, I will always put our country first. I will put its greatness; its prosperity and peace; and the hopes and concerns of the people who make it great before any personal or partisan interest.

"We are going to start making this government work for you and not for the ambitions of the powerful. And I will keep that promise every hour of every day I am in office, so help me God."

blake said...

The thing that made "The Contender" a ridiculous film wasn't its overt bias towards the left-wing characters (you expect that in Hollywood films) but the fact that the Allen character turns out to be genuinely innocent of the accusations against her. Her behavior throughout the film makes no sense in light of that fact.

Principles, Rev! It was all about principles!

Why, if you can be grilled about your behavior in college 20 years ago, next they'll be asking you about interns in the Oval Office!

She was taking a stand!

And, yeah, while Hollywood favors the left (heh, "favors"), her screed at the end of the movie was so far left, it was remarkable.

They screwed up by giving her concrete (and often stupid) positions, when up to that point, the audience--almost all the audience--could identify with her.

Great acting, though. Especially Bridges.

Revenant said...

Principles, Rev! It was all about principles!

Which is what made it so ridiculous. There are probably politicians who would stick to the principle of "people should be allowed to have orgies if they want to" to such a ridiculous extent that they would rather be universally viewed as having been in one than honestly deny such an accusation. But the notion that they'd be anywhere near national office is beyond fantasy.

What's even more ridiculous is that the President -- who could have proved her innocence -- didn't do so either. What principle was HE sticking to? He could have leaked that proof. Then the Allen character cruises to an easy nomination, gets to stick to her "don't talk about it" principles, and the evil nasty Republicans get hammered in the press and the polls for their blue-nosed slanderousness. Heck, the movie "Dave" was more believable than that.

(shakes fist)

blake said...

Yeah.

But.

BUSH LIED PEOPLE DIED!!!1!!eleven!

dick said...

You are joking when you say that Obama might be more attuned to what is good for the country than what is good for Congress, aren't you? Obama will be more attuned to what is good for Obama and whatever he has to say to stay popular than he is to doing any good for the country. If he were at all interested in what was good for the country he would have had at least one meeting of his Foreign Policy senate committee to try to find some way to improve the foreign relations of the country but he was too busy campaigning to hold the meetings he was made head of the committee to have. He was also too busy campaigning for the presidency to bother representing the people he pledged himself to represent and even when he was in attendance he usually just voted present. What makes you think he will suddenly get a case of doing things for the good of the country.

Methadras said...

Ann Althouse said...

So I'm thinking Obama will be more finely attuned to what is good for the country and less beholden to Congress.


I'm sorry Ann, but you really need to rethink this position. Obama, if elected will fulfill the promise of a remanufacturing of the American Dream into the wealth redistribution government welfare super fund scheming he favors and is supremely influenced by two of his mentors Frank Marshal Davis and Saul Alinski. You really think that his attunement of these people as his barometer for his social policies won't come into play if he is president? This is his modus operandi, this is what he has lived for. His complete frustration in the senate as a do-nothing senator has led him to an even more flowery ambition. That if he cannot accomplish these goals as a senator then he will do so as a president and you think that he will have the good of the country at heart?

You are a seasoned professional and a woman of experience(s) that understands the tangible needs of how the world is generally righted and when things go a little off-balance, you can sense it, feel it, know it and you seek to try and shift it back. Your characterization in that sentence alone screams of the unsynchronizing of things to come if this man becomes president. It will not be good for the country, much less the world and if you insist on supporting him with your vote, then your entrance into the world of naivete will be with the full knowledge that you've contributing in unleashing this empty-suits ideological nonsense upon us all.

Then what will you say when you see it come to fruition? Going to shrug your shoulders, move your mouth just slightly askance with your palms facing upwards and say sorry or oops I did a bad thing?

Sloanasaurus said...

So I'm thinking Obama will be more finely attuned to what is good for the country and less beholden to Congress.

This just sounds like you are making the same mistake everyone else is by putting your own hopes and wants for a president onto Obama. Yet, such hopes do not really jive with Obama's past voting record or behavior.

Nevertheless, I counter Althouse's pragmatic argument with another:

If Obama is elected he will be just a tool for Congress and his cabinet. Obama lacks the gravitas to stand up to any cabinet member he appoints. What possible cabinet member would have less or equal experience and gravitas to Obama? None. Even GW Bush had run the second largest state for 6 years (and had the family name) something none of his appointed cabinet members had done. Thus, Bush has some gravitas behind him.

In contrast, everyone knows that Obama will have won because it was a democratic year and that he was a popular celebrity, not because he has a track record of leadership and accomplishments. All of Obama's cabinet appointments and the Congress will know this and they will treat Obama accordingly. In the end the human condition will take over and Obama's cabinet and Congress will treat him like the novice that he is. This will result in a divided cabinet of discontent and a government with many messages as cabinet members find their way to establishing their own power bases.

If you want good debtate in the government go for divided government. It was divided government that brought us budget surpluses, that built up the miltary to end the cold war, etc...