November 18, 2007

"A bunch of conventional wisdom patched together."

The New Yorker has a big article on Barack Obama, but I can't find anything bloggable about it. Can you help me out, John? John (my son) answers:
OK, I skimmed through the whole thing, and it seems like just a bunch of conventional wisdom patched together. (We learn that Iowa is very important, that Obama's campaign theme is to be against conventional politics but that some accuse him of being political himself, etc.) I can't see any surprising insights.

It doesn't even have the theme or structure of a TNR article. (I know it's by a TNR editor, but I've often seen the same author [Ryan Lizza] write better articles for TNR than other publications.) For instance, the first paragraph is about how as a con law prof he would always question students about the reasoning underlying their assumptions. I kept waiting for the author to make that story pay off by connecting it to something about the campaign, or even just making a broader point about Obama as a person. He didn't.

I like Obama's point about how Hillary flip-flopped on ethanol, and the last two paragraphs are mildly interesting. Other than that, nothing stands out.

Here's the ethanol part:
On November 5th, Obama’s campaign sent reporters a research memo that criticized Hillary Clinton for changing her position on ethanol, Iowa’s most parochial issue. The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s major daily, ignored it, but when the campaign offered Obama himself for an interview a story was assured; it appeared on November 7th, with the headline “OBAMA: CLINTON FLIP-FLOPS ON ENERGY.”

I asked Obama whether ethanol was a subject that merited such personal attention. “It has less to do with the particular issue and more to do with her change in position,” he replied. “Now, Hillary has been in the Senate for seven years now. She has consistently voted against ethanol, because the perception in New York state is that this is making gasoline more expensive and that it’s a boondoggle. Those of us in farm states, obviously, have had a different perspective on it. If she came here, and she made a cogent case as to why she doesn’t think ethanol makes sense and why she voted against it, that’d be one thing. After seven years, she comes here and suddenly she’s an ethanol proponent! Well, how did that happen?” He managed to sound genuinely astonished by such brazenness.
(Ethanol is a boondoggle, though, so HC is right about that. And she's got to compete in Iowa, like everyone else. What are you supposed to do? Go to Iowa and tell them the truth?)

Here are those last 2 paragraphs:
What was notable about Obama’s speech at the dinner—one of his finest and most passionate — was not just the roaring choreography from his red-clad supporters but the way that, at 11:30 P.M., he galvanized the entire auditorium, with a succinct description of the difference between his campaign and Clinton’s: “If we are really serious about winning this election, Democrats, we can’t live in fear of losing it.” Even many of Clinton’s troops could be seen beating yellow thunder sticks together in appreciation. Obama seemed to be making an argument about the connection between boldness and electability. With Hillary Clinton, he suggested, there is an inverse relationship between the two: she is so polarizing that she is forced to be a milquetoast candidate in order to become an electable one.

Obama is not the most liberal candidate in the race, so he’s not defining his boldness strictly in ideological terms but, rather, as a sort of anti-politics that prizes truthtelling above calculation.
Oh? Does he think he's telling the truth about ethanol? Or is it just that because he started in a farm state, he didn't have to switch positions?
When I asked him about this new tack, he seemed supremely confident. “I’ve been an observer of politics for two and a half decades, and what I’ve seen is that Democrats have not been able to move their agenda through Washington,” he said. “They have not been able to get the American people to embrace their domestic agenda, and they have been constantly on the defensive when it comes to their foreign-policy agenda. And it seems to me that, you know, if you’re not getting the outcomes you want, you might want to try something different.”
How about an agenda that people want?


EnigmatiCore said...

People want the impossible.

They want the government to take care of everyone, so that no one goes hungry and that no one goes without medicine or treatment. And they want to not have their taxes be high, and they want there to be no governmental waste, corruption, or abuse.

They want absolute freedom to do whatever they want, but for government to stop others from doing things they don't want others to do.

They want to win wars against despots, and to have peace at all costs even if it means supporting despots.

They want green technologies and cheap gas, they want nukes and no nukes.

We want it all, and we want it now. So by all means, give us what we want; it is what politicians have been doing forever.

Kingsfield said...

Let me get this straight: Althouse does not have time to read a whole article, so she asks John. He "skims through the whole thing." Really, John? You skimmed the whole article?! Wow.

Legal scholarship finds itself in fits of laughter today.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, I use strategies to decide what to read. This article was an example of something that got over the threshold and seemed worth something. Then, it lost out on my second filter, skimming. I asked my son about it to get a different perspective. That was an extra chance I decided to give it, solely because I wanted to blog about Barack Obama. He put it through his filters. No one can read everything. This blog post is about applying filters, deciding what to read. If you disagree and think the article is more worthy than we did, then point to things in the article you like. Criticizing me for not reading everything is absurd. No one can read everything. I'm just displaying my approach to reading on my blog. You think I don't read enough? I read all the time, and I read effectively because I apply strategies like this. Maybe you could learn something from what I do, which I'm revealing for you, kingsfield. I suspect you know very little about reading (especially in law, which is full of dross). You seem rather dull.

Paco Wové said...

"You seem rather dull."

"Kingsfield", or "AJD", or whatever, is far too busy creating sockpuppets to bother with mere reading.

reader_iam said...

Corn ethanol is a boondoggle. Neither Sen. Obama nor Sen. Clinton get points from me for implying otherwise, no matter when they came to support the pork.

But then, I don't support most ag subsidies either, and so it's a good thing I'm not running for office in Iowa. In fact, I'm lucky my fellow residents (or my family in Indiana, for that matter) let me live with such opinions!!

Joe said...

Boondoggle: An unnecessary or wasteful project or activity.

Corn ethanol is worse than a boondoggle since it's damaging the food economy and actually harming people for no benefit. Current Biodiesel programs are doing the same world wide.

(There is hope, especially with Algae-based Biodiesel, but it will take a while for the massive cost benefits of these new technologies to counter the destructive waste of the current and even then the damage will continue in the third world.)

rcocean said...

Yes, you're right. Its only worth skimming. However, two points:

1) The writer basically just describes Obama and his positions. Had it been about a conservatives or Republican the article would have been full of contrary viewpoints and comments, and "Scare" labels.

2) The fact that Obama wants driver's licenses for illegals, a raise in the SS tax, and increased energy costs to combat Global warming, shows he doesn't have a prayer of being nominated or elected. These very public positions tell me he's running for V-P.

Maxine Weiss said...

Althouse constantly admonishes her readers to "read the whole thing" when it comes to her own posts and links.

But when it comes to The New Yorker, Althouse advocates skimming their articles.

The analysis that comes from "skimming" is not as trustworthy as someone who savors, and goes over everything, with a fine-tooth-comb.

Maxine Weiss said...

The New Yorker is like a symphony---to be savored.

You have to let it marinate awhile before you can even begin to formulate any conclusions.

John, what is it about Madonna and those fans of hers?

Very different than, say, the fans of Martha Stewart !!!!

Maxine Weiss said...

John---you have a choice.

Choose one:

a) Martha Stewart
b) Madonna
c) Hillary Clinton

Who would you choose to be your Icon? Which one of the choices would arouse the least suspicion?

rhhardin said...

The New Yorker pays by the word.

Ann Althouse said...

Maxine Weiss said "Althouse constantly admonishes her readers to "read the whole thing" when it comes to her own posts and links."

No, I don't. I occasionally say it to let you know that I'm not summarizing/copying all the things I thought were important. Usually, I summarize and quote what I think is interesting and leave it to you to read more at the link if you want.

reader_iam said...


For anyone who thought Huckabee wasn't mostly aboutr the base, or that he supports a federalist approach to abortion.


Blake said...

What are you supposed to do? Go to Iowa and tell them the truth?

A risible concept on the face of it!

George said...

Listened to NPR's "State of the Media" (?) show today. It ran a segment re: whether the press is fair to Sen. Clinton.

The host interviewed a Nation reporter who digressed to say that the attacks on the Obama campaign were coming from Republicans.

He didn't give evidence for this, but at this point int he game it would seem more likely that the attacks would be coming Clinton and Edwards.

vnjagvet said...

It must be Bush, George. Only Bush and the evil rethuglicans could be behind information critical of Obama.

Hillary! never could be behind such political hits.

S said...

John McCain tells Iowans that ethanol is a boondoggle.

I doubt I'll vote for him, but since I've heard that, I've been considering it.

rcocean said...

Please. John McCain is the master of phony "Profile in courage" political grandstanding.

He is constantly taking "brave" positions that the Republican party base dislike, but the media and the elite support. Also, these "brave" political stands never really hurt him in Arizona.

Examples: support for illegal immigration, campaign finance reform, invading Iran, the Gang of 14, attacking Robertson and Falwell, attacking torture, etc.