UPDATE, APRIL 3 2008: For what it's worth, Lieberman is attacking Obama on Fox News. (And, as reported in the Feb. update below, Ned Lamont -- the Democrat who beat Lieberman in the CT primary and who I trust to identify Lieberman-like Vichys, supports Obama.)
UPDATE, FEB. 10 2008: I hope you read the original post below, which despite being written over a year ago does a good job of expressing my conflicting hopes and concerns about Barack Obama's political soul. I still feel that Obama has the potential to be one of the best, or one of the worst, statesmen of our generation, depending on whether he chooses to pursue the "establishment/power" road or the "change/principle" road. Since writing the original post, I think I see him moving increasingly in the right direction; but this post still does a good job of exploring many of the issues Obama confronts today as a politician, and as a man.
Today, though, in the middle of a controversial primary race and the looming general election race against the formidable John McCain, the question shouldn't be "did Obama pick the wrong mentor when he joined the Senate" or even "how good is Barack Obama?" The only real question now is, "how good is he compared to Hillary Clinton, both as a possible President and as a candidate whose most important job is to beat John McCain?"
And the answer to that question is easy: Obama's by far the more progressive, the more honest, and the more electable of the two. Obama has just been named the most liberal Senator, based on his 2007 voting record; Clinton is 16th; Lieberman was 36th in 2006 and almost certainly will be ranked far lower than that this year. So all the statements out there that Obama is more conservative than Clinton are simply unsupported by the facts: Clinton, by far, more closely resembles Lieberman in her voting record (both of them, but not Obama, supported the war, the surge, the resolution calling Iran a sponsor of terrorism, the bankruptcy bill, etc.), as well as in her willingness to put personal advancement ahead of party loyalty (Lieberman by running as an independent when he lost the CT Democratic primary to Ned Lamont and again by endorsing John McCain, Clinton earlier by trying to rig the primary race before it even began and now by trying to gain the nomination undemocratically, by cutting deals with "superdelegates" because she's losing the popular vote).
As to Lieberman being Obama's "mentor in the Senate"? Yes, he was. Every freshman Senator is assigned a more experienced mentor to help him learn the ropes, and when Obama was first elected to the Senate in 2004, Lieberman had been his party's vice presidential candidate in the previous Presidential election and was still well-respected. And Obama loyally endorsed Lieberman when Lieberman was challenged by newcomer Ned Lamont in the CT primary, which I didn't like, since Lamont was the better man; but once Lamont won the Democratic nomination and Lieberman decided to run against Lamont anyway as an Independent, Obama notably didn't endorse him; he stayed out of it.
So should we hold the "mentor" bit against Obama? Let's ask Lamont, the man Obama was undercutting when he endorsed Lieberman in the CT primary. If anyone has solid anti-Lieberman credentials -- and if anyone has reason to hold a grudge against Obama for backing Lieberman, at least in the primary -- it's Lamont. Yet Lamont is endorsing Obama, not Clinton! If a good guy like Lamont, who stands against everything that Lieberman stands for, endorses Obama -- and if Hillary Clinton's voting record mirrors Joe Lieberman's more closely than Obama's does -- then the rest of us should put the "mentor" label aside and move on to more important considerations, like whether Obama or Clinton is the more progressive, more honest, more democratic, and more electable candidate.
So please read below, but also please visit VichyDems' home page for up-to-date posts on those issues and more, such as Hillary's manipulation of the superdelegate system and her distasteful connections to Rupert Murdoch and Fox News.
Then make up your mind for yourself -- all I really want is for folks to learn all the facts, check them out, and make sound decisions, without letting spin, slant or slogans do their thinking for them.
Thanks for visiting, and for hearing me out.
I want to like Barack Obama. His riveting, energizing speech at the last Democratic National Convention converted him from an attractive Senate candidate into the leading Democratic candidate for first African-American Vice-President and, eventually, President. His statement that "we worship an awesome God in the blue states" not only articulated the beliefs of that misunderstood, underrepresented and vital majority of Democrats and Independents who possess some sort of religious faith, but his use of evangelical "code" language -- "awesome God" -- reclaimed territory we had ceded to the Republicans and showed that not all Democratic politicians are tone deaf to religious nuance. I really want to like Barack Obama.
But then I read things like the following, which comes from an otherwise-delightful New York Times article about Democrats ignoring and even booing Joe Lieberman at a recent event:
[H]owever, the audience was riveted as Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the guest speaker at the $175-a-plate dinner, stood on the podium and began the customary round
of recognition of candidates and incumbents in the room. When he got to Mr. Lieberman, who is his mentor in the Senate and who helped recruit him to speak at the event, the applause again was muted.
"I know that some in the party have differences with Joe," Senator Obama said, all but silencing the crowd. "I'm going to go ahead and say it. It's the elephant in the room. And Joe and I don't agree on everything. But what I know is, Joe Lieberman's a man with a good heart, with a keen intellect, who cares about the working families of America."
Then, with applause beginning to build, he finished the thought: "I am absolutely certain that Connecticut's going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the United States Senate."
Joe Lieberman -- gutter of bankruptcy protection for working people facing disastrous health emergencies, supporter of an illegal war that's killed over 2,000 working-class Americans, apologist for hospitals that deny birth control to rape victims -- secretly has a "good heart" and "cares about working families"?
Here's what's good about Barack Obama: despite his relative youth and political inexperience, he is in the first ranks when it comes to political astututeness. He understands the game, plays all the angles with a skill approaching genius. The last political operator we saw with Obama's skill was an Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton. Hell, Obama may even be better than Bill Clinton.
Here's what's bad about Barack Obama: at an age and place in his career where he should still be known for idealism, he instead is known for political astuteness. He has mastered the game instead of the ideals, applies his genius to playing the angles instead of changing the world for the better. The last political operator we saw with Obama's skill was an Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton. Hell, Obama may even be worse than Bill Clinton. ***
NOT being a "Star Wars" geek in any way, I hate to say this, but some analogies just leap out at you: Barack Obama is the Anakin Skywalker of the Democratic Party. He's an incredibly gifted young man whose gifts who will do either incredible good or incredible harm to the Democratic Party and to the nation. And if Joe Lieberman indeed is his mentor, then Lieberman is the Senator Palpatine to Obama's Anakin -- a moderate-seeming, soft-spoken statesman who pretends to want only the good of the Republic but actually serves those who would destroy everything it stands for -- and who seeks to magnify his influence by exerting a maleficent influence over a young politician whose skill, electability, political prospects and even ambition far exceed his own.
This incident is not the only one; Obama also spoke out against the Alito filibuster, working against us behind the scenes by trying to persuade other senators not to rock the boat, and he likewise is lobbying others not to support Russ Feingold's censure resolution. Obama looks good on the outside, but in his short Senate career he has come down on the wrong side of nearly every issue this blog's readers care about.
Notwithstanding the above, I think Obama can be saved. What's needed is for his elders in the party to lead the young Senator down a nobler path than the one outlined by Bill, Hillary and Joementum. When we progressives recapture the soul of our party, the party may recapture the soul of Obama. Then Obama may be a tremendous force for good. But we need to show him that the path he's currently walking is a dead end.
Step one is to send a message to him, and all similar triangulators and accommodationists, by forcefully and overwhelmingly jettisoning his "mentor in the Senate," Joe Lieberman. Please donate to Lieberman's Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont, here.
And may the Force be with you.
(My kid brother is going to be so proud of this post! But I'm not making another Star Wars reference for at least a year, I promise.)
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