Monday, October 20, 2008

The Post-Election Obama

Politicians, like romantic partners, too often, change after the deal is sealed.

New information is convincing me that Obama, who is trying to sound moderate during the campaign, will, in fact, be America's first hard-leftist president.

For example, James Pethokoukis, assistant managing editor at U.S. News & World Report, reported last Thursday:
"I chatted with a ...University of Chicago professor who was a frequent lunch companion of Obama's. This professor said that Obama was as close to a full-out Marxist as anyone who has ever run for president of the United States. " 
This is not an isolated data point. Obama has had many significant relationships with people with hard-leftist backgrounds. And those relationships do matter because, as Winston Churchill, I believe, urged us: judge politicians not by what they say, but by what they do.  Too, it's axiomatic that we learn something about a person from who he associates with.

I'm not mainly talking about William Ayres here, with whom Obama seems to have had a limited relationship. I'm more worried that:
  •  The Obama campaign's official blogger is Sam Graham-Felson, who, for example, in 2006, wrote, in the magazine Socialist Viewpoint, an article supportive of the leftist French rioters. (Remember the pictures of rioters burning cars?)
  • Obama's and his family's mentor for two decades and, until the furor hit, a campaign advisor, was radical theologian Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who repeatedly gave anti-white, I hate-America sermons including the famous "God Damn America" sermon. (Just because this is old news doesn't make it invalid news.)
  • During his formative years, Obama was mentored by Communist party member Frank Marshall Davis. 
  • Obama co-founded and his wife was on the board of Public Allies, which despite its moderate-sounding mission statement, in practice appears to have been quite an anti-male, anti-white, anti-capitalist organization. 
  • A 2001 interview on WBEZ (NPR, Chicago), makes clearer his belief in redistributive "justice." 
  • The nonpartisan National Journal ranked Obama America's #1 most liberal senator.
  • In a recent speech, he said (I hope I got this quote precisely right. It certainly expresses its essence.) "McCain accuses me of socialism. I call it opportunity." He apparently no longer denies his socialist leanings.
All this scares me because I believe that--although no one can be sure--cautiously regulated capitalism is, long-term, the approach most likely to bring the most good to the most people, and ironically, that big government is, long-term, likely to lead to increased poverty and pain.

I fear that Obama's core beliefs are very different from his moderate-sounding campaign rhetoric. His voting record and long-term relationships suggest that he will dramatically increase domestic spending, usually insist on big-government rather than private-sector approaches (Note the summary of those in Friday's Wall Street Journal op-ed), heavily regulate corporate America because he believes it is more corrupt than government, inflame minorities' and women's belief that they are treated unfairly relative to their merit, and through taxation and other redistributive "justice" mechanisms, spread wealth from those with the greatest potential to improve society to those with the least. 

Obama's chances of enacting such a hard-left agenda are boosted by the expected more-liberal Congress and a media ever more willing to be liberal activists rather than presenters of best-made arguments from both right and left.

I can only hope, against the odds, that Obama will have the integrity to govern as he promised--as a moderate whose policies will truly take into account the best ideas from across the political spectrum.

Your thoughts, dear readers?


Anonymous said...

I am also very concerned. With Obama in the white house and a democratic House and Senate, we could see some very dangerous policies coming out of Washington. Also, with the economy in its current state, the left will most certainly use fear of economic collapse to increase the size of government. They will make claims like "this is only a temporary program until the economy recovers" but we all know that there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program.

Anonymous said...

The Wall Street Journal agrees with you:

I just mailed my absentee ballot. I've never voted for a major party candidate for president, and this time was no exception. But most voters aren't as cynical as I am. Most Obama supporters totally believe what he says as opposed to what he does, and they may be in for a shock if he takes office. For them, words speak louder than actions.

The articles you link to can be found if a person takes just a little time to look. But who's looking? Most of them aren't MSM articles, so the people who need to know what's happening with Obama won't until it's too late, and it's happening to all of us.

Anonymous said...

More big government than what, the last eight years? The largest expansion of federal entitlements since the Great Society? Massive military expenditures? The $700 billion bailout? Massive tax cuts to people with seven figure incomes? And the self-described "fiscal conservatives" running the show have made no effort to pay for any of this.

It's hard to think of a worse way to manage the government budget.

And when President McCain dies of cancer, leaving us with President Palin, that's when we can panic.

Tim said...

Good post, Marty. Anonymous is not distinguishing between "big government" because of 9/11 and war and "big government" because of socialism/marxism.

Big difference.

Despite what Obama promises, Anonymous, your taxes will go up if he is elected. Then you will have both higher taxes and a liar for a president.

Congratulations--I hope you will be happy.

Marty Nemko said...

An anonymous person wanted to post this. I thought it would be easiest to post it under my name and embed my reactions within it. My comments are bracketed in asterisks.

I'm disappointed to see reference to the democratic party as a 'hard left' party.

* It's not the Dem. party that is hard-left it is Obama, who represents the extreme far left of the Dem party. I have great respect for many blue-dog Democrats, for example, Rep. Mike Thompson, whom I know personally.*

The single most leftwing US government policy in many years is the nationalization of parts of the insurance and banking industries. Probably the second most leftwing thing would be wage and price controls. Both of these policies originated under presidents most think of as very right of center, Bush the Younger and Nixon.

* I agree with you completely. Ironic.*

I'm more disappointed to see folks citing AIM and not pointing out that AIM is hard right. By 'hard right,' I mean actual, violent hard right. Reed Irvine, the principal, denied massacres in El Salvador, pressured the NY Times to remove a reporter who'd accurately cover them, recommended napalming the FMLN in El Salvador, and using nuclear weapons in Iraq during the first gulf war.

* True, AIM is conservative, but the mainstream media is so monolithically liberal that the main place one can obtain facts that support right-of-center positions are conservative publications. And just because, Irvine, decades ago, made a mistake, doesn't mean that today's articles in Accuracy in Media written by other people are to be dismissed apriori.*

The stuff about Frank Davis would be a lot more interesting if the relationship had been going on when Obama was in his college years;

* It's not much less valid that it occurred during Obama's high school years. Certainly, many of our values are formed then.* as it is, it winds up being grist for sad National Enquirer pieces like this one, laden with innuendo about black sexuality.
and the sadder, weirder one from AIM

* That garbage, of course, is not relevant. I'd never cite it and it is unfair of you to imply that I would or to analogize the facts I cite to those.*

I found the US News and World Report piece claiming Obama had decloaked as a Marxist at the U of C was very interesting. I could never find the name of the person who'd allegedly made the remark. I spent several years at the U of C, and it's worth being aware that the U of C has a rightwing subculture that puts Mussolini to shame. I actually had a U of C undergrad I was shooting pool with one night tell me that slaves in the US were actually free, since if they'd really wanted to, they could have run away at night. The mind, she boggled.

*The fact that you were at the U of C and couldn't find the name of a person hardly justifies what you imply, that James Pethokoukis, Assistant Managing Editor at U.S. News & World Report is lying. And while the U. of C. has a conservative-leaning economics department and individual conservatives there, in recent years, there probably are more liberal subcultures there now than conservative ones.*

On the Harvard campus at the law review, presumably a safer place to be more radical than at U of C, Obama earned the 'enmity' of more liberal law review folks who wanted the kind of radical that a fraction of rightwing commentators claim to be afraid of now. On ACORN: Does anyone remember what ACORN stands for? Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

* As I acknowledged, ACORN's official mission statement is innocuous (perhaps to maximize its ability to obtain funds, but even the mainstream media is agreeing that it is far from innocuous or ethical.*

What did Obama do in Chicago? Something about being a community organizer? Why does it come as a surprise that Obama knows people in the community organizing movement?

* Organizing for anti-white, anti-male, and anti-capitalist ventures is very different from Obama's campaign speechmaking. So, in predicting what he'll be like as president, it's, as always, wiser to judge a politician by what he does rather than what he says.*

ACORN is not a hard left outfit, sorry; the biggest charge laid out against them recently is that they got people loans they couldn't afford.

* And registered the same individuals to vote dozens of times. Remember, that's voting fraud, the sort of thing that the Left accused voting machine makers of doing (disproven.)*

So, they're trying to get low-income americans to claw their way into the bourgeoisie? That doesn't actually sound very hard left to me.
* As I said, that's not the objection to ACORN.*

Anonymous said...

Okay, more on the back and forth:

I'm not accusing the guy from US News and World Report of lying. I'm asking who said it. Someone probably did.

I'm asking "who said this?" because at Chicago, it's worth knowing who that is. Remember, this is the place that embraced Pinochet with open arms. I'm saying allegedly, because until we know who said it, we don't have a way of finding out if they think they were accurately quoted.

Since that quote is getting a lot of traction, I think asking about what was said and by who is fair.

I didn't call AIM conservative. The Wall Street Journal is conservative.

I called AIM hard right, which they are. The pattern spans decades; denying the brutality of the Salvadoran government and urging a nuclear first strike against Iraq in Gulf War 1 is a pattern of behavior spanning many years. During the Clinton Adminsitration, Irvine claimed there was a Republican conspiracy to protect Clinton.

These are not past indiscretions on the part of the principal.

The second of the articles I cited is a more recent AIM post than the one you cite. Let me apologize: I wasn't accusing you of subscribing to the point of view in that piece. AIM, however, clearly does support it - they're publishing it.

They continue to be a house organ for the lunatic, overtly racist right wing. (The imagery of black men and their dangerous sexuality is overtly racist imagery, used to justify lynching for decades.)

Acorn is currently being defrauded by some of its employees. Acorn reported the fraud to the state of Nevada, for instance, in a series of meetings over a period of months.

Voter fraud is not in play here; unless people turn up with ID indicating that they are named Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck (unlikely) or in the names of the starting lineup for the Dallas Cowboys (perhaps a little simpler to slip by a poll worker), the fraud is not going to result in votes cast for anyone.

Automated voter disqualification in Ohio struck 350.000 names from the rolls in 2004.

(The arguments about computer counts of ballots are not what I'm highlighting there - though they are every bit as much in play as the arguments about Frank Davis are.)

One in six voters were taken from the rolls this year in Colorado; one in nine in New Mexico - voters are being struck from the rolls for trivial typographic errors.

There's a good example of six mismatches that a computer would see but a person would immediately recognize in the days news here:

These mismatches are in fact being used in many places to challenge registration, and especially new registrations. Republican officials in Michigan are planning to use lists of recent home foreclosures to strike registered voters from the rolls.

Finally, to the 'hard left' that Obama purportedly represents:

- Obama supports the death penalty, even in non-capital cases. This places him to the right of quite a bit of his party.

- Obama is promising a withdrawal from Iraq on the one hand; on the other, he's promising an escalation in Afghanistan and a new front being opened against Pakistan. While it's true that Pakistan actually is a nuclear-armed fundamentalist state where Iraq was never either, on the other hand, Pakistan is a nuclear-armed fundamentalist state with little or no control over its intelligence service and actual, working nukes. Promising a new front with them hardly seems like a 'hard left' democratic position; it seems like Bush only moreso.

-Obama supports retroactive immunity for corporate crime; his vote to immunize telecommunications crime yet again puts him to the right of much of his party.

- Obama's support of the bailout again puts him to the right of many in the party, who were correctly arguing that the bailout was an expansion of executive authority without judicial oversight, not to mention fixing the wrong problem as originally sold by the media.

Cornhusker said...

Do you really think Warren Buffett would back a radical anti-capitalist? A 21-year-old friend of mine died in this needless war. I am said and frightened that people did not become incensed until their finances were affected. This indicates where our priorities lay.

alanocu said...

The rich support McCain, the ultra-rich support Obama. Why? The rich care about taxes, the super-rich are so rich that taxes don’t matter.

I am not rich, but I do own a small business and I don’t mind paying my share of taxes. However, it doesn’t make sense for me to work harder and grow my business and hire employees knowing that I will only get to keep 60 cents out of every dollar I earn if Obama is elected. All he is going to do is give my money to someone who doesn’t work as hard as I do. The Ultra rich don’t care because they don’t have to work. Too bad we can’t have a special tax bracket, “morons who voted for democrats” and tax them at 90% on all assets. Maybe they would change their tune.

Cornhusker said...

Sorry....that should be SAD and frightened.

Robyn said...

Too bad the current president did so much to destroy the system of checks and balances, eh?

Calvin said...


It might help if you provide some clarification. Are there specific policies from Obama's detailed proposals that you object to as hard left, or is it that you believe that those are a ruse, and once elected he will enact policies not now being discussed. (Your evidence for the latter being the fact that you've found five people he knows who are not moderate.)

In these political debates, getting down to specifics tends to help clarify what's being said...

- Cal

Marty Nemko said...

I am recrafting a response. I will post it as soon as I can, both here as a comment and as a separate post.

Julie said...

Okay everybody... calm down. Having lived in Britain for the past few years, I can say with certainty that if Obama was being elected anywhere in Europe, he would be viewed as completely centrist (in fact, he's more conservative than Labour and New Labour in many ways) - because his policies ARE completely centrist according to all Western political definitions outwith the USA. America's current political landscape (in which I include Republicans AND Democrats) is, by all global definitions, somewhat right-of-center on both economic and social issues; look at totally privatized health care, unwavering support for Israeli military policy (viewed by much of the rest of the Western world as a state-sponsored equivalent to Palestinian terrorism!), state-level constitutional discrimination against same-sex couples, the Federal Death Penalty, even the very institutionalization of Christian language in politics and campaigns, etc etc.
Obama is indeed one of the most liberal senators, but frankly that doesn't mean very much in our current political paradigm in which the words 'liberal' and 'socialism' are tantamount to blasphemy!
All I'm saying is, take a look at politics outside America and then come back and look at our political situation objectively. Obama is certainly not a radical socialist, he's really just advocating policies that are in line with the larger Western mainstream, and I think American Capitalism is well and truly safe!

Vegan Goddess said...


Now it's a government of the people, by the people and for the people (even all of you who are ignorant, divisive, bigoted, fear-mongering, racist, supremist, inbred and confused)

Come under our umbrella and see what it's like to have a tug of peace instead of a tug of war!

Love conquers all!

Marty Nemko said...

I have taken much time to thoughtfully raise relevant questions about Obama and especially his policies. And "Vegan Goddess" calls me "bigoted," "inbred," etc.

I hope she's not emblematic of what's to come.

Anonymous said...

I just saw a political cartoon. It depicts two newspapers, day after election.

The first: November 2004, "Bush Wins, 51%; Country Divided." The second: November 2008, "Obama Wins!, 52%; Country United."

When Obama began his presidential campaign, he said that it was not going to be "politics as usual." How would he have gotten this far without engaging in "politics as usual"? He wouldn't have.

And don't forget that President-Elect Obama (and McCain and Biden and Hillary Clinton) is part of the congress with the lowest public approval rating in history. Not even George W. Bush alone got as low as congress got.

And one more thing:

A quote from that article:

"On Tuesday night Mr Obama spoke of a 'steep climb' ahead and how he may not achieve all he wants in a first term. In interviews he has asked not to be judged by the traditional yardstick of his first 100 days so much as his first 1,000 days or even more.

"Spokesman Robert Gibbs, who is likely to be made White House press secretary, said: 'It’s important that everybody understands that this is not going to happen overnight. There has to be a realistic expectation of what can happen and how quickly.'

"The sober tone Mr Obama adopted in his speech on election night was intended to be the first of many signals that some of the promises he made during a 21-month election campaign may be difficult to fulfill quickly."

I have a feeling that people like Vegan Goddess are going to be disappointed when Obama's honeymoon is over. But maybe I'm wrong.