specific policies of obama i like

MD has a post about Obama in which he writes the following:

Obama seems to be a decent person with good character. But my problem with his candidacy (note, candidacy and not the man) is that a vote for him is a vote for a symbol rather than a vote for a person.

This is my hunch, anyway. The proof would be the in the pudding. Ask your average Democrat voter why they are voting for Obama, specifically. Are the answers vague (change, new politics, hope) or are they specific?

This meme that Obama is an empty shell that anyone can project their hopes and dreams too (i.e. he’s light on policy) I’d like to address. For the record, I’m an independent–so technically I don’t count as your average Democrat voter but I thought I’d give some specifics as to why I am voting for him (assuming he gets the nomination. If it’s Hillary vs. McCain I’m considering abstaining though I haven’t made up my mind on that front).

Obama is a liberal–he is not an empty shell. He’s more liberal than I am to be sure, but between the remaining three (sorry Mike Huckabee), Hillary, Obama, and McCain he is the one I’m most comfortable in charge of the executive branch.

Here is the link to Obama’s Issues Page on his website, with blue papers and policy proposals, more than you probably would ever want.

Foreign Policy


He (Obama) was wise enough to realize that the case for war in Iraq had not been made by the administration and that it would distract from the vital mission in Afghanistan. That judgment has been proved I think demonstrably correct.

Much more after the jump

McCain stated recently that someone who worries about the military’s occupation of Iraq doesn’t understand the military. Well since Army Chiefs of Staff are saying (like Centcom Commander) that the US can not support the current mission in Iraq, I would disagree with the Sen. from Arizona. The military can not sustain the surge and the strategy/goal is unachievable in Iraq whatever the shifts in tactics.

B)Latin America.

He has discussed more openings with Cuba (as opposed to Hillary and McCain who support the status quo embargo, one of the worst policy decisions I think lasting decades). Here is some video and analysis from Steve Clemons highlighting some of Obama’s thoughts on Latin American Policy. Nice to hear Obama talk about trade agreements–one of the things that does rub me the wrong way in the current Dem race is anti-free trade talk, so hopefully he will push for agreements (e.g. Peru is outstanding).

C) Iran.

Hillary voted for the bill authorizing the president to label the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) a very wise foreign policy expert voted against it as did Obama. Obama has made overtures that he would engage the Iranian Regime, a policy I support.

McCain was infamously caught singing “Bomb Bomb Iran” to the tune of Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys. McCain is an uber-hawk and dangerously so. He has not learned the lesson of Iraq and the post 9/11 world: the military can not solve all problems. McCain’s rhetoric on Russia has been intemperate at best, destructive at worst. McCain, someone whom I thought was an interesting candidate in 2000, has increasingly freaked me out with his hawkish tone.

Domestic Policy

–Health Care. I like the fact that his policy does not involve a mandate. His economic adviser Austan Goolsbee from UChicago, has emphasized policies different from Clinton’s in terms of incentives.

–National Infrastructure Bank. (Details here). Much needed in my view.

–Campaigned to repeal Bush Tax Cuts. Can not cut taxes in a time of war and then worst of all massively increase federal discretionary spending as the current President has.


The change, new politics issue.

Hillary, even in sympathetic bios (like Carl Bernstein’s), has a history of secrecy (think Hillary Care ’92 debacle) and a difficulty with the truth–e.g. her tortured explanation of her Iraq War Vote. That worries me in an increasingly powerful executive branch.

McCain has a very nasty temper and can be rash in decision making. Again worrisome. McCain yesterday voted against the waterboarding ban (for the CIA–he supports it for the Army). Not good in my book.

Obama strikes me as more cool and rational. He does represent the end of the Boomer era of politics, and that I think is a legitimate reason (when coupled with others) to support him. I’m tired of elections that are about the 1960s and Vietnam. Those events were so searing that people essentially ended up on one side or the other of the divide largely unable to discourse with their opponents in an irenic manner.

Obama by luck of birth is not burdened with that baggage.

I’m also tired of institutional establishment figures in politics–i.e. McCain and Hillary. These latter two represent the past and are not up to the complexities of the 21st century. I sense the country is ready for a less partisan, less ideological, more pragmatic turn in politics. Obama will no doubt make mistakes, but generally I think he has a much better vision for the future and a sense of where the US needs to go.

He does not hate Republicans/conservatives as Hillary does; he simply disagrees with them. As someone who is normally a moderate Republican who is furious with the current Republican leadership, this appeals to me–again I realize he is more liberal than I am–in a way that Hillary, whom I otherwise think is a very smart politician, does not. The Clintons have also really turned me off to them with their shenanigans during the Democratic primary race. I simply don’t want the drama back in the limelight.

The empty shell/hope issue aside, it is impressive to me that Obama has brought so many people into the electoral process who otherwise would not be participating. That I think is good for a democracy no matter which side one supports in the election.

But no he is not the Messiah nor is he the Anti-Christ. He’s a politician. The Presidency is insane, and I have no understanding why anyone on earth would dare run for the position. But since he is, he seems the best of the candidates in my mind. The problems in the US and around the world are not going to disappear if and when he is elected President. It’s not magic.

The current president has left him a Jimmy Carter style denouement. I think he would bring a Reagan-esque style of optimism, which doesn’t again in and of itself solve problems, but I do think the medium and the manner in which the communication takes place and the mood matters. Not absolutely so, but it does matter.

He could certainly use more townhall style meetings and less rallies. Though again debates and townhall meetings are not predictive of or in any way parallel to the running of the Executive Branch.

He is starting to do that apparently, at least in Wisconsin he has. I have to say I’m not particularly concerned about his stance towards the MSM (whom I have no great love for) for which he has received some criticism. McCain plays them like the tools they are by inviting them in and appearing so forthright. I don’t begrudge McCain that fact, he’s being smart. Obama is more distanced from them. The only way that would ever change is if the MSM got some integrity and actually were I don’t know journalists and fulfilled their role in society, as opposed to infotainment peddlers.

But sure no doubt there are people who are on the hope train and will have their hopes dashed. Voters are not by and large rational beings. Though relative to right-wing talking points, plenty of voters in 2002/2004 were basically played into fear-based voting on the terrorism issue, expertly used by the Republican Party. So comparatively hope or fear, I’d rather choose hope in terms of political platitudes. At least as illusions go, it speaks to the better side of human beings.

So hopefully that’s specifics enough.

Feel free in the comments to agree, disagree, rip my logic to shreds, whatever.

Published in: on February 14, 2008 at 12:24 pm  Comments (8)  

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  1. Chris,

    Yes, Obama has an issue page. All candidates do. But if you think Obama’s rise in popularity among the Democrats (and certainly among segments of Republicans) is due to his Issues page, then I would say, what evidence do you have of that?

    Which is another way of saying, it is admirable to base your like of Obama on his issues page. I just don’t see any evidence that you are not in the distinct minority of people who do that.

    Mind you, Obama didn’t win the Senator job because of his Issues page, either. He won because, between him and Alan Keyes, his opponent, he was clearly the saner of the two candidates. Not saner on policy grounds; just saner, as in “don’t skootch away from at the local tavern” sane.

  2. MD,

    I don’t think Obama’s rise is due primarily to his issues page. I don’t think a lot of people follow politics as closely or as wonkishly as say you or I.

    I don’t know what else to say about that, other than when someone like Rush criticizes the guy for being a blank slate, then all I can do is point to the dude’s policies.

    But no doubt that’s not what principally comes through in the TV media context. MSM highlights style, image, etc. I wish it wouldn’t focus so heavily on those issues, but clearly it does.

    Still, I don’t think it’s altogether correct to judge Obama based on the reaction to him. The Rush quote seemed to me to be doing just that.

    Obviously if the man wasn’t so charismatic, didn’t possess impressive oratorical skills, and wasn’t the serious political talent I think he is, then he wouldn’t be where he is right now. No argument there.



  3. Ok, if his rise is not due to his issues page, then what accounts for his rise?

  4. One quick point on the issues. I do think his opposition to the War in Iraq is a major reason for his ascendancy. So in that sense, there is at least one policy issue that does play a role in his rise. But that alone is an insufficient explanation.

    His rise I believe is accounted for by a couple of things–

    1)A sense of political exhaustion with both parties and politics generally–and he seems to represent a new start, he injects energy and optimism into the democratic process.

    2)He’s got a mega-watt telegenic personality. I think of McLuhan’s argument about cool vs. hot TV personae and Obama has got cool down. He also comes off as you say as a decent person and I think also strikes many as a genuine guy.

    He clearly comes from the black church in the manner in which he gives those speeches. The rhythm, the cadence, the use of repetition, the dreamy quality is very attractive to a lotta folks, which is why it’s been used so much particularly in black churches for so long. Why the one was so easily set to music.

    3)He’s running a non-identity politics, which is really appealing to alotta folks, whether they agree or not with his policies. The idea that he could represent a real shift in race relations. Whether or not that is accurate or a valid reason to support the guy are separate questions, but I think the perception of such has an effect nonetheless.

    4)He calls people to greatness. He’s running with the theme of a movement. People want to be a part of something. He connects his life story to the larger arc of US history–that’s very sharp and powerful. Frankly, he’s been lucky both in his Senate run and now his Prez run, but he has also capitalized on favorable conditions.

    5)To wit, he’s run a fantastic campaign. They have used very creative and innovative strategies and tactics. They clearly have out maneuvered the Clintons who looks slow and lumbering in comparison.

    6)Generally the country I sense is shifting to a more progressive-favorable point of view. There are real political tectonic plates moving. The Republican Party, if not the conservative movement generally, is in real disarray. People are willing to give the other side a listen to in a way that they haven’t probably in 20+ years.

    7)As the pundits always say, prez elections are about the future, and of the three left he occupies the most forward looking space.

    Again with all of these, you could say he is duping people I suppose. Or that elections are not popularity contests–or shouldn’t be–or this is all “smoke and mirrors” as Bill Clinton said. That argument can certainly be made. On the other hand, from an observational point of view, it is fascinating to watch (for me). I’ve never seen anything like it.

    Though to be fair, the other two have elements of media narratives/hype surrounding them as well and the others can be criticized for lack of substantive policy legislation passed. President is unlike any other job, seems to me, so I’m not sure how one assesses suitability for the job based on past performance and/or policy proposals.


  5. 1) Vague. “Energy” and “new start” can mean hundreds of different things.

    2) Agreed.

    3) Shelby Steele’s “bargainer” archetype (bargainer can’t reveal inner character). Still, however, vague. Equivalent to saying “change”, which is Limbaugh’s point.

    4) Non unique; everyone does this (outside of maybe Ron Paul). And this is Limbaugh’s point — voters fill in the blanks.

    5) Agreed; but a campaign that puts vagueness (change/new) front and center

    6) Debatable. “The other side” won big in 2006, held the presidency from 92-00, the Congress by and large for decades until 1994.

    7) Also vague.

    Look; basic level. People vote for McCain, they know they are getting war and foreign policy experience. A guy who fought against pork and too much influence of money in D.C. politics. These are knowns.

    Yes, Obama taps into anti-Iraq sentiment; but that policy, and in that his stated intentions upon entering office really aren’t materially different than Clinton or Edwards. What are people voting for, policy-wise, that is unique to Obama?

    Since he really doesn’t talk much policy in his big speeches, the ones most visible, I fail to see how you can assuredly answer that question. You might guess; I might guess. But, hard evidence-wise? I don’t see it.

  6. […] reminds me of Goldberg’s argument that Obama seeks unity for unity’s sake. The guy (Obama) has an agenda. He uses rhetoric, he uses talk of unity as a means to achieve his goals. Anyone is free to […]

  7. cjsmith:

    i think you missed one point of emphasis in your posts: the reason for the illusion among some that Obama’s ascendency is not due to his positions on issues is really quite obvious: the Democratic party, represented by its four or five most successful candidates for president this year, is mostly united (more than 90% agreement) on the major issues. thus, the issues have received less attention and the rise of the illusion that issues haven’t been an important factor in his campaign. all that will change dramatically once the contest moves into the general, where the issues differences between the candidates are night and day

  8. Joe,

    That’s true. I really don’t think mandates vs. non-mandates really gets very far (even with charges of nasty mailers 🙂 today).

    Definitely the issues will come back in the general. Though a generic Democrat comes in with huge advantages on health care, environment, education. McCain basically has I’m a non-pork guy (the lobbyist story hurts him here even though it’s old news to politicos new news to Jane Public), war/national security, and Obama will raise your taxes.

    The extrovert, intentional, (perceived as) man of the people candidate has won every election since Carter when facing a more introverted, traditional/establishment figure. Clinton over Bush I and Dole. Carter over Ford. Reagan over Mondale. Bush II over Gore and Kerry.

    So yes the issues will come back but they won’t trump (minus some total black swan) that movement. Again minus the black swan be ready for a black prez.

    I think McCain through a long campaign will increasingly come off as a scary-angry grandpa figure as compared to Obama.

    I know this gets said every time over the last 2 decades and doesn’t fly, (so that caveat holding), I just don’t sense a campaign of be afraid of some external boogey man and be afraid of the domestic insurgents (Dems) is going to fly. The Republicans held power and f–ked up. Period. They are going to be punished for that. People see that the enemy, if you will, is incompetent Republican governance.

    I mean to be fair minus Clinton’s philandering, Gore’s poorly run campaign, and 9/11 that Republican era would have been over awhile ago.

    I think Obama can not help but gain from pasting McCain as W.’s Third Term. McCain will be really stuck there–he’s already in a tense relationship with the base and if tries to distance himself too much from Bush he alienates them and if he embraces Bush, Bush is radioactive.

    Just some thoughts….Peace.


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