Did Thomas Sowell Actually Write This Sentence?

I guess he did–on Barack Obama (my emphasis):

There is no evidence that Obama ever sought to educate himself on the views of people on the other end of the political spectrum, much less reach out to them. He reached out from the left to the far left. That’s bringing us all together?

Um….ever read The Audacity of Hope sir? Every chapter begins with a topic (say the Constitution) and basically states: liberals believe the following, conservatives believe the following, I’m a liberal but the conservatives score a point or two on this or that point (and liberals have gone overboard on some of these in the last 30 years).

Or his time at Harvard editing the Law Review where he worked with both conservatives and liberals and was highly highly regarded (across party lines) as someone who actually listened to and did not denigrate conservatives, only disagreed with them. And the conservatives found that refreshing.

Or legislation he worked on in the Illinois State Senate that had bipartisan support.

And/or his work with Richard Lugar (along with other Republicans) and a bipartisan group pushing for a new nuclear disarmament initiative.

WTF is Sowell talking about here? Ever heard of Google dude?

There are other points in the article he makes, some of which I could agree with (as partial half-truths), others fairly dumb, but all of it gets clouded by the base ignorance of that statement (or worse he knows better and is just flat out lying and is disingenuous to score a political point). I don’t which is worse.

If he can’t get such a basic fact right, he’s pretty much taken himself out of the running for being viewed seriously on this one.

wow. Did I mention that was really really poor?

Exit question I: How can I write something that lame brained and get a nationally syndicated column out of it?

Exit question II: Is Sowell even trying anymore?

Update I:  Of course there are conservative critiques of Obama (legitimate ones) to be made. e.g. He should grant more than a few points to conservatives on certain subjects.  He should have less faith in big-government responses.  In short he should be a conservative.  But Sowell is over the top on this one.

The real issue for Obama in the general is not this idea (or even that he’s not an ideological conservative)–it’s the patriotism question.  The flag pin will be raised, Pastor Wright’s and his wife’s statement about being really proud for the first time as an adult.  He will be painted as anti-American hating liberal as they always are.   McCain won’t, he’s better than that, but he won’t stop others from so doing (some of he’s powerless over anyway).  The reptilian brain stem and emotional-irrational charges are often hard to beat–particularly when like Obama you are an actual rational cerebral person.  Wrong brain stem.

Published in: on March 24, 2008 at 10:17 pm  Comments (19)  
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  1. The Sowell quote is fine. Sowell didn’t say Obama wasn’t exposed to other ideologies.. he said Obama didn’t seek out OTHER PEOPLE of those ideologies.

    Where is the evidence that he engaged in political debate and compromise with the other side?

    Merely having to “work with” them isn’t sufficient. We dont get to choose who we work, and make the best of the enviroment we’re in.

    The fact that Obama worked on “bi-partisan” bills of not major controvesary is not the sort of bi-partisan Obama claims that he is capable.

    The type of bi-partisan being applied is the type that is reached on issues that are conflicted/controversial.

    Nuclear disarment is controversial? Plesae!

    And in almost every vote where a controversial bill came up he either voted for the Far Left position or not all.

    He rarely if ever sided with the Administration.

    So just how is this guy bi-partisan?

    How is he going to “bring both sides together”, when he has yet to ever do so?

    Obama supporters never seem to have any actual accomplishments of his to point to to back up their claims about what is he going to do.

    Just not convinced.

  2. I agree with the above commenter. The very impulse to have a federal-gov’t-level response to social issues such as education, health care, and more bespeaks his fundamental liberal/progressive disposition. Contrast this with the fundamental conservative/libertarian disposition, which would have those issues settled by civil society and the states, and laid bare for all to see is the lie of “radical middle”, “third way”, and the rest — because one cannot simultaneously be for and against federal-gov’t-level involvement.

  3. Thank you for the comments gentleman.

    Yes he had to work with people not of his choosing, but he did in fact seek people on the right out to figure out legislation that took into account their views. His work on a crime bill in the Illinois Legislature is an example of that.

    Same with Richard Lugar, Chuck Hagel (either of whom could very well end up in his cabinet) and George Schulz (former Ronald Reagan Sec State!!!) on non-proliferation of nukes.

    Vince, Nuclear disarmament is in fact controversial–Clinton is against most of the proposals Obama offered btw. Plus Bush has recinded deals with the Russians (e.g. Salt Treaty). And Obama was criticized for sanely stating in public he would not use nuclear weapons on terrorist camps in Pakistan!!!

    But he is a liberal. No doubt about it. So Matthew’s comment while correct on that philosophical issue is an irrelevant talking point compared to what I was actually discussing.

    The point I was making is that T. Sowell was just factually wrong. He can disagree with Obama til the cows come home. Fine. Sowell’s a conservative; Obama’s a liberal. Ok. But at least get the facts straight.

    Obama did seek such people out. He doesn’t have to agree with them, but he did learn, listen, and interact in a manner that I find refreshing given the cross party vitriol more common now.

    He’s a liberal. He’s neither afraid of his liberalism (contra Clinton) nor in hatred of conservatives for their beliefs (contra alotta Dems and vice versa with many conservatives). I find that decent. That’s all. I happen actually not to share alotta his views; he’s more liberal than I am for sure. But I also think he would be a good president. Better than the other two for sure.

    Others disagree, that’s fine. On that particular point, however, Sowell is just flat out wrong whatever your political persuasion.


  4. This is from James Poulos The Postmodern Conservative.


    “And if there’s one thing Barack Obama doesn’t have, it’s a vendetta. The most charming thing about his ego is its noble repose…Obama is going to be the softest landing out of power that the Republicans are likely to get in the next 50 years. To blow this opportunity is to invite a world of hurt down the road. Yes, he’s a very liberal dude. But he’s not going to rub anyone’s face in the road-appled dirt.”

    That’s all–he’s liberal and he won’t demonize the other side. And the electorate is shifting that direction and if it’s going to be a liberal, better him than others.

    I know that doesn’t seem like much but given the class of politicans and the parties (both of them), that actually places him well above the fray.

    And Poulos still isn’t sure he would vote for Obama over McCain. Fair enough. But at least he gets what’s going on as opposed to Sowell with his tired 70-80s conservative tirades.

  5. The evidence from Obama’s speeches that Sowell seeks is where, again?

  6. And, what of the quality of the “seeking” in the so-called every-chapter-of-seeking-the-conservative-opinion? Does Obama get conservatism right?

    As you know and demonstrate, it is easy to seem like one understands conservatism, by learning how to write using the rhetoric of authority, but not in fact understand anything substantial of what is a far more diverse tent than most non-conservatives admit.

  7. On the issue there’s even less evidence that Obama “brings people together”.

    He’s surrounded himself with the most racist black people in my city (Chicago) that you could possibly find.

    Set aside the issue of if Barack agrees or disagrees with the Pastor.

    Barack’s CHILDREN are going to that church. Week after week. Getting fed sermons that filled of paranoid lies about the government and hatred toward non-blacks.

    How could he raise his kids like that? That church also has a lot of love for Nation of Islam and Muslims in general. The church published the HAMAS charter last year in its Church Bulletin.

    So Baracks sits on his ass a racially divisive church for decades and does nothing EXCEPT of course rise the political lader with the assistance of the power base of the Democratic Party that is centered in the part of Chicago that he’s from.

    So i dont see where any of his campaign rhetoric is genuine. It’s obvious to me that the person he presents himself as on the campaign trail is NOT the person he actually is.

    I will go as far to say he’s deliberately chose to engage in deception. I have no respect for him.

  8. Vince,

    Of course you’re free to your opinion. Thanks for sharing it. If that’s your view, then nothing I say is going to matter, so I’ll pass on all that other than to say I don’t accept your characterization.

    peace. cj

  9. MD,

    They are not in his speeches. At least not specifically. That’s why I didn’t cite his speeches.

    Contrary to what seems to me to be your view, Obama has written and done more than speeches.

    You can read either of the two books the man wrote. Himself. I haven’t seen any conservatives really take him to task on his interpretation of conservatism, though I’m sure there are quibble points to be made, but I thought it was more or less accurate (I’m thinking of Audacity of Hope here). But you’ll have to make up your own mind on that one. You don’t trust my judgment on this matter–so why are you asking me I might ask, but there it is either way.

    Your version of conservatism is a version of conservatism. A venerable one no doubt, but one nonetheless. I try as much as possible to specify which wings/sub-groups of conservatism I’m dealing with when describing these issues: e.g. social cons, neocons, compassionate cons, Sam’s Club cons, paleocons, foreign policy realists, libertarians, etc.

    Your talk of limited government/states rights as the defining feature of conservatism does not altogether apply to a goodly number of those groups.

    And limited in what contexts?

    I also think the question of foreign policy matters in terms of the limited government discussion. You seem always to focus on domestic issues.

    e.g. So while the neocons call for elimination of Great Society programs domestically, they have become proponents of quasi-imperial occupations abroad in my view. That’s big government.

    And plenty of the valid criticisms of limited gov. conservatives about the arrogance of power, the limited vision of any player, the inability therefore of any master-knower to plan and execute strategy from afar. All those would apply just as well to foreign big gov’t as domestic in my view.

    peace. cj

  10. That Obama’s so-called understanding of conservatism is not in his speeches probably gets at Sowell’s point far more than you are granting.

    Of course he’s done more than his speeches; but what is in his speeches constitutes the primary content of inspiration to others, and what he uses to gain votes. This is why his speeches populate his website, and not his book excerpts.

  11. First off the guy’s main task is not to talk about conservatism–he’s a liberal.

    I was simply criticizing a statement that “there is no evidence”–and clearly there is. So if I’m reading that literally, that’s wrong. If its some hyperbolic statement, then it’s hyperbolic and that may prove my point that he’s playing into narratives. Or he doesn’t actually know in which case he ought to do his homework.

    Obama has made positive (and negative) statements about Reagan on the stump. Most of those had to do with style, but he also said that conservatives were successful he thought over the last decade or two in part because they were more the party of ideas. Don’t hear that everyday from a liberal.

    He referred (obliquely to be sure) in his race speech to proper grievances over welfare and busing. It’s not a dissertation on Burke to be sure, but that had never been done before (by my remembrance) by a liberal, most especially by a black politician.

    peace. cj

  12. Yes, I know that is what you are doing, and I think you are trying to have the argument both ways. On one hand, Obama is a liberal, thus why would he be talking about conservatism; and on the other, Sowell is wrong because Obama is not demonstrating he has demonstrably grokked conservatism. You gotta pick one or the other, not both.

    Actually, Ralph Nader, in 2000, talked quite a bit about how Reagan was admirable, so Obama doing so isn’t that new or interesting. I seem to remember Bill Clinton doing so, too, at one point in the 1992 elections. Candidates evoke past presidents when it suits their ambitions.

    Referring to welfare and busing by Obama, I would really doubt that someone like Al Gore, a whitey, or Michael Steele, a blackey, didn’t discuss these issues in their respective candidacies. And if Condi Rice is McCain’s veep, you can bet she will, too. Of course, for people like Cone, a black person who talks about those issues in a certain way loses their blackness.

    Overall, my take on Sowell’s column is that Obama is not all that; yet he gets credit for being all that. Why that happens, Sowell does not say. My guess, though, is that white guilt is at play, not 100%, but in some large measure.

    In other words, people who have deep prejudices against black people, at a personal level, seek to alleviate those prejudices by elevating Obama to all-that-edness.

    Understandable but still humorously lame.

  13. The original question was not whether other Dems had said nice things about Reagan or whether Obama is all that (or not) or whether white guilt is involved–all of which may or may not be interesting side issues.

    Again the original point was simply that Sowell was wrong on that point. I see no evidence you have brought forth to refute that point. Only alotta other issues that are just I guess intended to muddy the waters.

    He said no evidence. I’m saying that’s flat wrong.

    And I don’t see how it’s playing both sides to say the guy (Ob.) could have clearly demonstrated some reaching out/education of the other side and still say such a move is not 100% (whatever that is) in that direction or clearly not to the fullness or depth of many an actual self-identified conservative.

    peace. cj

  14. […] Posted by cjsmith under Integral, Law, Politics, US-Domestic   In a recent comment back and forth Matthew and I had, Matthew wrote (my emphasis): The very impulse to have a federal-gov’t-level response to social […]

  15. Ok, I’ll say again that I think Sowell was referring to Obama’s speeches as a candidate for the presidency, and how in those speeches, he doesn’t reflect education in the views of conservatives. Yet Obama gets credit for doing that, how he is a “uniter”. That’s Sowell’s point, from my perspective, and it makes sense to me.

    I mean, sitting senators on the left probably “reach out” to senators on the right, but that doesn’t mean the lefties would be able to actually educated themselves on conservatism.

  16. …but that doesn’t mean the lefties actually educated themselves in conservatism.

  17. Matthew,

    I think your interpretation that Sowell is talking mostly about the speeches is off base.

    The sentence I quoted is about half way through the piece. The first half deals with Obama’s past–his college years, community organizing days, early political career, makes reference to his autobiography.

    The race speech then is then in minimally referenced and commented upon to make the argument that this speech reflects what Sowell sees as the common thread in Obama throughout his life and career: he’s chameleon like.

    So no he is not principally referring to the speeches when he says Obama has never bothered to examine the other side at all (worth noting he completely leaves out Obama’s time at the Harvard Law Review).

    Sowell is going for the whole enchilada on this one–the context suggests as such. He is saying Obama has always been in his words a far-left fringe person and never has sought out or examined conservatism at all.

    Again, that is dumb and just wrong. Conservatives are certainly free to criticize Obama for not having absorbed conservatism deeply enough. If that was the point, allright. But Sowell not Obama it seems to me is the one who has gone overboard here.

    peace. cj

  18. I don’t see Sowell’s piece the way you do; but the meat of the matter is what Obama writes in Audacity. I’ll have to thumb through it next time I’m in the bookstore, to see how he does with conservatism.

  19. […] Poulos Smacks Sowell Down This is good, good stuff.  Read it all–some good comments as well, so check those out.  JP offers a primer on how conservatives can and should legitimately criticize Obama.  [Hint the Thomas Sowell way is how not to do it].  I’ll add that this isn’t the first time Sowell has been high on something when discussing Obama.  (See here). […]

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