Politics Barack Backlash
posted by October 26 at 14:40 PMon
On the recommendation of several commentators, I read that Harper’s article by Ken Silverstein purporting to show that Obama is owned by special interests and—gasp!—his Illinois constituency. The article is naive to the point of preposterousness (are you telling me politicians take donations?!), but I think this refutation from the Senator’s office is pretty concise and persuasive. (For the record, here’s Silverstein’s unruffled response.)
Briefly, the paragraphs that really annoyed me (and apparently Brendan Kiley, the owner of the magazine, who was prompted to scribble notes about Darfur in the margin):
The calibration of Obama’s own political rhetoric has been particularly evident in regard to the war in Iraq. At an antiwar rally in Chicago in October, 2002, when Obama was still a state senator, he savaged the Bush Administration for its by then obvious plans to invade. “I don’t oppose all wars,” he said that day. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and hardships borne.”
Since taking office, Obama has become far more measured in his position. After Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha called for a withdrawal from Iraq last fall, Obama rejected such a move in a speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, saying the United States needed “to manage our exit in a responsible way—with the hope of leaving a stable foundation for the future.” His stance won him praise from Washington Post columnist David Broder, the veritable weather vane of political conventional wisdom. Murtha’s was “not a carefully reasoned analysis of the strategic consequences of leaving Iraq,” Broder wrote, whereas Obama was helping his party define “a sensible common ground” and had “pointed the administration and the country toward a realistic and modestly hopeful course on Iraq.” Obama continues to reject any specific timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, even as public opposition to the war grows and the military rationale for staying becomes less and less apparent.
Shocking! Obama took an unpopular position against the war in Iraq when the politically expedient thing to do was to keep your mouth shut and march along; he’s now taking the unpopular position that a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be reckless. Funny, he’s just about the only politician I can think of who mirrors my opinions both then and now. All I can really conclude from this example is that Silverstein is a prescriptive ninny, not a pragmatic progressive.
More on Obama forthcoming, after Christopher Frizzelle and Charles Mudede (any others?) see him speak tonight at Benaroya Hall.