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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Barack Backlash

posted by on October 26 at 14:40 PM

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.

RSS icon Comments


Yes, folks, people change their positions on issues as the situation changes.

I love flip-flop accusations, like you're never allowed to change your mind on anything ever.

Posted by Gomez | October 26, 2006 2:52 PM

Uh, Annie….here’s the problem: you note that he opposed the war before, and now thinks precipitous withdrawal isn’t a good idea….and then you say “Funny, he’s just about the only politician I can think of who mirrors my opinions both then and now.”

Are you joking? That’s the position of a sizable minority of the elected members of the Democratic Party!

Charisma? Check. Electable? Check. Decent on most issues? Check.

Substantively better than your average DC Democrat? Sure, but barely.

The hype far exceeds the quality of the goods.

Posted by C | October 26, 2006 2:57 PM

Naive to the point of preposterousness.

Posted by You | October 26, 2006 3:02 PM

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

Posted by Carl Jung | October 26, 2006 3:04 PM

If Brendan Kiley owns Harper's Magazine, why does he work at the Stranger? And why does he scribble in the margins? Hasn't his design staff heard of sidebars?

Posted by elenchos | October 26, 2006 3:13 PM

Elenchos: I think that the copy of Harper Magazine that Annie Wagner was reading was owned by Brendan Kiley, NOT the magazine as a whole.

Posted by OBVIOUS | October 26, 2006 3:24 PM


Let's not all nominate the guy yet--the Republicans all united behind GwB in 2000 because they thought he was a golden boy, and look where that got them.

Posted by Seth | October 26, 2006 3:26 PM

Obvious: Why would Annie Wagner lie about a think like that? It makes little sense that a magazine mogul would need a job at an alt weekly, but it makes even less sense for the Stanger to claim he owns a magazine when he really doesn't. It isn't like funny or anything, and what would Wagner have to gain by promoting such a tale?

I guess printing magazines with margin notes from the owner is kind of hip. Maybe Brendan wants to liven up the venerable Harper's image. Maybe he got ideas like that from his stint at The Stranger.

Posted by elenchos | October 26, 2006 3:45 PM

Let's not all nominate the guy yet--the Republicans all united behind GwB in 2000 because they thought he was a golden boy, and look where that got them.

Control of Congress and a green-light for all their policies for the next 6 years?

Posted by Gomez | October 26, 2006 3:55 PM

If Obama, a centrist, looked like Clarence Thomas, we wouldnt be reading this post. Im just saying.

Wellstone was wayyyyyyyyy more progressive, but I dont recall this celebrity style worship.

Posted by SeMe | October 26, 2006 4:51 PM

I don't think Obama necessarily changed his position on Iraq. He didn't want to rush headlong into a dumb war, but now that we're in the midst of it, what is the best way of ending it? To him, the answer is not just rushing headlong out of the war, but rather trying to establish a functional government, no timetable, yada yada. You can agree or disagree with his current position, but I don't think it's any kind of a flip-flop or change of position from his first opinion.

Posted by him | October 26, 2006 4:57 PM

Elenchos: I can't tell if you are messing with me or not, so just in case you are having a serious misunderstanding with the language here, I will clarify.

"Brendan Kiley, the owner of the magazine, who was prompted to scribble notes about Darfur in the margin"

When Wagner says "the owner of the magazine" she is saying he purchased and owns that one copy of the magazine, not to be confused with him owning the entire company that publishes the magazine. I do not believe Wagner is lying, I think you are misinterpreting what "owner" is making reference to.

Also, if you pick up a copy of Harpers's, please don't call Wagner a liar when you notice there are no notes in the margins by Brendan Kiley. There are only so many copies of the magazine he can personally scribble in.

Posted by Obvious | October 26, 2006 6:44 PM

I saw Obama this evening. He did a good job. There were something like 2,000 people there. He didn't pander to the obviously enthusiastic crowd with any barn-burning, fist-waving, or anything like that. He was calm and easy-going. He spoke for about 30-40 minutes and then took a couple questions (there was no fancy set-up, just Obama calling on people) and then he signed books for an hour. People LOVED him.

Posted by me | October 26, 2006 11:44 PM

I didn't go last night (had class) but if Obama runs in 08, he has my vote. If he can avoid getting capped, that is.

Posted by Gomez | October 27, 2006 9:03 AM

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