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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Bipartisanship and Rhetoric

posted by on January 30 at 14:46 PM

Annie writes: “Rhetoric is a beautiful thing,” but cites policy, not rhetoric, in explaining why she’s such a fan of Obama. She includes the same example everyone everywhere always cites when bashing Hillary—the flag-burning amendment. She doesn’t mention the war vote because, I’m pretty sure, she agreed with Hils on that one. But, as many supporters of both candidates have pointed out, Obama’s record and Clinton’s are pretty damn similar—with caveat that it’s sometimes hard to tell where Obama stands on critical issues because of all the times he didn’t vote. (More on that in a moment.)

Notable exceptions, while we’re pulling examples out of context, include the following:

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which lavished $14.5 billion in tax breaks on companies producing oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Hillary opposed it, Obama voted for it.

The confirmation of Bush circuit court appointee Thomas Griffith—a staunch opponent of Title IX, which guarantees equal athletic opportunities to boys and girls, and a member of the ultra-conservative Federalist Society. Obama supported the nomination, Clinton opposed it.

An act that prohibits law enforcement from confiscating guns during an emergency. Obama supported it, and I’m actually with him on this one, but Hillary took the “liberal” position. And Obama supported allowing police to prosecute people for using locally banned handguns to defend against intruders during his brief state senate stint in Illinois.

A Joe Lieberman-sponsored act changing FEMA’s name to USEMA but leaving the troubled agency otherwise within the Department of Homeland Security and otherwise intact. Obama supported it; Clinton opposed it.

As for those “not voting” votes, here are a few:

The border fence (Clinton supported funding it); legislation condemning MoveOn.Org for the Petraeus ad (Clinton voted no); SCHIP (children’s health insurance) reauthorization (Clinton voted yes); a bill expressing the Senate’s will that future funding for military operations in Iraq be included in the regular budget proposal and not in an emergency supplemental appropriation bill (Clinton voted yes); the no-confidence vote on former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (Clinton supported it); several national-security-related bills, including funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which Clinton supported; legislation cutting subsidies to student lenders, legislation making it harder to import affordable medication (Clinton opposed it); legislation implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission (Clinton voted yes; the nomination of Bush circuit court nominee Judge Richard Griffin (Clinton voted yes; and several “sense of the Congress” resolutions for which Clinton voted. Where does Obama stand on those and other issues? You’ll have to take his word for it, because you can’t look at his record.

All of that said, my point wasn’t about votes, it was about rhetoric: Specifically, Obama’s rhetoric about wanting to bring Republicans into his inner circle and be a “uniter” (hmm, where have we heard that before? I’m concerned that Obama will be a triangulator (watering down the Democratic Party’s agenda in the interest of “bipartisan” compromise), not a fighter, once he’s actually facing the demands of the White House. Obama’s rhetoric suggests he’s more interested in building consensus than in taking back America.

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You REALLY need to get laid.

Posted by ecce homo | January 30, 2008 2:40 PM

Still all bullshit. Nothing that you've said makes me think that she's going to be a champion of the progressive movement, just that she's part of the Democratic establishment, one that has allowed the Republicans to run roughshod over this country for seven long years.

Posted by bma | January 30, 2008 2:42 PM

Jesus Tittyfucking Christ! I love you both but I feel like you just keep cutting and pasting the same post every other day and I don't think I'm alone it saying "IT'S GETTING OLD!".

Posted by monkey | January 30, 2008 2:45 PM

Clinton is a uniter. She will be a uniter of a fractured Republican Party. The only thing Evangelical Republicans in the South, Libertarian Republicans in the West, and Economic Republicans in the Northeast and Independants all over can rally around as a shared value: Must. Stop. Hillary.

And us Democrats might hand them their unifying issue on a silver platter.

Posted by Jason | January 30, 2008 2:45 PM

Can't you just walk down the hall and talk to her about it? That way you can leave the rest of us out of it. This is getting really boring.

Posted by pablocjr | January 30, 2008 2:49 PM

@ 4

Let's just hope that HRC's Election Braintrust keeps spewing the same things ECB is posting here...

That will surely unite the Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents into a unified base.

McCain will win in a landslide if the Democratic party heads allow HRC to play these divisive games.

Thanks ECB for all your hard work ensuring that you keep this going. You are doing your presidential choice a wonderful disservice by continuing to hammer away and unite the other side.

Reality Check

Posted by Reality Check | January 30, 2008 2:50 PM

Lots of great arguments for why we should support Sen Obama.

Jason has it best.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 30, 2008 2:50 PM
8 the Democratic circular firing squad proceeds apace...

Posted by Mr. X | January 30, 2008 2:51 PM

Your concern about Obama is that he might implement a legislative strategy made famous by Bill Clinton?

Posted by tired of fluff | January 30, 2008 2:53 PM

One other thing ECB..

Your last line

"Obama's rhetoric suggests he's more interested in building concensus than in taking back America."

That might be part of your fundamental problem ECB. America needs both sides to work together to unite the whole country. A president who knows how to build concensus and work with the other side to restore America's image, economy and other social failures of the Bush Administration. If you believe electing a president who will be divisive, stubborn, high and mighty, and aloof is the way to achieve "taking back America"... well.. I guess we have no hope for you.

You have a wierd system of belief ECB. I won't even bother asking how in the hell you come to your conclusions. Your thinking patterns are so askew it is unlikely anyone will be able to make headway of them.

Reality Check

Posted by Reality Check | January 30, 2008 2:58 PM
11 the Democratic circular firing squad proceeds apace...

I don't agree. I think talking strategy is good for the party. Unfortunately we are not a parliamentary system where we can just vote our party. I think Hillary is amazing, but I also am realistic about the baggage she carries and her unpopularity amongst Independants in Swing States (who matter so much thanks to our Electoral College antique).

For right or wrong perhaps over half this nation votes for president not on policy but on nebulous issues like "character", "likeability", and "presidentialness". Ignore that and we could lose this pivitol moment.

Posted by Jason | January 30, 2008 3:00 PM

Erica, you know I love you and I am voting for Hillary, but just as a debate point, I don't feel like this is a great rebuttal to Annie's point.

Annie's point was that Obama has been involved with good bi-partisan legislation and Clinton hasn't. While I think you demonstrated that Obama has also participated in bad bi-partisan legislation, what you didn't do was demonstrate the Clinton participated in good bi-partisan legislation.

I happen to agree with you that it seems in recent history that bi-partisan legislation has been a boon to Republicans, and not Democrats, but I think Obama voters on Slog are basically saying we WANT bi-partisan legislation. And MORE of it. We want unity.

That might be a pipe dream in your opinion (and maybe mine, I'm a little on the fence) but that's the opinion of your readership.

I think if you want to prove that with regards to the bi-partisan/unity/etc issue that Clinton is better, you have to prove that she can produce effective and progressive bi-partisan bills.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 3:00 PM

well this whole issue of "bipartisanship" is kind of irrelevant - at least from your "us v. them" perspective - when you have a democratic president and a democratic congress, no?

anyway, i'm kind of confused as to why you think "building consensus" and "taking back america" are mutually exclusive endeavors. i think this is why, no matter how many times you rant about this stuff, i will never, ever understand where you are coming from.

Posted by brandon | January 30, 2008 3:06 PM


Thank you for pointing out the positives in Hillary's record. Even if it drives some people nuts. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Big Sven | January 30, 2008 3:13 PM

@13, I don't think we can assume that the Democratic president will always be able to rely on a Democratic congress. Historically speaking the presidency and the congress have been split most of the time in the past 50 years.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 3:13 PM
Joe Lieberman-sponsored act changing FEMA’s name to USEMA but leaving the troubled agency otherwise within the Department of Homeland Security and otherwise intact. Obama supported it; Clinton opposed it.

Seriously? You're citing a vote on a bill that changed the name of an
as a significant difference?

And honestly, in the scope of things, who cares about a resolution condemning MoveOn? What the Christ does it actually affect?

Talk about barrel-scraping. Perhaps you can find some truly substantive example of Obama caving in on a right-wing issue and showing less spine than Clinton on the Iraq War vote and the flag-burning amendment, but damn, this is awfully weak.

Posted by tsm | January 30, 2008 3:15 PM

This just in....

Thank you SECB for not screwing up such an important endorsement.

Posted by Clint | January 30, 2008 3:23 PM

@16, the Energy Act is a pretty big deal. It's pretty shameless caving to the right-wing "doesn't believe in global warming" crowd.

I'll give you the Iraq war vote, but flag burning amendments are nothing compared to the Energy Act.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 3:23 PM


One more of these and my Edwards vote is going to Obama completely out of spite.

Posted by alan | January 30, 2008 3:23 PM
SCHIP (children’s health insurance) reauthorization (Clinton voted yes)

What vote was this, because the vote on HR3963 on Nov. 1, 2007 makes you look like a liar:

Clinton (D-NY), Not Voting

Posted by keshmeshi | January 30, 2008 3:24 PM

That gun law shouldn't be a liberal issue. Confiscating guns during an emergency. Who and what defines emergency? It's a law any fascist would love.

Did Annie really support the war from the get go (as Hillary did)? My impression is that Annie opposes leaving Iraq a mess -- the you break it, you bought it principle. As for Obama not voting against funding the war, everyone knows that's political suicide.

But, you're right. We should all trounce Hillary for her unbelievably craven Iraq war vote.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 30, 2008 3:30 PM

Yeah, S-Chip should be taken off the table as an arguing point. I'm pretty sure both Obama and Clinton would have voted for it, but the Senate didn't need either of their votes so they continued to campaign instead.

This is also why I kind of think no Senator's record is going to stand up to scrutiny and makes me kind of wish we had had a competitive governor running.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 3:33 PM

brandon @13, I totally agree with your first point. Hopefully both the Senate and the House go more Democratic than they already are, and that, along with any Democrat in the Whitehouse, will make it much easier to get progressive legislation passed.

But that's the only way we will "take America back". There are enough Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans who will never compromise on a variety of issues. There's no "building consensus" with them on these issues, so the only way to get the laws passed is to overpower and outvote them. That's where Erica is coming from, I think.

Posted by spencer | January 30, 2008 3:33 PM

@9 brings up a good point (re: I’m concerned that Obama will be a triangulator (watering down the Democratic Party’s agenda in the interest of “bipartisan” compromise).) No one sold poor and working folks down the river more readily than her hubby, NAFTA Bill "Welfare Reform" Clinton.

Posted by The DLC luvs Hillary | January 30, 2008 3:34 PM

@17 - woo hoo!

No wonder ECB is a bit down.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 30, 2008 3:38 PM

@21, Michael Moore of all people made a pretty strong defense of Hillary's Iraq vote: basically that as a woman, if she had voted against it, she would have never have had a shot at moving up because every single sexist asshole in DC would have been like, oh see, a woman is a total dove.

Unfortunately, to a certain extent it's true ... it takes a Republican to open China and a man to call for peace.

Now you can argue that that means that a woman shouldn't be president because she can be bullied by a misogynistic culture into being hawkish.... It's not an argument I love, but I guess you could say there is justification for it.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 3:39 PM

it is one of those philosophical votes (i.e. not condemning the fact that FEMA is a part of Homeland Security) that does matter. Bush wanted to sweep his failures under the rug, and Clinton said no. It is no more "weak" an argument than the flag burning crap that some Sloggers regurgitate over and over. Just saying.

To most everyone else, I think if Bill Clinton taught us ANYTHING, it's that Republicans will not play fair. They will not concede, they will not come together, and they will not unite. What scares me about Obama (I'm undecided) is that he seems to be unaware of this fact. He thinks that talking nice and speaking of hope will make people come together. It's not that the "democratic party machine" wouldn't love for this to happen, but it's a pipe dream, people. The Republicans will be a vicious, repulsive thorn in the side of whichever candidate wins the presidency, end of story. I think what Erica and others are trying to say is that Obama's talk of working with Republicans makes a few of us liberals uncomfortable.

As much as people don't want to admit it, Clinton and Obama have almost identical stands (94% similar voting record) on the issues, and I think they both have great strengths. It breaks my heart when they tear each other down (and their respective supporters). Both are guilty of making misleading comments, because that's the way politics works right now. They truly have the same exact goals and fundamental progressive agendas, and you are kidding yourselves by picking apart votes on this and that or whatever out-of-context example you care to use.

No other democracy works by "everyone getting along". In fact, America has a relatively civil legislature. Compare it to Japan or pretty much any European legislature, and you'll see that other countries are just as divisive. It has to be us vs. them because that's kind of the basis for how politics works. Not necessarily demonizing the other side, but at least be proud of the fact that you have fundamentally differences than Republicans that DO make you morally superior. Health care, civil rights, the environment, immigration, international diplomacy, diversity, torture, etc.
While there are some issues that both sides can agree on, there is no way in hell that Republicans will sit idly by and let a progressive agenda sweep the nation. Civility has gotten the democratic congress exactly where it is right now, and our party is in dire need of someone with some fight in them.

Posted by hmmmm | January 30, 2008 3:41 PM

@26 - Many senators managed to vote no on the Iraq War. Do they look like wimps now? No, they look wise. It's not as if this was totally unexpected, and there weren't plenty of legitimate concerns being raised beforehand. Hillary's failure wasn't just cowardice; it was bad judgment.

Posted by truth | January 30, 2008 3:49 PM


I'm not a "liar." Clinton absolutely voted to reauthorize SCHIP funding:

HR 976

State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization
Date: 09/27/2007
Sponsor: Rep. Rangel, Charles (D-NY)
How members voted(67 - 29)
Senator Hillary Clinton voted YES

Posted by ECB | January 30, 2008 3:51 PM


It's interesting that you bring up Michael Moore, since he used to be a major supporter and now won't support her under any circumstances.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 30, 2008 3:51 PM

BTW, those senators included Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski and Patty Murray. They managed just fine.

Posted by truth | January 30, 2008 3:52 PM


So she was for it, before she was against it. Good to know.

Both Hillary and Obama have been skipping out on major votes. Are you deliberately pretending that Hillary hasn't been doing the same thing?

Posted by keshmeshi | January 30, 2008 3:53 PM

@30, really? I just went to his site and I didn't see anything about how we wouldn't support her under any circumstances. I did see some empathy here though:

"I can't tell you how bad I feel for Senator Clinton tonight. I don't believe she was ever really for this war. But she did -- and continued to do -- what she thought was the politically expedient thing to eventually get elected."

I'm not saying the Iraq war vote was right vote. But I also don't think were she president, she would have chosen to invade Iraq so in a sense it's moot. It's the difference between being in the legislative branch and the executive.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 3:56 PM

The Stranger endorsement went exactly the opposite as I expected it. Now I forgive ECB for writing like she gets paid by the word.

Most people don't read Slog, even fewer read the comments. The important thing is the STRANGER ENDORSES OBAMA headline. I wish we could go back in time and fix the Prop 1 endorsement, but at this point, That headline is really all I care about.

Carry on Erica. If Hillary wins the nomination, she will get my vote.

Posted by Clint | January 30, 2008 3:58 PM

@32, she wasn't for it before she was against it. They were both for it and they both were out campaigning and not going back to DC for votes that didn't matter. ECB might have willfully misconstrued the situation in HRC's favor, but now you're willfully misconstruing the other way. Though I think ECB's original point was pretty much, I can pull legislative votes to support my candidate out of thin air too. Which is true. We all can.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 4:00 PM
Posted by Fact Check | January 30, 2008 4:07 PM

"I’m concerned that Obama will be a triangulator..."

Please bitch… the Clinton’s invented triangulation.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 30, 2008 4:09 PM

I just realize why Erica never gets laid.

Nobody likes to fuck the retarded.

Except of course, really really creepy guys, or other retards.

Posted by ecce homo | January 30, 2008 4:17 PM

Why do you think he didn't vote on all of these? Is it just so he doesn't have to commit to one side or the other?

I'm not being facetious...I sorta wonder if he had that planned all along knowing he'd be running for president

Posted by Non | January 30, 2008 4:23 PM

ECB, this is not a false dichotomy;

take back america by winning elections or
take back america by sticking to self righteous politics that marginalize you

you don't see this? you dont think hillary's chances are worse at beating a republican?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 30, 2008 4:23 PM

So you're afraid that Obama might be too much like Bill Clinton?

And are you saying that Hillary is or is not more responsible for the likes of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" & NAFTA because of her "experience" as first lady?

Posted by julie | January 30, 2008 4:23 PM

@41, my argument would be that she's learned from those policies. She currently does not support DADT, and I believe that she thinks that NAFTA needs to be fixed.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 4:29 PM

The Clintons invented triangulation!

Posted by Kevin Erickson | January 30, 2008 4:41 PM

@36 - no, Sen Clinton wins an attendance gold star. Retail value: $0.00001

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 30, 2008 4:44 PM


Do you think we can afford a woman president who chooses to go to war out of fear of looking weak?

Or are you saying you're confident she won't make that mistake again? Just like you don't think she's going to make all those same mistakes again when she was co-president?

It's just wild: vote for me because I have so much experience doing the wrong thing.

Posted by elenchos | January 30, 2008 4:46 PM

@45, I'm saying that I think you can make an argument that we shouldn't have a woman president period because a woman might be compelled to over-compensate. It's not an argument that the feminist me loves, but I think it's an argument that's not entirely without merit. (Unfortunately.)

But my rebuttal would be that a woman president is different from a woman legislator, and while a woman legislator might choose to go along with the status quo so as not to look weak, a woman president DEFINES the status quo. And I think if Hillary Clinton had been president in 2003, she never would have led us into Iraq.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 5:02 PM

This post is almost self-parody. I think ECB has crossed the Mudede Line and is never coming back. Shrill and hysterical are the new overwrought and pretentious.

Posted by Ryno | January 30, 2008 5:06 PM


I know. I was being sarcastic. I'm just sick of seeing Obama called out for things that Hillary also does.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 30, 2008 5:08 PM

23 - i guess i just can't get past the defeatist attitude - i.e, absolutely no one can be persuaded to change their opinions, so why even bother? this premise seems to be a fundamental tenet of erica's argument; it's an extremely pessimistic one, and i don't buy into it. and if the slog is any indication, it seems to be the strongest argument in clinton's favor at this point. anything to the contrary are just false hopes and fairy tales.


Posted by brandon | January 30, 2008 5:08 PM

@35, are you reading different boards than I am? Because while HRC and Obama are virtually tied nationally, this board is 80% Obama. So excuse me if I'm not super sympathetic about how ECB is victimizing you.

And anyway, if you're sick of people calling out Obama for things HRC does, then it doesn't really help matters to call out HRC for things that Obama does.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 5:18 PM

You know what Keshmeshi? Scratch what I said about not being sympathetic about ECB victimizing you. That was rude and un-called for. I think it's fair if you don't want Obama to be called out for things Hillary also does, but I also don't feel like it's helpful for you to just do the reverse. But in any case, it certainly doesn't help things for me to say something less than civil in retaliation, which is what I just did. So I apologize for that.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 5:31 PM


Well, it's too bad Hillary missed her opportunity to stand up to the right wing smear machine and prove they couldn't control her vote with the threat of tagging her as a wimp. As it stands, I'm going to predict that she will go on being cowed by her critics, and will go on playing the hawk against her better judgment. Perhaps a few more years in the Senate would give her time to find her courage and demonstrate that she can't be intimidated.

No way am I going to believe that all of a sudden as President she will become somebody else.

Posted by elenchos | January 30, 2008 5:36 PM

I'm finding really difficult to navigate, or rather the legislative process, but here
I see both Clinton and Obama voting "Yea" on HR 976.

Looking at single votes out of context doesn't always mean anything, because oftentimes the real action is on the various amendments, which can totally turn the meaning of a bill upside down (the S-CHIP bill is in fact the "Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007"). Also, "present" or "not voting" or even "yea" or "nay" can be strategic votes on issues that depend more on what the current status of the bill is rather than just a "yup, I like it".

Thus the nonsense about Obama's "present" votes in the Illinois legislature that Clinton is trying to make look like anti-choice votes; they're not, they're strategic.

Oh, and psssst, Fact Check @36 -- Senators who are running for President have bad attendance records. No one but you is confused by that.

Posted by Fnarf | January 30, 2008 5:41 PM

"Obama’s rhetoric suggests he’s more interested in building consensus than in taking back America."

And frankly, HE SHOULD BE! You're saying what, Obama is more interested in coming up with policies that the majority of Americans can live reasonably happily with (and this is, after all, a democracy) than he is in perpetuating divisiveness and bitterness? The horrors!

Posted by sara | January 30, 2008 9:35 PM

Did you seriously try to promote Clinton over Obama by trying to stir fears that he'd be a "triangulator?" I mean, you're trying to say that the person who was one third of the team that fucking invented the term and practiced the idea with mercenary zeal in the '90s would not now be a triangulator?

Man, the cynicism from her campaign must be spreading to her supporters.

Posted by Gitai | January 30, 2008 10:13 PM


In any other discussion, I wouldn't call out Hillary for missing votes. I know that's part of being a Senator. I know that's part of being a Senator running for President. I know that Obama does it too. When I called Hillary out on it in this thread, I was directly responding to what I consider to be unreasonable accusations against Obama.

Anyway, at least the Republican nominee is also a Senator. If he tries to pull "you didn't show up for this vote"/"you didn't vote the right way on this legislation", the Democratic candidate will be able to say "You too, asshole." The question is whether the Dem candidate will actually say it.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 30, 2008 10:53 PM

Fucking christ Erica! Everyday is something about Clinton. Even the paper you work for is endorsing Obama. I respect your opinions, but at the same time.... I'm sick of hearing it daily. Maybe, just maybe you could cut back to only one post about clinton a day? I'm suprised you still have things to talk about, your posts are so long. Good luck, and I hope when Clinton backs down when Obama gets the nomination, you do too.

Posted by Homo Will | January 31, 2008 9:45 AM

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