Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Barack Obama as a Crossover Candidate?

George Will begrudgingly, condescendingly, almost wistfully thinks this 'fired-up and ready to go' presidential aspirant is the first crossover candidate since Reagan.

Will concludes a riff against Shelby Steel's Misreading Obama's Identity:
Obama's candidacy fascinates because he represents radical autonomy: He has chosen his racial identity but chosen not to make it matter much ...

Steele has brilliantly dissected the intellectual perversities that present blacks as dependent victims, reduced to trading on their moral blackmail of whites who are eager to be blackmailed in exchange for absolution. But Steele radically misreads Obama, missing his emancipation from those perversities. Obama seems to understand America's race fatigue, the unbearable boredom occasioned by today's stale politics generally and by the perfunctory theatrics of race especially.

So far, Obama is the Fred Astaire of politics -- graceful and elegant, with a surface so pleasing to the eye that it seems mistaken, even greedy, to demand depth. No one, however, would have given Astaire control of nuclear weapons, so attention must be paid to Obama's political as well as aesthetic qualities.

Steele notes that Obama "seems to have little talent for anger." But that is because Obama has opted out of the transaction Steele vigorously deplores. The political implications of this transcendence of confining categories are many, profound and encouraging.
What does this portend?

27 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

Verrrry interesting, Emily! (Back-handed compliments?)

I take Kucinich's move as also an encouraging sign! I'm persuaded that Kucinich faced a hard choice as to which grenade to fall on. In my mind, anyway, John Edwards brings a helluva a lot to the table. But I think Mr. K. made the right decision for America. I hope he can boost Obama over the Clintonista juggernaut. (I just hope that Biden doesn't get to chummy with Hillary!)

The Iowa poll also makes me hopeful!

1/02/2008 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Bren said...

The IOWA-Caucus is NOT... repeat... it is not democracy. The Iowa caucus is so organized (e.g. no mail-in voters) that only those with free time on their hands gets to participate, i.e. upper-middle-class and higher. Unable to participate are those who can not afford to pay for babysitters or those whose paycheck gets reduced if they take time-off to caucus.

1/03/2008 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Messenger said...

I am most taken with the idea of "entitlement". I always thought the elder Bush ran in 1992 as the entitled candidate: entitled because of the victory over Saddam in the gulf war. And "Bob Dole-Bob Dole" definitely ran in the 1996 as the entitlement candidate.

About Hillary, Maureen Dowd says

The underlying rationale for her campaign is that she is owed. Owed for moving to Arkansas and giving up the name Rodham, owed for pretending to care about place settings and menus when she held the unappetizing title of first lady, owed for enduring one humiliation after another at the hands of her husband.

After quoting Michelle Obama:

Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics.

Dowd goes rhetorical:

So it comes down to this: Will Queen Hillary reign? Will Prince Barack deign? And who is owed more?

1/03/2008 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

I vote for 'deigning', with a nagging caveat.

Since the Democraptic party won't give Bush the dessert he deserves - Impeachment ala mode - the very best legacy for him (and America) would be would be an utter and devastatingly tsunami-sized landslide defeat of the lock-stepping GOP which brought him to power and which still defends him to this day. If this is the best and the closest we can come to the complete and compleat repudiation of this slimy bastard who has broken the Overton Window of American politics, than I could be persuaded away from the perfect candidate (Obama) or the near-perfect (Edwards). If I thought the Ice Queen and her Big Dog could administer a terminal punctuation to the worse chapter in American history, I would walk precincts for her. I would.

1/03/2008 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Commander Zaius said...

I hope he can boost Obama over the Clintonista juggernaut.

While some repubs in this state still get stary eyed about Bush the greater mass are down right depressed and expect a Democratic victory until you bring Hillary's name up. The Clintons are a ready made revival for them. Obama on the other hand, they are quiet about him with some liking his spririt.

1/03/2008 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

While Obama is appealing on many fronts, why would he leave sufficient troops in Iraq to continue offensive operations, why does he thing corporations will voluntarily negotiate campaign cash, and why is there no single-payer option in his health care plan? I would support him, however, over Clinton.

1/03/2008 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Vigil,

Very good wishes to one and all...

Have just learned of Obama's victory in Iowa. Without much ado, let me ask you the question that's nagging me (after reading your own comment...)

Re: "If I thought the Ice Queen and her Big Dog could administer a terminal punctuation to the worse chapter in American history, I would walk precincts for her. I would."

Do you sincerely think that if elected, Obama could administer the terminal punctuation you desire?

1/03/2008 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Take that back -- report I heard from a friend was erroneous, was told the caucus was over, darn!

Haven't been paying attention to US primaries so easy to believee 4 point lead has spelled victory for Obama.

1/03/2008 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Too Clarify: I might be persuaded not to support Obama, if I were convinced an alternative candidate could pummel the GOP so badly that they won less than 30 or so electoral votes. That's what I would call systemic repudiation of Busheney. I'm not sure it's possible. So, I'm finding myself content - very content - in the Obama camp.

1/03/2008 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger Sapo said...

Bad Obama:

Does not like blogosphere = Must. Unite. The. Country.

Not respectful enough of unions?

Very bad Obama (via Democracy Now!):

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, Obama’s top adviser is Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski gave an interview to the French press a number of years ago where he boasted about the fact that it was he who created the whole Afghan jihadi movement, the movement that produced Osama bin Laden. And he was asked by the interviewer, “Well, don’t you think this might have had some bad consequences?” And Brzezinski replied, “Absolutely not. It was definitely worth it, because we were going after the Soviets. We were getting the Soviets.”
Another key Obama adviser, Anthony Lake, he was the main force behind the US invasion of Haiti in the mid-Clinton years during which they brought back Aristide essentially in political chains, pledged to support a World Bank/IMF overhaul of the economy, which resulted in an increase in malnutrition deaths among Haitians and set the stage for the current ongoing political disaster in Haiti.

Another Obama adviser, General Merrill McPeak, an Air Force man, who not long after the Dili massacre in East Timor in ’91 that you and I survived, he was—I happened to see on Indonesian TV shortly after that—there was General McPeak overseeing the delivery to Indonesia of US fighter planes.

Another key Obama adviser, Dennis Ross. Ross, for many years under both Clinton and Bush 2, a key—he has advised Clinton and both Bushes. He oversaw US policy toward Israel/Palestine. He pushed the principle that the legal rights of the Palestinians, the rights recognized under international law, must be subordinated to the needs of the Israeli government—in other words, their desires, their desires to expand to do whatever they want in the Occupied Territories. And Ross was one of the people who, interestingly, led the political assault on former Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Carter, no peacenik—I mean, Carter is the one who bears ultimate responsibility for that Timor terror that Holbrooke was involved in. But Ross led an assault on him, because, regarding Palestine, Carter was so bold as to agree with Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa that what Israel was doing in the Occupied Territories was tantamount to apartheid. And so, Ross was one of those who fiercely attacked him.

Another Obama adviser, Sarah Sewall, who heads a human rights center at Harvard and is a former Defense official, she wrote the introduction to General Petraeus’s Marine Corps/Army counterinsurgency handbook, the handbook that is now being used worldwide by US troops in various killing operations. That’s the Obama team.

Good Obama:

Did what almost everyone is unwilling to do - gave up lucrative career to go into politics - to make a difference.

If more people did what he is doing, the country would be in great shape.

1/03/2008 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

WTF? M.D.? Where TF are you coming from? East Timor? Dennis Ross? Come on, M.D., get real. What is this gas you are venting?

Jimmy Carter owns the issue on Palestine. Israel's Occupation of the West bank is the dead elephant blocking the doorway to a new American foreign policy. Did you not look at my post on Tuesday? Did you not reflect on the map?

'Nuff said.

On Zbigniew Brzezinski I have already posted with approval here and here. Having read Charlie Wilson's War, I look forward to reviewing the movie as soon as I can get out and see it. But I will tell you that I absolutely - absolutely - agree with Brzezinski's words in his own defense which you quote above. I will go to the mat with Brzezinski on this. He has the correct position.

In the meantime, with all due respect, I think you take the absolutely incorrect tack on Charlie Wilson's War. Charlie Wilson had done nothing for which he had to apologize. I am fed up with decade-late second guessers saying the mujahadin shouldn't have been supplied with missiles and rifles that shoot straight. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan was the first authentically non-'defensive' case of Soviet aggression and it begged for opposition and reversal. Those who second-guess Wilson and Gus Avrakatos are the same ones who argue that so-called 'Islamofascism' is on the same level of threat as Soviet communism and Fascism. That is an asinine position. With all due respect.

It's those who followed Charlie and Gus who fumbled the ball. How like America: "well that job is done" (bleeding the Ruskies out of Afghanistan), "now on to the peace dividend". It's happening again in Iraq: ("casualties are down-the surge has worked"). Never mind Iraq is divided up into hostile camps, better armed and fortified than ever before.

Brzezinski & Wilson were/are right.

1/03/2008 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

On tonight's speeches:

Hillary, the Ice Queen, made me feel embarrassed. I'm older than she is but she was old, old, old. Having Maddie Albright and the Big Dog standing next to her did not help relieve her of the Stalinist aura around her.

Edwards was fantastic. It was the best barn-burner I have ever seen him touch off. I'm a sucker for populism, and I have to cop to having teared up in places.

But what did I learn with Barack Obama spoke? I learned that Al Gore done the right thing by America by not running. Obama hit 9 innings of grand slams. The man has the pulse, the mind, the words which can bring America BARACK and put it its tracks again.

Give him a chance.

1/03/2008 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger Pink Liberty said...

I heard Shelby Steele speaking on Air America and I was stunned that he so easily harangues "black" people with a false choice of either fighting "white" people or being apologists to "white" people (I forget the exact labels he had for each _type_ but they were unforgiving). Frankly, I think that many people of all colors and creeds would do well to stop acting like they are constantly being beaten up by some outside force. Let's every one of us clean up our own frigging business and call for justice when it's needed; at home and in the world (both tasks seem impossible for many Americans)! Maybe it's my generation, but to most of us our value is not in who we are, what color we are, or where we come from, we're here now and each one of our lives is important. I say this even with a full sense of what Obama has probably encountered as a "black" man, his place in history tonight--and the crap I've seen come out of the mouths of "white" people. I don't know if it's Will or Steel that's saying Obama hasn't made his race matter much; but that's bull shit. No one can choose that. A "black" family took the winner's stage in Iowa tonight. So when does Obama's race matter, and where and to who? When does yours? As tonight shows, that depends mostly on outside forces that either react or don't. Chances are that generally though, Obama gets more reactions to his race than I do. For instance, just try to imagine a "white" intellectual writing a piece like this about how "whites" should behave, believe or relate to the rest of the "white" community. Obama may have chosen not to use his own personal racial discrimination examples in his rhetoric (I'm not sure), but I learned long ago not to use examples of sexual discrimination in job interviews as well--it doesn't mean I've chosen not to have my womanhood "matter much," and it doesn't mean I wouldn't pursue justice against discrimination. In any case, personal success is the best revenge.

I do believe that Steel has an unfair and self-defeating philosophy, but although Will calls it a form of perverse intellectualism, he's lining right up with that kind of thinking. Steel would characterize Will as providing "white" acceptance that "black apologists" need to survive in the "white" world. Will suggests Obama's playing an apologist role by stating that Obama "understand[s] America's race fatigue." So why does Will make this boorish assumption about Obama? Will clearly isn't citing Obama's books where race is an issue. Plus, his using words like, "boredom", and "perfunctory theatrics," about race painfully reveals Will's position as an elitist who watches how "other" people react to issues that obviously don't matter to him much. He is perfunctorily telling "whites" that Obama will not challenge them on race. That's offensive to me. And Obama's more like MLK than Fred Astaire anyway. George who?

1/03/2008 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger Edgar Newt said...

I loved Barak in 2004. I loved him this morning. I love him even more tonight.

His speech: I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats.

Thoughts of RFK. Boys of the treasury department, keep our man safe.

1/04/2008 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger Commander Zaius said...

Vigil, I agree with you on the after action speeches. Obama and Edwards were fantastic and Hillary's speech was an embarrassment for her. The impression I got was of a boiling volcano about to explode over the slight people in Iowa gave to her. I'm sure she was an mega bitch on the plane last night.

Have to add that while I don't care for Huckabee I ws very happy to see Romney get waxed.

1/04/2008 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger LTE said...

In his speech, Romney looked whipped and contrite, trying to put the best front on. Only three things can save him now: $, $$, and $$$.

1/04/2008 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Points well taken (everyone)! I find it haunting how well blended in BHO are the perspective of RFK and the speaking cadence of MLK.

A prayer: Keep Him Safe.

1/04/2008 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Great lecture. Appreciated reading your great lecture. Indeed, moral and great leadership resides not in color nor race -- it resides in the person's worth as a human being.

That person's worth cannot be measured by his/her outer appearance but by what he/she has done and achieved over a time.

1/04/2008 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger Sapo said...

WTF? M.D.? Where TF are you coming from? East Timor? Dennis Ross? Come on, M.D., get real. What is this gas you are venting?

By their advisers shall ye know them was the point of that Democracy Now! piece.

Thanks for the links, Vigilante. I will take a closer (more considered) look at Zbigniew's positions.

1/04/2008 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger Sapo said...

And I did get the sense from the Democracy Now! interview that Nairn was really stretching to find the negatives on Obama.

As someone who craves real change, I feel very conflicted when I see the candidates hire folks who have been on the scene for decades.

1/04/2008 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger Messenger said...

What I said above about entitlements:

Arianna Huffington says Clinton's turning point was not the Philladelphia debate:

But it wasn't those two weeks. Indeed, if we were to pinpoint one decisive moment, it would be Bill Clinton on Charlie Rose, arrogant and entitled, dismissive and fear-mongering. And then Bill Clinton giving us a refresher course in '90s-style truth-twisting and obfuscation -- making stuff up about always having been against the war, and about Hillary having always been for every good decision during his presidency and against every bad one, from Ireland to Sarajevo to Rwanda.

Transparent BS. Making shit up as you go along. We can recognize it immediately after eight years of Bush.

Entitlement and Restoration? Down with the queen! Up with the Prince!

1/04/2008 07:11:00 AM  
Blogger DB Cooper said...

This knock on Obama's lack of experience in foreign policy:

Is this code for not having passed AIPAC's seal of approval on the Palestinian Question? Is this an implication that Clinton is West-Bank-Safe? And Obama is yet to be certified?

1/04/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

M.D.: Your point is understood, but I still think "East Timor" is a bit of a reach. Also, I have to add, there is something to be said for the wisdom of 'folks who have been on the scene for decades'. Like Brent Scowcroft's.

Coop: I note that John Edwards does not want to risk breach his AIPAC seal of approval.

1/05/2008 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

Congrats to Obama on a magnificent win. I particularly enjoyed Bill's expression during Hillary's I have the money so I should be President speech.

Another bone I have to pick with Obama is his continued support of Joe LIEberman, his mentor. Opposing Ned Lamont against his own party was inexcusable.

If he wins, he'll get my support, but until then, I'll stick with John Edwards, the only viable progressive we have to choose.

1/05/2008 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger DB Cooper said...


"Obama's continued support of Joe LIEberman"

Support for his role as ashtray? How is Obama 'supporting' Lieberman?

1/05/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Buckeye said...

If Kucinich supports Obama, so will I.

We all know DK ain't going to be the next President. I think it would be good for US to have him in the cabinet. Secy. of Energy maybe.

1/05/2008 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

He won't win, I know. But I'm still voting for Gravel. I'll acquiesce to your decisions as to who wins the primary as long as it isn't THRCW.

1/05/2008 07:07:00 PM  

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