Thursday, May 15, 2008

Awk, Barack!

In today's New York Times, in a story headlined, "Republican election losses stir fall fears", appears the following quote:

"Woody Jenkins, a Louisiana Republican who lost in a special House election this month, said in an interview that the high African-American turnout in his district was 'probably the decisive factor' in his loss.

"The election results also raised questions about what had been a main Republican strategy for the fall, if Mr. Obama wins the nomination: to link Democrats in conservative districts to Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama, campaigning in Sterling Heights, Mich., said the outcome in the Mississippi contest, to fill a 'hard-core Republican seat,' proved that the strategy would not work.

“'They lost it by eight points, and they did everything they could,' Mr. Obama said. 'They ran ads with my face on it, and they said, "Oh, you look at this, a former liberal, and his former pastor’s said offensive things." They were trying to do everything in the book to try to scare folks in Mississippi, and it didn’t work.'” [Emphasis mine.]

Now, if I were a Republican muckraker from Louisiana, would I run an ad--in any medium--that described Barack Obama as a "former liberal"? Hell, no, I wouldn't. I would describe him as a dyed-in-the-wool, lifetime-card-carrying, unrepentant, blue-blooded liberal. Would I describe the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as his "former pastor"? I don't think so. I would say that Rev. Wright has been Obama's pastor for twenty years (which is true).

Something is fishy here. Why would Barack Obama misquote an ad that the other side has run about him? Well, he might want to make them look more disingenuous that they really were, for one. But that's not the case here. If anything, Obama softened the language to make him seem less out of step with the typical Louisiana voter. (Let's be clear about this: we're talking white voters here, as well.) Since the election is over, why would he do that? Only one reason that I would judge worthy of expending energy trying to explicate: Not only does Barack want to distance himself from his trusted spiritual adviser of two decades but also the political philosophy known proudly for 3/4 of a century as "liberalism". It would seem that Sen. Obama is as anxious to leave that piece of baggage to circulate forever on the carousel of discarded descriptors as he is to break free of the Wright curse.

Why would ANY candidate for president be ashamed of the label of liberal? Is it because George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Walter Mondale lost so badly to their conservative rivals, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan? Did Nixon prove McGovern wrong on the Vietnam War? How many lives--American and foreign--would have been saved had McGovern been president from early 1972 through 1976? Would Watergate have happened? If Carter had been reelected, would there still be solar panels on the roof of the White House? Would the US have done something about global warming twenty years ago? Would the US hostages being held by Iranian militants have been released sooner had there been no hope that Carter would lose? Would we have been well on the way to a treatment for AIDS before Reagan could even bring himself to say the word? Would we have invaded Grenada? Would we have suffered through the loss of many billions of dollars in the savings and loan debacle?

What part of the progress of the 20th Century would be left if liberalism had not been invented? Certainly, the Cold War would have been carefully preserved, along with McCarthyism, the Arms Race, the CIA-financed coups against Allende, Mossadegh, and a half-dozen others. The disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion would have surely have been employed, in all its ineptness. But what of the Civilization Conservation Corps, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Housing Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority? What of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communication Commission, the Department of Labor, the GI Bill, food stamps, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Peace Corps?

Here's the only non-tax-related program of Ronald Reagan's that turns up in the Wikipedia article on Ronald Reagan's presidency: the sales of arms to Iran in exchange for cash to assist the anti-Communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua, in subversion of a democratically-elected government. So, we see that, during the period of classic liberalism of the 20th Century, conservatism has a legacy of corruption, if they can be said to have a legacy at all.

So, what is Barack running from anyway? I think I've asked this question before (I can't check from this screen). He should stop cowering before the bigots and know-nothings and reclaim his religious and political heritage before it's too late.

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