Sunday, July 06, 2008

Keep your eye on the ball

Hi - there's been a firestorm of criticism of Obama over the last week or so, and how he is allegedly "shifting" to the center for political expediency. I'd like to comment specifically on a) his supposed "shift" in his policy toward Iraq; b) his support of faith based initiatives; c) his comments on the recent USSC decision on guns. I recall multiple discussions over the last year with many of you about how Obama isn't liberal enough, so this whole thing is a little surprising to me. (You may notice an absence of substantive comment on the FISA bill, but since I work with two major telcos I tend to not comment on the issue.)

Iraq: Statement of Barack's Iraq policy dated October 2007 is here on his website. You'll note back then he was talking about a 16 month timetable -- something the AP has accused him of recently flip-flopping on. Note the article highlights a list of supposed flip flops, but gives "evidence" on only one - claiming that a 16 month timetable is a new policy. It's not. Kevin Drum has some helpful analysis here, Josh Marshall's take is here (where I first found the article), and Steve Benen's is here. Apologies for the multiple blog links, but if you ignore the somewhat partisan tone (they are op-eds after all) they actually do a good job of threading the story together.

Faith based Initiatives: Barack has been repeatedly accused of moving to the center on this - examples here and here. I've attached a transcript of his June 2006 speech on religion here. Here's a pull quote if you don't want to read the whole thing: "But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition". This has been pretty obvious to me about Obama for a long time. I don't exactly support faith based initiatives, but this isn't a deal killer for me - Obama seems like a morally grounded person.

Guns: Obama recently commented on the USSC 5-4 decision overturning the D.C. ban on handguns, which has been characterized as flip flopping on his position on the Washington, D.C. handgun ban. Previously, on Feb. 2008, he affirmed support for the ban (link here). Hard to see how outrageous his statements are, actually - he's doing what most politicians do on occasion, hedging on an answer (I'm not all that happy about it, but it doesn't rise to the level of making my blood boil....) My muted reaction may also be that for various reasons the SC decision doesn't strike me as all that outrageous (I'm surprised it's 5-4), but if you want more on that, I'll be happy to do so in a separate e-mail.

My point is that my "truth" radar goes off the loudest when there's a media feeding frenzy going on. It's important to remember that ANY reported point of view doesn't always tell us the whole story, intentionally or not.

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