Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 20, 2008
POLITICS/RELIGION: Disbelieving Obama
One of the recurring themes of the Obama campaign is that his supporters dismiss anything they find inconvenient in his record, platform or statements on the trail on the theory that he was just doing or saying stuff he doesn't believe to pander to somebody else, whereas when he says something I like, that of course must be what he really means. Only the shallowness of his record - the fact that he's almost never had to stick to any one position under enough fire to prove that he means it, never had to build a record of deeds and not just words - enables people to sustain this sort of wishcasting, which Iowahawk brilliantly skewered in his "who are the rubes?" post (for the Harry Potter fans, Tom Maguire has compared him to the Mirror of Erised in which one views one's deepest desires). It's almost a willful choice to get suckered. Obama gave millions of dollars to Ayers and ACORN and joined the New Party? Just needed to pander to the far left. Obama spent 20 years with a racist, America-hating preacher? Just needed to pander to African-Americans who thought he wasn't black enough. Obama spent years cozied up to and trading favors with the Chicago machine? Just needed to buy their support...of course, he's really a reformer. Etc.
It doesn't stop with his shady associates - Beldar finds example after example of this in the Washington Post's endorsement of Obama:
Almost every favorable word the WaPo writes about Obama is based on their hopes and projections about what they think and hope he might do as president, not what he actually has done.
So how about international trade? Where's the historic evidence on that? "We also can only hope that the alarming anti-trade rhetoric we have heard from Mr. Obama during the campaign would give way to the understanding of the benefits of trade reflected in his writings." Let's see: Campaign promises made to anti-trade unions who've given him millions of dollars and votes, on the one hand, versus vague sentiments in his second book and the WaPo's "hopes," on the other hand. Which weighs more? Hopes!
There's never a "we know he would do this" because he "successfully championed legislation." There's never a "we know he's really committed to that" because "he risked his career by bucking his own party." Instead - as the WaPo again admits - "We had hoped, throughout this long campaign, to see more evidence that Mr. Obama might stand up to Democratic orthodoxy and end, as he said in his announcement speech, 'our chronic avoidance of tough decisions.'" Earth to WaPo: When you hope something, and it never comes true, that's called a "hoping in vain."
Iraq, of course, is one of the classic examples of this. Sooner or later, the next president will face decisions that create a tension between the desire to bring the troops home ASAP and the need to keep a certain number of boots on the ground to avoid having the hard-won successes of the past two years unravel. You can insist until you are blue in the face that such tradeoffs don't exist, but that's the reality: we may be less needed and in lesser numbers than before, but our troops are still performing important functions in helping the Iraqi government and military solidify the gains that have been made.
When those tensions arise, when top military brass and experts in the area are saying they need to have less aggressive withdrawal timetables and the anti-war movement is pressing for a rapid pullout, which side will Obama choose? The anti-war faction looks at his 2002 war speech and 2007-08 opposition to the surge, and tell themselves that Obama will side with them. The rest - including conservative Democrats who, like the WaPo editorial board, may not now think the war was a good idea but think precipitate withdrawal would be disastrous - look at his 'stay the course' position of 2003-06 and his more conciliatory statements during the general election, and tell themselves that he will side with security.
They can't both be right. And realistically, even given the strong signal of his opposition to the surge, there's no way for anybody to be quite certain which side is being lied to by Obama. Maybe he doesn't even know.
Of course, that sort of hedging act is done by almost every politician...but with Obama, it encompasses nearly everything in his record, because even on issues like abortion where he's staked out a very consistently extreme record for a period of years, people seem to convince themselves that he's been lying all along, he doesn't, for example, really support federal taxpayer money to subsidize abortions.
This essay captures the same dynamic regarding how Obama's religion is viewed by people who find Gov. Palin's religious beliefs in and of themselves alarming:
Many critics stand ready to mock Palin's Christianity. Fair enough. Will they also mock Obama's and Biden's?
H/T, via Ace. It's the same thing again. Those who find Obama's Christianity reassuring tell themselves that he believes. Those who find Christianity disturbing tell themselves that he doesn't really mean it. Willing suspension of disbelief.