Saturday, June 28


I'm beginning to think that Obama's true calling might have been as a philosopher/teacher.

The passage of the speech that prompted Dobson's "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution" and "lowest common denominator of morality" comments was this: "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. What do I mean by this? It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, to take one example, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."

Dobson paraphrased this as "unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe in." But that's not what Obama was saying at all. Rather, he was arguing that in a pluralistic nation like ours, politics depends on people of faith being able to persuade others based on common and accessible ground and appeals to reason -- which sounds entirely reasonable. Christians who oppose abortion can make an effective case by talking about sonograms, fetal development and the moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable. That doesn't mean one's faith shouldn't inform the question of abortion -- or, for that matter, war, poverty and other issues. After all, President Lincoln's argument against slavery was partly grounded in faith. But appeals to the Bible or church teaching aren't sufficient in a pluralistic nation. That's why Lincoln talked primarily about the Declaration of Independence.

There are certainly reasons for evangelicals to have concerns about Obama -- based on his extreme views on abortion, judicial nominees, Iraq (his plans for a precipitous withdrawal would probably trigger mass death and perhaps even genocide) and other issues. But critics of Obama have an obligation to provide a fair and honest critique, and the attacks leveled by Dobson fall terribly short of that standard.

I'm impressed by BO's words here, unlike his usual stump speech themes of "change, hope, unity." In this case, he expounds a distinct, reasonable approach to the church/state conundrum that confounds so many. Man is both a political animal and a religious animal, and resolving the two natures in the civil sphere has proven a challenge to humans throughout history. His contribution to the debate here is not negligible.

The Dobsons and Robertsons have served us ill by trying to impose their interpretation of Biblical principles upon our society, our laws, our institutions. Obama's message is that we humans cannot isolate our spiritual selves when we enter the public sphere; indeed, the words of our founding documents include spiritual references; but the Constitution itself states that there can be no civilly-recognized religion, ergo there can be no law instituted that is based solely on the tenets of a particular faith. While our faith may inform our political philosophy, it cannot be cited as the basis for governance of the larger public. Instead a case must be made to values that are commonly accepted, that is, by groups outside one's own religious circle. That is a precept the religiously authoritarian simply can't or won't accept.

And that is curious to me, since the New Testament is so rife with admonitions to Christians to keep ourselves apart from the world, not to seek power over others but to serve them instead. Political influence is a foreign concept to Christ's teachings. He stood mute before his accusers, when he could have inspired his followers to riot and defy the government.

Perhaps Barack should have been a teacher or minister instead. His personal charisma, his exalted language and powers of persuasion would have served him well. But religious or movement leaders have never made very good civil governors.

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Friday, June 27


Glenn Greenwald:

The real danger is that those who defend Obama the Candidate no matter what he does are likely to defend Obama the President no matter what he does, too. If we learn in 2009 that Obama has invoked his claimed Article II powers to spy on Americans outside of even the new FISA law, are we going to hear from certain factions that he was justified in doing so to protect us; how it's a good, shrewd move to show he's a centrist and keep his approval ratings high so he can do all the Good things he wants to do for us; how it's different when Obama does it because we can trust him? It certainly looks that way. Those who spent the last five years mauling Bush for "shredding the Constitution" and approving of lawbreaking -- only to then praise Obama for supporting a bill that endorses and protects all of that -- are displaying exactly the type of blind reverence that is more dangerous than any one political leader could ever be.

I don't care what flavor it is, if you drink the kool-aid you're a kool-aid drinker.

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I don't think I've ever seen anything more ridiculous than Obamabot and Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) on Morning Joe today when Scarborough asked him point blank if it isn't true that BO is a liberal. Wexler nearly wet himself exclaiming that The One "transcends labels." Joe kept saying, if you're a liberal and proud of it (Wexler's just published a book titled Fire-Breathing Liberal or something to that effect), what's wrong with saying Obama is a liberal? But Wexler wouldn't HAVE it. You simply can't pin a label on a man so "transcendent." Here's how the dictionary defines it:

1. going beyond ordinary limits; surpassing; exceeding.
2. superior or supreme.
3. Theology. (of the Deity) transcending the universe, time, etc. Compare immanent (def. 3).
4. Philosophy.
a. Scholasticism. above all possible modes of the infinite.
b. Kantianism. transcending experience; not realizable in human experience. Compare transcendental (defs. 5a, c).
c. (in modern realism) referred to, but beyond, direct apprehension; outside consciousness.

Yep, the word fits. It fits Obama's surpassing ego and the near-worship his supporters demonstrate.

Here's Mister Transcendent in action. He doesn't just flip-flop, he blows with the wind. What, exactly, does he care enough about to stand up for?

Last night it was obvious to me that The Sage is ready to throw in the towel. If it's a choice between Obama and McCain, he'll take Obama. I told him, I wish I didn't feel this way. I've never had a problem throwing my support to the Dem nominee, and I've NEVER had my first choice win the nomination.

It just ain't happening. And it's got nothing to do with Hillary -- I would like to fall in line with her wishes, but I Own My Vote, and so far Obama's not offered the right price -- principles.

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Tuesday, June 24


I've said it over and over, and now Richard Cohen says it too:

But here is the difference between McCain and Obama -- and Obama had better pay attention. McCain is a known commodity. It's not just that he's been around a long time and staked out positions antithetical to those of his Republican base. It's also -- and more important -- that we know his bottom line. As his North Vietnamese captors found out, there is only so far he will go, and then his pride or his sense of honor takes over. This -- not just his candor and nonstop verbosity on the Straight Talk Express -- is what commends him to so many journalists.

Obama might have a similar bottom line, core principles for which, in some sense, he is willing to die. If so, we don't know what they are. Nothing so far in his life approaches McCain's decision to refuse repatriation as a POW so as to deny his jailors a propaganda coup. In fact, there is scant evidence the Illinois senator takes positions that challenge his base or otherwise threaten him politically. That's why his reversal on campaign financing and his transparently false justification of it matter more than similar acts by McCain.

A presidential race is only incidentally about issues. It's really about likability and character. Obama is, to paraphrase what he said about Hillary Clinton, more than "likable enough" -- in fact, so much so that he is the most charismatic presidential candidate I've seen since Robert F. Kennedy. But the character question hangs -- not because of any evidence to the contrary and not in any moral sense, either, but because he is still young and lacks the job references McCain picked up in a North Vietnamese prison. McCain has a bottom line. Obama just moved his.
[Emphasis mine]

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Sunday, June 22


Today's must-read from from Glenn Greenwald.

What really rubbed me the wrong way was how Obama in his statement says essentially trust me with these powers, I'll use them responsibly.


"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." - John Adams [1772].

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