Thursday, September 25, 2008

How Obama lost me, part 3

Click here for the premise of this list and #1-5.

Click here for #6-8.

At the risk of making this Obama supporter even more mad at me, here's the rest of my list of "How Obama lost me":

9. Rigidly opposing the surge

Obama's two main responses to being asked whether he was wrong on the surge (which you can see starting around 4:00 of this clip) are, to paraphrase:

  • It didn't do what it was supposed to do.
  • No one, not even Bush or McCain, expected it to achieve the positive results that it did.
So his position is: the surge wasn't successful enough ... and by the way, it was successful beyond our wildest dreams?!

If he wants to present himself as such a nuanced observer of the surge now, he should have taken a nuanced position back then. Instead, he seems to have opposed it without considering the possibility that it would work out.

I have very little understanding of the situation in Iraq, but I can understand this: if he got the surge right, he should explain why. He hasn't done so. If he got it wrong, he should be as blunt as John Edwards was in admitting he was wrong about whether to invade Iraq. 

10. "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." (#87 in my campaign moments list)

This line -- from a speech Obama gave to the pro-Israel AIPAC in June -- was a worse foreign-policy gaffe than anything I've heard Sarah Palin say.

Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus -- both of whom, like me, are still supporting Obama despite lots of reservations about him -- give a very thorough explanation of why it was so awful:

11. Rev. Jeremiah Wright

I don't agree with all the attention and criticism Obama's pastor got, but that's water under the bridge. It was reckless of Obama to run for president, knowing he had something as explosive as this with the potential to tilt the election to the Republicans, and apparently do nothing to prepare for it. 

He could have had a Sister Souljah moment by proactively distancing himself from Rev. Wright early on. He could have even done this out of the blue, before anything hit YouTube. And once the clips started circulating, he should have acted immediately and decisively. By dragging things out for weeks and weeks, he just delayed the inevitable reject-and-denounce, while making it look like a reluctant political calculation.   

And lastly, of course...

12. Inexperience

I hate to say it, but he shouldn't have decided to run for president with just 2 years of qualifying experience.

I think I understand his calculation: he had the growing excitement around the beginning of the primaries, whereas if he'd waited around for years being a boring ol' senator, that might have eroded his luster. But he just should taken that gamble and run in 4, 8, or 12 years -- when he would have been in his 50s or just turning 60. It would have been worth it to be able to run as someone who's more fluent in policy, has more specific accomplishments to point to, and doesn't compel people to doubt whether he's "ready."


So, that's my list. To be clear, none of this is reason enough for me not to vote for Obama. Every candidate has a slew of flaws, and I think McCain's are worse. There are the staggering self-reinvention and flip-flops, which dwarf anything I've seen from Obama. There's his refusal to admit that invading Iraq turned out to be a bad idea. There's his painfully shallow understanding of economics. There's his "How dare you question my integrity or righteousness -- I was a POW!" attitude, which makes Bush look humble by comparison. 

And yes, there's his age. Of course I think people in their 70s can handle serious jobs. I have no problem with, say, an 80- or 90-year-old judge, as long as they're able. But being president is a uniquely stressful and demanding job, so I do have a problem with an 80-year-old president (which is what McCain will be if he has a full, successful presidency). The idea that this is somehow offensive or taboo is ludicrous. The stakes are just too high to worry about offending people. 


I haven't gotten to read all the comments on this list yet, but I might have an update once I do. Thanks for all the civil discussion. 

And thanks to the many bloggers (and one Twitterer) who linked to this list and made it almost certainly my most-read content yet -- I've gotten about 20,000 visits since I started the list on Monday, compared with about 60,000 total visits to this blog. Thanks especially to Instapundit and my mom.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

For me the main reason to stay with Obama is that he's a Democrat and McCain is a Republican. For eight years the Republicans have had a chance to test their theories against reality, and they have run this country into the ground as surely as if they had been terrorists. By their fruits shall ye know them. For all the Democrats' political ineptitude and substantive myopia, they could hardly do worse. This election should have been a referendum on the Bush debacle, and the fact that Obama has not made it so has been a major strategic failing.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Agreed. As for Obama's failing in this area, read this.

Of course, your point in favor of Obama seems to be lost on the many commenters who have complained that it's hypocritical of me to write these posts but still vote for Obama.

Anonymous said...

Richard, There is so much more to politics than to what party you belong. Your whole comment is full of misconceptions and you look like an idiot. I hope you will be happy if our country becomes ruled by a fascist statist government. Then you really won't be required to think for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I clicked over. I don't think those folks could possibly think less of you. For the record, me neither.

LemmusLemmus said...

That's quite an impressive blogpost that you linked to. Only today I wrote that the great thing about blogs is that people can get stuff published that otherwise wouldn't be published. That's also the bad thing about blogs.

Hint: If you feel like calling someone an idiot, first check whether it might be you who is the idiot.

I particularly liked how you were attacked for being your mother's son. Er?

Obviously, the blogger did not understand the concept that you can have qualms about a candidate and still support him over the alternative. Bad for him. I enjoy reading your opinionated and nuanced views. Keep 'em coming!

(Note 1: I would have commented over there, but I'd have to register at a blog I'm probably never going to visit again. Note 2: I'm not allowed to vote in the US presidential elections, and if I were, I wouldn't know who to vote for.)

LonewackoDotCom said...

I just did a find, but did this series go into BHO's habit of lying? What about him sounding like a member of MEChA or being (at the least) a useful idiot for a foreign government?

If anyone doesn't want BHO to be president, go to one of is appearances, ask him a real question on video, and then upload his response to Youtube. He's not used to being pressed on his lies and the flaws in his policies, so asking him a good question would show just how unqualified he is.

Anonymous said...

Nine out of ten people named Cohen would vote for a yellow dog if it was a Democratic yellow dog. What else is new?

Anonymous said...

The Obama campaign should thank you, really. You've priced his candidacy with all the discounts taken, and concluded it's still a buy. And you've given an example of a thoughtful, critical person voting for him.

Now if only we could have more of this kind of realism instead of the 3-talking-points-from-the-campaign-with-anti-Repub-bile-for-gravy.

Buford Gooch said...

Your number 12 is OK as far as it goes, but it is most likely that Obama started his Presidential run with the expectation of finishing well, but not winning. That would have set him up for 2012 or 2016. Actually winning the primaries may have been the worst thing that could have happened to him.

Dan said...

One of the biggest problems I see with Obama is his supporters. I've been following this election for over a year now, and this is the first time I've seen somebody do a thoughtful post that didn't dodge the issues, measured up the two candidates and forthrightly just said that they still preferred Obama. In comment sections all over the place I've been called racist, scum, Repuglican (I'm independent), and a slew of names that aren't really printable.

If more people took the tone of this post and showed SOME awareness of their candidate's failings in addition to demanding that I recognize my own candidates', I'd be much more inclined to take them seriously.

Good work, sir. I don't agree with your final decision, but I respect it and the way you made it.

Eowyn said...

Nicely done. I don't agree with you in the end-- I will be voting for McCain-- but it was wonderful to read someone planning on voting for Obama who actually thinks it out as opposed to cheerleading (no offense to cheerleaders). I'm going to link to your blog on mine-- nice to have a sane Dem voice.

Anonymous said...

It may take a few years but my bet is that a lot of the young Democrats posting here will learn that their certainties are not nearly as solid as they believe. For example, does Richard L Cohen truly believe that Republicans have "run this country into the ground" just as if they were "terrorists." This is the kind of bizarre rhetoric that just begs for a few years of perspective (growing up, that is) before he'll understand how he sounds to those of us who have seen more than one or two presidents. Yes, yes, I know that you can trace your certainties back to a full panoply of supporting comments from intelligent and like-minded individuals. The problem is that this still doesn't mean it is true.

Anonymous said...

There's his refusal to admit that invading Iraq turned out to be a bad idea.

Hmmm. Would you mind telling me what's so "bad" about defeating Al Qaeda on what was supposed to be its home turf? What's so "bad" about giving Iraq a fighting chance at a reasonably democratic and prosperous future? What's so "bad" about getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his psychotic sons? What's so "bad" about Saddam's neck getting stretched?

Iraq may never truly be our friend in the same way that Israel is...but our heroic effort there has pretty well assured that country will never again be an enemy in the way it was under Saddam. And that makes a world of difference.

Tell ya what, old boy: I'll make a standing bet with you that, in 20 years, historians will look on our effort in Iraq and, instead of moaning about it being a "strategic mistake," they'll instead marvel at how we succeeded so relatively quickly, and with so relatively few casualties, despite the mistakes we did make.

I've got a sawbuck that says I'm right. What have you got?

Ron said...

RLC, in Detroit they elected a man in jail, because he was a Democrat and not a Republican. He also had the backing of Baptist ministers who presumably know the meaning of "by their fruits ye shall know them."

My cri de coeur is that everyone spins everything so much, why discuss issues at all? Republicans will do this for Bush; I have to remind Democrats that JFK got us closer to nuclear war than Reagan ever did, who only slept with movie stars when he was a movie star, and not in the White House!

Jac, your post is excellent and thoughtful, but your title still seems misleading to me. Mom used her similar title when she actually made the shift from Kerry, not when she just contemplating it.

Anonymous said...

You've given a great summary of outstanding reasons why Obama should not be the next President. It would be enlightening to see you post an equally convincing set of reasons why McCain should not be the next President. From what I see, most of your objections to McCain (self-reinvention, flip-flops, shallow understanding of economics) all apply to Obama in spades. Your problems with his acceptance of the invasion of Iraq being a good idea and his age both seem pretty shallow, at best. Perhaps you have forgotten that most of the Democrats voted for it based on the intelligence at the time. And, I believe that if Obama had been in Congress when the vote was taken, it is highly likely that he would have voted for it too when considering the pre-war intelligence that existed back then. Although now it is easy for Obama to say he would have opposed the Iraq War, such post-facto political pandering is disingenuous and silly. The real reason that you are not voting for McCain is that he is a Republican and you believe that the Republican Party is the cause of all evil in the world. Some day you will awake from your dreamworld and realize that you have been duped by Democrats to believe this. Selecting the best person for the Presidency or for any other political office should have more to do with their character and experience and little to do with what political party that they belong to. That is why John McCain is the best person for the job today.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Jac, your post is excellent and thoughtful, but your title still seems misleading to me. Mom used her similar title when she actually made the shift from Kerry, not when she just contemplating it.

Thanks..... But actually, I think my shift was more dramatic than my mom's. As I said in the intro to the first post, she was also using "lost me" loosely. As I remember, she went from being not for Kerry to being against Kerry. I went from being a strong supporter of Obama as the best primary candidate to a reluctant supporter of him as a more-or-less generic Democrat who happens to be better than McCain. I think it's worth talking about why a lot of voters like me have good reason to make this shift. And yes, I chose a catchy title. :^)

Daniel said...

As others have pointed out, Obama didn't have the experience or resume to become a credible Presidential candidate so soon after reaching the Senate. But the political calculus told him that there was huge upside and virtually no downside to jumping into the race.

The most likely scenario was that he would lose the nomination but garner enormous name recognition and a core of devoted followers and a nationwide fundraising & mailing list which he could tap for years to come. He'd gain valuable experience in a national campaign. And he'd automatically be on everyone's "A" list of contenders for future Presidential elections, while using the interregnum to pad his resume and maintain a high profile.

The second, less likely scenario was that he lost the nomination but was nevertheless so impressive that he'd be handed the VP slot, a la Edwards in 2004. Any VP candidate of either major party automatically has a 10% to 20% probability of someday becoming president (based on historical data), and the 2008 Democratic VP candidate would be at the high end of that range. Those are great odds when you consider how few individuals ever become President.

The third, least likely scenario was that he'd far exceed expectations and actually snag the Democratic Presidential nomination. Looking at it from the perspective of 2006 and 2007, that would make him the heavy favorite to actually win the prize, regardless of his inexperience. Opportunities like that are rare in politics, and you can't pass them by. Besides, every Congressman and Governor and Senator, even the rankest neophyte, has an ego big enough to believe that he's ready to be the next President of the United States.

The only conceivable downside would be a scenario in which he'd win the nomination but then lose in the general election (especially in a political environment which heavily favored Democrats). In that case his future Presidential hopes would be destroyed. Political parties rarely give second chances to a failure who blew a "sure thing". See, for example, Al Gore and John Kerry. For a possible counterexample see Richard Nixon.

If McCain ends up winning in a landslide (which could happen if the debates go poorly for Obama or if McCain springs more stunning surprises), then the worst case scenario for Obama will have occurred. But it was still a political risk which he had to take under the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, elsewhere you complain that Obama is "all speech" and lacks policy specifics, and then, to make the point that he doesn't always, openly confront Republican failure, you cite a TNR article which says,

"... On the day before McCain released his ad, Obama gave a major speech on economics. It was a hard-hitting address, in which Obama proclaimed, "It's time to put an end to a broken system in Washington that is breaking the American economy." But the word "Republican" never came up. The next day, Obama released a somber ad in which he addressed the camera for two minutes. It included plenty of smart ideas (something he has never lacked, notwithstanding the bogus charge that he's "all talk").

So which is it? He doesn't trash Republicans enough or he doesn't have any policy specifics, or both, because you only see and believe those parts of the TNR post that reinforce your convictions?

The issue you are having is not seeing through the personality-based marketing that takes place in a Presidential system, best understood by comparing the Presidential system to a Parliamentary system, wherein, one doesn't really directly elect the leader, one elects the Party which elects the leader.

In a Presidential system its really easy to get distracted by personal aspects of the man away from the platform of his party. It's also easy to think that the one man's personal subject matter expertise is important, despite the fact that he will appoint literally thousands of people to help him run a government. And it's easy to put too much stock in pre-election talk, rather than post-election outputs.

And finally, its easy to forget the difference between "selling" and "installing." Once can win an election by trashing the opposing party, but try governing after doing that.

The Republicans, particularly conservatism, failed in an inexcusably huge way. They're fired. End of fricking story.

I'm a non-Democrat who is supporting the non-Republican. End of story. I would have been happy to support Hillary, but between Hillary and Barack I prefer Barack and genuinely admire some of his qualities, despite knowing that I will soon tire of Barack, Democrats, and many of their policies.

I am not looking for my ideal archetype upon which I can project my utopian ideal for government. I'm looking to douche the incompetent Bush Republicans out of the executive branch.

The one aspect where I think Obama has the vision, that Clinton lacked, is in understanding how a revolution in clean, renewable, energy is the key to moving forward in the 21st century.

But, yes, Clinton does see the big economy picture better and clearer than anyone else.

Each man has his own personal strengths and weaknesses, but so what so long as the man is credible and qualified for the job.

Anonymous said...

The notion that invading Iraq was a "bad idea" is that thing we call Conventional Wisdom. It is one of those things that Everyone Knows, like Global Warming. It is consensus; that to which no one objects, and it is flat out wrong. Never in the great hashing of this and in the torrent of bile poured onto the unworthy head of George W Bush do we ever hear just what we were supposed to do that we had not already done for decades. The Iraq invasion is what any responsible person in the office of President would have done in those circumstances. Gore would have done it. Kerry would have done it. The fact that Bush did it and managed a great victory for the US while also enabling a great step forward for global freedom is what sticks in the craw of the peacenik ideologues. Don't be one.


Anonymous said...

Richard is old enough to remember Jimmy Carter. The same arguments were put forth: Gerald Ford was too old, 7 years of Nixon, plus 4 of Ford was too much Republicans in office, the economy etc....

But Carter, quite a young guy too when he took office----- didn't fix anything. Inflation became worse, gas prices, the Iranian hostages.

An Iranian hostage situation looks quaint by today's terrorism standards.

Democrats aren't fixers. And if you think that Clinton did anything for the economy in his 8 years.....consider the dotcom meltdown and the Nasdaq failure, which happened on Clinton's watch...

The Democrats are experts at exploiting a broken system, prolonging it, and making it worse. That's the only way they can get into office. Nobody has much use for 'em in a good economy !

Jim C. said...

I'm an ex-Democrat. The first time I heard Obama speak (about 2 years ago, not the previous convention), I said to myself, "This guy sounds really good. Maybe I can vote for him." And I did feel the pull of his undeniable charisma (and I still do, for that matter).

However, it wasn't long before I realized there were very few specifics in his speeches, and I strongly disagreed with those few. So I knew early on I wouldn't vote for him. However, your list summarizes quite well all of my reasons for my steadily increasing disapproval.

Jeremiah "God Damn America" Wright was an absolute deal-breaker, which was only made worse by Obama's unbelievable "This is not the Wright I knew".

There are 2 other factors in my disapproval.

The connection with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist, greatly disturbs me. And Obama's claim of him being "just a guy I know" is also unbelievable.

And finally, the meme of Obama as Messiah. This has been latent for a long time, but it has finally explicitly stated (in one case by a House Democrat) in the absurdly counterfactual phrase "Jesus was a community organizer." If a Republican had had any such images attached to him, the left and the mainstream media would be screaming "Theocracy!"

SGT Ted said...

Claiming W governed as a conservative is the wrong assumption here.

Anyone who thinks a liberal Democrat, controlled by the senior liberal Democrats, will run sound fiscal policy is smoking crack, quite frankly. F's Mae and Mac are creations of the Democrats and even W saw what was coming back in 2003; McCain was right about them too in 2005. Obama will pile Universal healthcare on top of this. And Republicans are the problem? Who controls the House now? Just how good of a job are they doing?

I'd say it's a distinct LACK of conservative governing that is the problem. That along with the oft asserted but unproven claim that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. According to whom? Al Gore? Certainly not according to Al Quaeda, you know, the terrorists who declared Iraq as their central front.

Anonymous said...

The Iraqi invasion never "turned out to be a bad idea" and to expect anyone who supported it to admit they were wrong is wishful thinking. The initial tactics were wrong and many people needlessly died. But the long term benefits to world security are already becoming clear. I urge you to check yourself on this and keep an open mind.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see an Obama supporter that isn't a Kool-Aid drinker.

Obama is flawed but if you believe in a bigger government that tries to help you like a friend and judges who will rule with their heart ....then Obama is your guy.

If you think government should act like an impartial umpire and judges should rule based on the Constitution, then you should vote for the other guy.

@nooil4pacifists said...

I understand you have particular problems with John McCain. Like most conservatives, so do I. So my question: ignoring, for a moment, the candidate, what party policies/platform would it take to convince you to vote Republican?

jeff said...

I agree with SGT Ted. I WISH the Republicans had governed as republicans. It was that reason that I voted against the party in 2006. I really wish we had tested the conservative theories the last 8 years, but instead they governed like democrats. The only reason I voted for Bush the last couple of times is the alternative was worse.

Anonymous said...

You haven't talked enough about "Reverend" Wright.

It shows HORRIBLE judgment for Obama to have sat in that "church" for 1000 Sundays and listened to the GODAWFUL man spew. You know as well as I do that Obama was laughing and cheering and whooping it up like every other person in that congregation, eating that slime up. It makes me want to vomit.

And to expose his children of tender years to that LUNATIC is unforgivable. I'd put it into the category of child abuse.

As for #12, inexperience, the fact is that Obama has not accomplished anything in his whole life, with the exception of being a part-time law school instructor and a few years in the IL state senate. The only actual exective experience he has is "running" the Annenberg Challenge, and all he did there was give $100,000,000 to radical academics; have the schools in Chicago benefited from any of that?

I lived in Chicago 1994-2001 and the answer is no.

And the list of Obama lies/flip-flops is immense. Google it and you can find at least 30. Does no one care that he just says anything at any time without regard to what he said before, sometimes just the WEEK before? No one? How can you fall for this hokum?

If Obama is elected, it will be a complete disaster. We will be fondly recalling the competence of Jimmy Carter before 2012 rolls around.

Anonymous said...

So... If Obama hasn't "lost" you, why write a 3-part piece called "How Obama Lost Me?" All that typing was wasted... Wouldn't your time be better spent writing short fiction, or something?

Anonymous said...

Most of the items on this list fault Obama for not playing the political game perfectly. It's a strange thing to fixate on. Yes, successful presidents need to be good at playing politics. But Obama has been no slouch in that department. Twenty months ago he had no national profile; today he's raised more money than any candidate in history, built the largest campaign organization, defeated the biggest name in his party, and leads in the polls against a war hero who's been a national figure for decades. And he's done this as a black man with a Kenyan name. If it takes more than that to win your respect, your standards are awfully high.

Unknown said...

I think you have put forth a compelling list of items that make you question the position Obama is now in. Many of us on the other side of the ticket were questioning our party nominee early on. As the campaign has dragged on and we now have a true conservative on the bottom of the ticket, our enthusiasm has increased. We had no where but up to go. You guys started on a high and only had a drop off left.

Thanks for the great read.

Simon said...

Richard, with great respect, your comment that "[f]or eight years the Republicans have had a chance to test their theories against reality" assumes that the Bush administration has enacted "Republican" or "conservative" theories, and those theories have played out to the present reality. I see very little in the administration's record to support that assumption. Tax cuts, yes - but tax cuts alone were never the whole program, a fortiori when they weren't accompanied by spending cuts. Indeed, the administration has been characterized by even more spending, even more regulation (SarbOx, for example), even more federal entitlements (Medicare Part D, for example) even more federal intrusion into (as Justice Rehnquist put it in the now-furloughed National League of Cities v. Usery) "the States' freedom to structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental functions," and a foreign policy that may be many things but is by no means distinctively conservative (indeed, wilsonian internationalism comes closer to the mark). I think that most conservative observers would have to say that this administration has not generally "test[ed] their [conservatives'] theories against reality. In some areas they tried but failed (social security, for example - and, ironically enough, reforming Fannie & Freddie, which was deep six'd by the Democrats) and in other areas, not so much with the trying.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the experience question, I've been taught and have also observed that they only good predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

That being said, Obama seems to have spent his career leaving as few tracks as possible to avoid having a record while still being in politics. So I will make a bold and unfalsifiable prediction; if he had stayed in the senate for another 4 years, he would have been "Present" but not much else.

Unknown said...

It's one thing to prefer Obama because he's a Democrat. It's another entirely to be naive about what Illinois Democrats are like.

I wouldn't want an Illinois politician of any stripe -- certainly not a Chicago one -- anywhere near the Oval Office.

That's from a too-long sojourner in this madhouse called Cook County...

Eowyn said...

McCain lost and found is up-- thanks for the encouragement.