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Obama’s Audacity – Beyond Partisanship

First let’s enjoy the latest high minded Obama campaign ad, and an article about it from the Wall Street Journal:

Obama Questions McCain’s ‘Honor’

September 15, 2008

Nick Timiraos reports from Chicago on the presidential race.

Barack Obama often goes out of his way to laud John McCain as an “honorable” man. His campaign, however, is trying to press the point that the McCain campaign as anything but.

“What’s happened to John McCain?” says an announcer in a new ad the Obama campaign released Monday. The ad, entitled “Honor,” begins with a shot of John McCain saying, “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” with the words “The old John McCain” on the screen. It then cuts to a series of media criticisms, which alternately calls John McCain’s ads the “sleaziest ads ever” and “truly vile.”

The campaign has argued for months that McCain represents another President Bush term, and the ad comes as running mate Joe Biden delivers a speech on Monday tying Bush’s political tactics to McCain’s. “The campaign a person runs says everything about the way they’ll govern,” Biden is to say, according to prepared remarks. “John McCain has decided to bet the house on the politics perfected by Karl Rove.” …

This line of attack isn’t new for Team Obama. Earlier this year it accused McCain of taking the “low road,” and during the Democratic primary, faced with a barrage of attacks from Hillary Clinton, Obama accused Clinton of employing a “kitchen sink” strategy…

Another ad running Monday challenged McCain’s reform credentials by pointing to the lobbyists working for his campaign. “His campaign is run by lobbyists. Now we find out his White House will be lobbyist-run too,” a narrator says in the ad, which responds to a Time magazine report that the McCain campaign has tapped Bill Timmons, a registered lobbyist, to head up its White House transition.

Obama’s advisers have also jabbed at Sarah Palin for not taking more questions from voters or the press. “I think the positive thing was that she finally submitted to an interview,” strategist David Axelrod told a gaggle of reporters on Saturday. “I look forward to her standing right here where I am with all of you guys.”

Now let’s turn to Mr. Obama’s second autobiography, The Audacity Of Hope – Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream, pp 11-2:

I REMEMBER January 4, 2005—the day that I and a third of the Senate were sworn in as members of the 109th Congress—as a beautiful blur. The sun was bright, the air unseasonably warm. From Illinois, Hawaii, London, and Kenya, my family and friends crowded into the Senate visitors’ gallery to cheer as my new colleagues and I stood beside the marble dais and raised our right hands to take the oath of office. In the Old Senate Chamber, I joined my wife, Michelle, and our two daughters for a reenactment of the ceremony and picture-taking with Vice President Cheney (true to form, then six¬year-old Malia demurely shook the vice president’s hand, while then three-year-old Sasha decided instead to slap palms with the man before twirling around to wave for the cameras). Afterward, I watched the girls skip down the east Capitol steps, their pink and red dresses lifting gently in the air, the Supreme Court’s white columns a majestic backdrop for their games. Michelle and I took their hands, and together the four of us walked to the Library of Congress, where we met a few hundred well-wishers who had traveled in for the day, and spent the next several hours in a steady stream of handshakes, hugs, photographs, and autographs.

A day of smiles and thanks, of decorum and pageantry—that’s how it must have seemed to the Capitol’s visitors. But if all of Washington was on its best behavior that day, collectively pausing to affirm the continuity of our democracy, there remained a certain static in the air, an awareness that the mood would not last. After the family and friends went home, after the receptions ended and the sun slid behind winter’s gray shroud, what would linger over the city was the certainty of a single, seemingly inalterable fact: The country was divided, and so Washington was divided, more divided politically than at any time since before World War II.

Both the presidential election and various statistical measures appeared to bear out the conventional wisdom. Across the spectrum of issues, Americans disagreed: on Iraq, taxes, abortion, guns, the Ten Commandments, gay marriage, immigration, trade, education policy, environmental regulation, the size of government, and the role of the courts. Not only did we disagree, but we disagreed vehemently, with partisans on each side of the divide unrestrained in the vitriol they hurled at opponents. We disagreed on the scope of our disagreements, the nature of our disagreements, and the reasons for our disagreements. Everything was contestable, whether it was the cause of climate change or the fact of climate change, the size of the deficit or the culprits to blame for the deficit.

For me, none of this was entirely surprising. From a distance, I had followed the escalating ferocity of Washington’s political battles: Iran-Contra and Ollie North, the Bork nomination and Willie Horton, Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, the Clinton election and the Gingrich Revolution, Whitewater and the Starr investigation, the government shutdown and impeachment, dangling chads and Bush v. Gore. With the rest of the public, I had watched campaign culture metastasize throughout the body politic, as an entire industry of insult—both perpetual and somehow profitable— emerged to dominate cable television, talk radio, and the New York Times best-seller list.

And for eight years in the Illinois legislature, I had gotten some taste of how the game had come to be played. By the time I arrived in Springfield in 1997, the Illinois Senate’s Republican majority had adopted the same rules that Speaker Gingrich was then using to maintain absolute control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Without the capacity to get even the most modest amendment debated, much less passed, Democrats would shout and holler and fulminate, and then stand by helplessly as Republicans passed large corporate tax breaks, stuck it to labor, or slashed social services. Over time, an implacable anger spread through the Democratic Caucus, and my colleagues would carefully record every slight and abuse meted out by the GOP. Six years later, Democrats took control, and Republicans fared no better. Some of the older veterans would wistfully recall the days when Republicans and Democrats met at night for dinner, hashing out a compromise over steaks and cigars. But even among these old bulls, such fond memories rapidly dimmed the first time the other side’s political operatives selected them as targets, flooding their districts with mail accusing them of malfeasance, corruption, incompetence, and moral turpitude.

I don’t claim to have been a passive bystander in all this. I understood politics as a full-contact sport, and minded neither the sharp elbows nor the occasional blind-side hit. But occupying as I did an ironclad Democratic district, I was spared the worst of Republican invective. Occasionally, I would partner up with even my most conservative colleagues to work on a piece of legislation, and over a poker game or a beer we might conclude that we had more in common than we publicly cared to admit. Which perhaps explains why, throughout my years in Springfield, I had clung to the notion that politics could be different, and that the voters wanted something different; that they were tired of distortion, name-calling, and sound-bite solutions to complicated problems; that if I could reach those voters directly, frame the issues as I felt them, explain the choices in as truthful a fashion as I knew how, then the people’s instincts for fair play and common sense would bring them around. If enough of us took that risk, I thought, not only the country’s politics but the country’s policies would change for the better.

How does these fine words compare to the Obama campaign of today?

Anyone?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, September 15th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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