Obama: "By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics"

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Sep 20, 2007 at 16:59

Here's Obama on why he didn't vote on this.

The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements. This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. It's precisely this kind of political game-playing that makes most Americans cynical about Washington's ability to solve America's problems. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared.

All of us respect the service of General Petraeus and all of our brave men and women in uniform. The way to honor that service is to give them a mission that is responsible, not to vote on amendments like the Cornyn amendment while we continue to pursue the wrong policy in Iraq.

So he's willing to vote for the Boxer amendment condemning speech but not the Cornyn amendment, because one is empty politics and the other isn't?


He doesn't even have the guts to act like a Republican.  Wow, Jim Margolis is awful.

UPDATE: Actually, here's a shout-out to the crappy Obama advisor circle, David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Jim Margolis, Devorah Adler, and the whole gang out there.  You suck!

Matt Stoller :: Obama: "By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics"

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My Politics Is Emptier Than Your Politics! (0.00 / 0)
I'm beginning to think that Obama is downright delusional.

This is McCarthyism, pure and simple.  To call it "empty politics" is to give it enormous cover.

"Empty politics" is kissing babies.

This isn't empty, it's full of venom.

It's not just that Obama runs from a fight.  He doesn't even know what a fight is.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

McCarthyism? (4.00 / 1)

I used to take you seriously, Rosenberg.  But McCarthyism?  Is MoveOn and the editors of the NY Times being dragged into the Senate, investigated, or imprisoned?

If not, please...you do yourself and the people who's lives were ruined a pretty big injustice by invoking such a flaccid analogy.

[ Parent ]
Using The Power of The US Senate To Squelch Dissent (4.00 / 2)
That was Joe McCarthy's modus operandi.

Using ad hominem attacks to evade substantive debate.  That, too.

Using jingoism in drag as patriotism to demonize those who question the urge toward imperialism, and demand a true accounting.  Three for three.

Has it cost anyone their job?  Sure it has.  Not this particular vote all by itself.  But look at the whole pattern of how BushCo operates.  Far more people's lives have been destroyed than McCarthy ever dreamed of.  And how, exactly, does one separate this particular vote from the whole long, sorry history of Bush/Cheney/Rove?  Answer: You don't.  It's all part of the same package.

If you look at what has happened with Ward Churchill, Norman Finklestein and Erwin Chimnerinski (even though the last has now been reversed), it's quite obvious that we are living in a neo-Marthyite era.  Many more lower-profile cases exist, and even more cases where people have censored themselves in order to survive.

So when the Senate acts as it just has, it is giving aid and comfort to a plague that is already upon the land.  You cannot judge their act in isolation.  You must judge it in context.  And in that context, I absolutely stand behind what I said.  It is McCarthyism, plain and simple.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I mean... (0.00 / 0)
if we're gonna make absurd comparisons, why stop with McCarythism?

Why not call this America's Kristallnacht?

This was a political stunt.  The sad thing is watching intelligent people turn themselves into pretzels and Dems eat their own over something so stupid and trivial.  This isn't even on the level of a flag-burning amendment; at least that's an actual amendment that changes law

[ Parent ]
Kristallnacht May Be Coming Soon (0.00 / 0)
"Islamofascism Awareness Week" is just around the corner!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
You can belittle it now, but... (4.00 / 7)
No, nobody was arrested, imprisoned or physically harmed.

But now every time MoveOn acts, a right-winger will say it's an action by a group that was condemned by the US Senate.  Every time MoveOn runs an ad -- many of which have been effective in the past -- against a candidate, a right-winger will say it's an ad by a group that was condemned by the US Senate.  Every time MoveOn raises money or supports a candidate, that candidate will have to explain why they take money from a group condemned by the US Senate.

And how many minutes do you think we'll have to wait before "mainstream media" uses the same label for MoveOn?

McCarthyism reached a point where it had a more sinister impact on people's everyday lives...but this is already at a point where association becomes a crime in the public eye.  Guilt by association is something worth worrying about.

And now that this tactic has worked once, what's to stop the bullies in the Senate minority from targeting every protest, columnist and ad buy?

So don't belittle the importance of today's cowardice and capitulation.

[ Parent ]
More than media, more than money. (0.00 / 0)
At last, somebody that knows the real extent of the damage. The Democrats have effectively crippled their best ally, the ones who gave them their Senate majority.

When I made the mistake of spending so many hours calling from MoveOn on behalf of craven scum like Casey, Tester, McKaskill, and Webb, I was getting targeted Dem voters out to the polls. Most were enthusiastic and appreciative of being reminded about the urgency of this election, and how turning over the balance of power in Congress was the only way to stop Bush.

In the next election, if MoveOn makes the mistake of working their asses off for Dems again, they won't get such a welcome from callees, because they're talking to an outfit that the Democratic Senate itself condemned. I don't care if you call it McCarthyism or something else. What matters is that it was the most idiotic act of political self-destruction I've ever seen. It will be interesting to watch next November as these same damn fools try to get out the vote by themselves. Nader was right and I owe him a big apology.

[ Parent ]
Agreed (4.00 / 2)
At least the Republicans have the good sense to pander to their base. Democrats never seem to miss an opportunity to spit on their own base.

The Democratic Party needs to be overhauled by the progressive movement, or replaced entirely.

[ Parent ]
Who's Jim Manley? (0.00 / 0)
Obama's mouthpiece?

ZZZZZzzzzz (4.00 / 1)
Wake me up when the age of outrage is over. Suddenly I'm regretting not devoting more of my life to watching baseball games and fishing.

I am an Obama Supporter, (4.00 / 1)
and have had issues with his staff, for a while.

We all can agree that Reid never should have allowed this bullshit on the floor, in the first place.  It was a total waste of time.  Remember the flag burning?

Next, Obama is right in premise of his statement.  But should have just not voted for neither and made a statement that is bullshit.  Or voted down both.

Anyway, can we get back to talking about Iraq?  Moveon.org has made their point.

Matt YOU ARE THE BEST! (0.00 / 0)
You are a shinning star for us progressives...The update shout-out was spectacular....Thank you!

Wuss (0.00 / 0)
People who are somewhat or completely homophobic, often say Edwards is a wuss. I think this is partly because of the sound of his voice, and partly because his wife speaks more bluntly.

But to me, the real mark of a wuss is cowardice in his actions, particularly when it comes to non-physical courage (i.e. emotional courage).

And by that criterion, Obama and Clinton are major wusses compared to Edwards. (And by the same token, Gravel has far more cojones than any of the above).

Now rational people can argue about practicality, about the value of compromise. And toward that end, Obama and Clinton are much more practical than Edwards, Biden, Kucinich, Gravel, etc. But it is self-deceiving to think of Obama as courageous or innovative or idealistic. He is not yet as well-known as Hillary as a triangulating politician. But given his outsized ambition, give him another 10 years in the Senate and I think he has the intelligence to be learn how to be just as well known as a fake.

Some perspective (4.00 / 5)
Obama, the first Black man with an actual shot at being President of the United States, is accused of being an American-hating Muslim terrorist in many places across this country. That is what he is up against. But people on this blog don't consider that at all before completely blasting him. There is simply no perspective in your analysis. How on earth is a vote on a ridiculous advertisement considered more important than the vote to actually authorize this war in the first place?

Hillary can skate by for betraying us when it *really* mattered, because she votes against the condemnation of MoveOn when it had no chance of being defeated anyway?

I'm seriously at a loss.

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.

This vote was not about a silly advertisement (0.00 / 0)
It was a vote about whether citizens should have a say in our Democratic process.

The U.S. Senate just said that the opinions of generals is more important the opinions of U.S. citizens.

The little people should just shut up.

You really think that is unimportant?

[ Parent ]
It's stuff like this that makes me almost want to listen to Andrew Keen (0.00 / 0)
Okay, so you are totally making the wrong argument when you say The U.S. Senate just said that the opinions of generals is more important the opinions of U.S. citizens.

You know why?  Because the opinion of a general is more important than the average citizen's opinion on this issue.  Sorry, but experts are worth more.  Just like a doctor's opinion is better than yours on a course of treatment, and we should trust biologists more than pastors about evolution.

That rhetorical issue aside, I still disagree with your main point.  This vote wasn't some special legislative synecdoche, it was a bunch of idiots grandstanding about a stupid ad, and in the process trying to score political points against Move-On.org.  And that's a bad thing, but it's not apocalyptic, and it's not about the Constitution, our form of government or democracy.

[ Parent ]
Petraeus Is No Expert (0.00 / 0)
"...Because the opinion of a general is more important than the average citizen's opinion on this issue.  Sorry, but experts are worth more."

General Petraeus is not an expert. He is a shill. There is a world of difference. Anyone who has been following the war knows that the vast majority of military experts disagrees with Petraeus on just about every point. Unfortunately, Bush has fired everyone who disagrees with him, and promoted the few wingnuts who either agree with Bush or who at least are willing to shill for brownie points.

Petraeus is no expert. He merely wears the mask of an expert.

Obama can't possibly be dense enough to not see through the Petraeus show. I used to be an Obama supporter, but his recent behavior on this and several other issues has blown my mind. He has lost my good faith.

[ Parent ]
It really seems to me, Jennifer (0.00 / 0)
that you should either diclose that you are in Obama's employ every time you comment on Obama related issues or abstain entirely.
  I don't doubt that you're sincerely well-intentioned, but I also can't see that it's  irrelevant information.

[ Parent ]
A) I am not in Obama's employ (0.00 / 0)
B) the organization I work for is displayed prominently in my profile.

Talk about McCarthyism.

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.

[ Parent ]
this vote was a symptom of Obama's problem (0.00 / 0)
The Shout Out was spot on, he's not in it for the movement, he's in it for himself.

Hillary sucks on Iraq, but she didn't help neuter every future action by the best thing the *actual* progressive movement has going for us.

Hillary didn't score any points today, but Obama lost a great deal. Now they both suck.

On twitter: @BobBrigham

[ Parent ]
Today's vote (4.00 / 3)
I think all senator's democrats should have just plain refused to vote on this grand standing by the republicans.

I think Reid should have never let this vote come to the floor.

I am as anti-war as anybody, but as a former military officer and combat veteran of Vietnam, I found it appaling to headline the AD as General Betryus. It is plain stupid to take a shot at the military commander in Iraq.

I am sensitive to this because we veteran's of Vietnam were not treated to kindly by the anti war left when we returned home from vietnam.

Paul were you a veteran, then don't be so quick to condem us for our service and abuse that occurred a generation ago.

I was against the AUF from the get go and have taken Clinto to task over her vote, yet people here give her a free ride.

Obama was right not to participate in this charade.

[ Parent ]
Petraeus Is Not What He Appears To Be (0.00 / 0)
I am humbled by your military service. Welcome home.

As for Petraeus, he has by choice, injected himself into the political sphere, and is now playing political mind games -- exactly the kind of thing a military general is never supposed to do.

He chose to present to our United States congress a report which was written by Bush's political men, under the guise that it was an objective, unbiased, military analysis. He's a shill.

He does a great disservice to the men and women in the service of our country. He has subverted his oath. He is not loyal to the constitution or to our nation. Petraeus' true loyalty is with Bush, and his own political avarice. Those who know him have reported that he sees himself as the next Eisenhower. He thinks he can run for President himself in four years.

Petreaus does a great disservice to the loyal men and women in our armed service, and it's foolish to pretend otherwise. It does our servicemen and service women a great disservice to treat Petreaus as if he is a loyal soldier.

[ Parent ]
So there are 60,000 people today (4.00 / 1)
In the tiny town of Jena, La., standing up for six Black kids who are facing life in prison for a schoolyard fight. And you're telling me that an email list is the best thing the progressive movement has going for it?

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.

[ Parent ]
wow (0.00 / 0)
Yes, that's exactly what he said.

[ Parent ]
woah (0.00 / 0)
I almost had to troll-rate my wife. That's hard core.

[ Parent ]
yeah, that makes a lot of sense. (4.00 / 1)
Considering that Petraeus and Hillary are reading from the identical playbook--"Victory is just around the corner, just look at Anbar." It doesn't even occur to the American political elite, which is too stupid to know what the difference between a Sunni and a Shia is, to ask what has happened in Shia Iraq (Iraqi Shiites have turned completely on the United States in the past year).

Spotlighting an opportunistic, temporary change of heart by 20% of Iraq's population even as 60% have officially turned on the United States in favor of Iran is stunningly opportunistic and dishonest even by Clinton standards.

Unfortunately, MoveOn was either too stupid or too cowardly to point out the real enablers of the Petraeus Report. Petraeus has to have a poker face in all of this because *it's his job*, regardless of his all but certain partisanship, and his testimony was no surprise to anyone. Meanwhile, MoveOn moronically took out ads wondering aloud if Petraeus was a traitor. I say moronically because regardless of what you think of Petraeus' affiliations and loyalties, it's simply absurd for a political organization to expect to discredit a fairly "new" general in Iraq. Truth telling is not useful if it is not done credibly!!

Clinton, however, talked down the war to hurt Bush until she felt reasonably certain of inheriting it. Now her brain trust is deluging op-ed pages and the speaking circuit with Anbar-Awakening, victory-is-nigh bullshit. She laid the groundwork for this. Is she getting any heat for it? Of course not.

So why should I give a shit if Hillary is a "fighter" for The MovementTM on a very inconvenient piece of symbolism because MoveOn was politically stupid--BEFORE accounting for what an enabler Hillary has been of all this?

Get some goddamn perspective, people... Jesus Christ..

[ Parent ]
but, but, (0.00 / 0)
Hillary is a *fighter*


[ Parent ]
A little perspective (4.00 / 3)
Let's see, who am I irritated at and in what order...

First, Bush, for getting us into this fracking mess in the first place.

Second: The obstructionist, troop-hating Republicans in the Senate, for voting against Webb's dwell time amendment. May the fleas of a thousand camels (each) forever infest their armpits. Or at least, may a thousand ads be run in their states explaining what they've done here.

Third, Clinton and Edwards for enabling Bush when he most needed it.

Fourth, Harry Reid for a) letting the stupid MoveOn thing get anywhere near the floor and b) letting the Rs off the hook on the Webb amendment.

Fifth (yes, fifth!) MoveOn for running the Petraeus ad, which I thought was atrociously bad tactics. I've liked everything they've been doing so far up until this but for godsakes, don't attack the #(*$& general. Lookit the polling on this people. The public trusts the military more than Bush, the Ds, the Rs or anyone on Iraq. I'm not critiquing MoveOn's heart, which I know is in the right place, I'm critiquing their tactics, which were dumb, so don't accuse me of being a right-wing talking points sputterer. That is not a helpful way to discuss strategy, ok?

The fact is, Petraeus isn't the one doing the betraying here. Bush and his enablers in the Senate are. They are where our fire should be focused.

Maybe I could put Obama down here at sixth, but actually you know what, I don't in fact care, because I have plenty of other targets for my ire in 1-5 again. He thought this was a ridiculous vote and he said so, and that is something I agree with. And I'm not THAT mad at MoveOn clearly since I kicked them some coin for the other parts of the Betrayal campaign, which I fully support.

[Full disclosure, I run a voter file project in California and Vote Hope is a client of mine.]

this isn't about the past (0.00 / 0)
This is about the playing in the media of every future move by the most critical progressive movement organization in the land.

Obama fucked up.

On twitter: @BobBrigham

[ Parent ]
so (0.00 / 0)
So by "Obama fucked up" you mean "Harry Reid fucked up."

[ Parent ]
The only diary worth reading about this is by Geekesque (4.00 / 2)
You Idiots

And the democrats are for allowing this bullshit on the floor, and many for writing about this worthless drivel.  If we should be angry with anyone it should be Harry Reid for allowing this on the floor and diverting away from the issues of Iraq, period.

Far too shrill... (0.00 / 0)
...and self-righteous in tone for my taste.

[ Parent ]
I was bored of this battle before it even happened. Aren't you? (4.00 / 6)
You know, if Obama had been a decisive vote, I might understand why everyone gives a rat's ass, but don't we all agree that this is a supremely stupid fight over a supremely stupid issue about a supremely stupid ad?  It was an annoying and dumb ad, and the opponents of it are even more annoying and dumber, but why should I care?  Why should people be voting on this crap?  Obama didn't vote FOR this crap, he chose to call a spade a spade.

So yeah, the Boxer Amendment is also empty BS, but it was DEMOCRATIC empty BS, but I would wager that if Obama had abstained from it too, on the same pretext, everyone with a problem with what did happen would be mad as hell that he didn't back the Democratic play.  But he did.

And don't tell me that Free Speech is the issue.  If a right-wing group ran a similarly lame ad against, say, Wesley Clark, and the Senate did the same damn thing it just did, only talking about the former Supreme Allied Commander, would anyone here get worked up about free speech?  No, because we'd all be well aware that freedom of speech doesn't mean that other people can't disapprove of what you say, even if those other people are the United States Senate.  It's a DUMB ISSUE which forces Democrats to defend a DUMB AD, and I'm proud of Obama for, you know, picking his battles.

Stoller bashing Obama (4.00 / 4)
I never thought I'd see the day.

I'm an Edwards supporter (4.00 / 2)
but this is kind of over the top. I am in the I don't really care column accept for the fact too many blogs are discussing this.

You can't blame the advisors. (0.00 / 0)
Obama votes for the Boxer bill - then puffs up Patraeus - and then tries to pose as someone who has character and is above the fray.

Obama is pandering.

Reid needs to be voted out of his Senate leadership (0.00 / 0)
Right now...not tomorrow.  I'm an Obama supporter and he just got a black mark for voting for the Boxer nonsense.  Both were nonsense--and Hillary confirmed the reasons she won't get a vote from me.

The Senate has no business messing with this crap.  Obama was right in his statement--but he should have applied it to both.  Both were nonsense.

And Reid needs to be voted out of his leadership role as quickly as possible.  He is an idiot.

Pathetic (0.00 / 0)
It is time to pull back the curtain and reveal these guys who envision themselves making the money David Axelrod is and attack him for nothing more than professional jealousy while hoping to rake in money from having us promote their site. This place began by being a decent idea and is quickly declining into exactly the same morass MyDD is now in.  There is a reason why you are not running a National campaign.


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