Obama's Iowa Ad and the Samantha Power Bar Fight?

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 10:05

UPDATE: Obama doesn't mention he's a Democrat in this ad.

Remember this?

"We need to recognize, because Judge Alito will be confirmed, that, if we're going to oppose a nominee, that we've got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake," Mr. Obama said.

"There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers," he told ABC's This Week.

Or this?

"I don't think in ideological terms. I never have," Obama said, continuing on the healthcare theme. "Everybody who supports single-payer healthcare says, `Look at all this money we would be saving from insurance and paperwork.' That represents 1 million, 2 million, 3 million jobs of people who are working at Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser or other places. What are we doing with them? Where are we employing them?"

Or this?

If President Bush vetoes an Iraq war spending bill as promised, Congress quickly will provide the money without the withdrawal timeline the White House objects to because no lawmaker "wants to play chicken with our troops," Sen. Barack Obama said Sunday.

Or this?

One good test as to whether folks are doing interesting work is, Can they surprise me? And increasingly, when I read Daily Kos, it doesn't surprise me. It's all just exactly what I would expect."

Chris noted that the blogosphere can still drive the conversation, with the lobbyist fracas showing up as a meaningful moment.  I don't know if that was an accident of the forum or something deeper, but the Obama and Edwards campaign immediately jumped on it.  The Obama campaign also began working a bit more closely with the bloggers.  Their relationship with the political blogs has been pretty bad up until now, mostly one of disdain.  Apparently, there was an off the record meeting at YearlyKos, which is a good first step.

Matt Stoller :: Obama's Iowa Ad and the Samantha Power Bar Fight?
The relationship is developing further, with foreign policy elite community members like Americablog's AJ Rosmiller praising the Obama campaign's Samantha Powers.  If there's a 'Bar Fight Primary' moment, it is this split between younger and more progressive foreign policy elites and the older Brookings-AEI Holbrooke types.  This is certainly of deep concern to Glenn Greenwald, and hinges off the entire 'Very Serious People' frame. 

But I still don't see it, though I'd like to.  It looks to me like Obama is torn between a quiet and elitist top down liberal tradition and a mostly corrupt insider tradition.  Watch the ad above and tell me it's any different from this one, from Jon Corzine.  This is cookie cutter media consulting crap from David Axelrod, who will make his millions harvesting money from Obama's donors in a clear and obvious conflict of interest.  Because of this poor quality, TV ads are going to be much less significant this cycle, and the millions that the front-runners have will not matter that much.

Obama is still an elite candidate, but his significant moment last week came from his criticisms of lobbyists, and he has been moving into the more economically populist model of rhetoric.  I'm more interested in the knife-fight at the foreign policy elite level, which is spilling out into the blogs.  That's very intriguing.

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I dunno (0.00 / 0)
but I thought that was a pretty good ad. The Powers article was a frontal assault on the Washington foreign policy establishment...no?

I am not as smart as Matt, but I can see a change in the direction of the Obama camp. But I digress.

Any ad that has the sense to get out of the way of (0.00 / 0)
Obama's oratory skills is going to come off as at least decent. He's just that good as a speaker.
  The ad, however, sorta seems to have kind of a weird subtext as far as race is concerned. It seems to gesture towards the concern that a black man can't win the general, but in kind of a creepily indirect manner.
  Which is not the kind  of confidence you'd like to see his team expressing. And "What if..." is sorta lukewarm as a tag.


[ Parent ]
I didn't (0.00 / 0)
see these racial undertones in the add.  Could you be more specific? 

I also didn't see the "what if" phrasing as weak.  It clearly points to the fact that the current political climate shaped by the 50% +1 strategy has no hope or unity.  Insofar as Obama has identified hope and unity as his meme, it works very well.  As a partisan Democrat, I don't happen to like that meme and I wish he'd be willing to say "let's aim for unity, but not when it requires caving in on progressive values," but that doesn't mean it's ineffective.

[ Parent ]
He was right on Alito (0.00 / 0)
Conservatives have a two-decade head start on us in defining what a "good judge" is, and they own the rhetorical terrain of judicial nomination fights.  Until we start educating the public as to how destructive these judges can be and have been -- and not just on abortion -- we're not going to win in the court of public opinion.

Unfortunately, we've made these confirmation hearings into kabuki theater, where the goal is for a "gotcha!" moment.  The Judiciary Dems failed us on both fights, didn't use the hearings to educate the public, and were an embarrassment.

I can confirm that there was an off-the-record meeting at YearlyKos, but I was unable to attend.

Regardless of whether or not Alito would eventually be confirmed (4.00 / 2)
There is no excuse for how the Democrats caved on Alito.  They let him sail through the nomination procedure, and barely put up a fight against him. 

[ Parent ]
And I'm not sure (4.00 / 1)
That DKos surprises me very much anymore either. Tends to be variations on a theme.

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

It surprised me today (0.00 / 0)
I saw a complaint about regal cinemas arresting a teenager for a 20 second video clip from her cellphone.

The there were quite a few comments along the lines of "dirty terrorist pot smoking hippie teens need to be taught a lesson"

There is a clear generation gap between large parts of kos and the Obama supporters I think.

[ Parent ]
I should have been more specific (0.00 / 0)
It doesn't surprise me positively anymore. All the people ready to lock Michael Vick up for life before he'd even been indicted but turn around and scream about Gitmo till they're blue in the face? Ridiculous.

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

[ Parent ]
Elitist? (0.00 / 0)
He was right.  The fight for Alito was a public relations battle that was lost when the Democratic Leadership failed to make it a constituent values test.

He was right. We need less people thinking in strictly ideological terms. We DO need to think about and PLAN what will happen to Private Insurance and HMO employees and not just ramshackle through single payer health care.

He was right. The Troops did need the funding, and that we need to find other ways to end the war without timelines.

He was right. Daily Kos isn't suprising him because Daily Kos has been so effective that it is now Mainstream Thought.

Your tone is enough to make anyone defensive... You used elite or elitist over and over again. You have to run a campaign, and campaigns mean ads... I have found all of Obama's pretty emotionally compelling so far.

Is the air thin up there on your high horse?

You're Spinning So Hard You're Making Me Dizzy! (4.00 / 2)
He was right. We need less people thinking in strictly ideological terms. We DO need to think about and PLAN what will happen to Private Insurance and HMO employees and not just ramshackle through single payer health care.

Obama was using the insurance industry employees as a reason to oppose single-payer, which is the only viable way to acheive universal health care.

That's not at all the same as committing to single payer, and then figuring out how to deal with the transition problems.

And it's very ideological.  But the corporatist ideology is just one that Obama would rather not be identified with.

"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 ]
What Will Become of Insurance Company Employees? (0.00 / 0)
Claims work for Medicare is outsourced, and I assume all the claims and other paperwork would be outsourced for any single-payer universal health insurance plan. This is where the new jobs would be for those who are laid off.

This is rather obvious, and I'm always surprised when "all the millions of poor insurance company employees who'll lose their jobs" is offered as a rationale to stick with the horrible system we have now.

[ Parent ]
It's Samantha Power (4.00 / 2)
Not Powers, and unfortunately Obama hasn't followed her lead (or that of Edwards's) and rejected the GWOT frame.

As for Obama's opposing the Foreign Policy establishment--I don't see it.

Or if he is, on some issues he's more hawkish that the establishment, as his comments on Pakistan attest. On the other hand, he's walked back those comments to the point that they're no longer operative, so it's hard to tell exactly where he stands.

no (0.00 / 0)
He hasn't "walked back" on his pledge to take out al-Qaeda at all. Someone just wrote a diary on MyDD framing it (rather incorrectly) in that way.

And the challenging the foreign policy establishment isn't necessarily about being more or less hawkish than they are--it's about challenging the long-cherished assumptions that have led to bad policy (such as the rationale for invading Iraq or the rationale for not taking out bin Laden within Pakistan). I hope Obama frames this as an outsider struggle against the Washington elite, because that's a conversation we obviously need to have about foreign policy just as much as government reform.

[ Parent ]
Wrong (0.00 / 0)
He gave a Look-How-Big-My-Gun speech in which he said that he would disregard Pakistan's sovereignty if need be to go after terrorist suspects with missiles, bombs, or perhaps troops. "Is Musharraf doesn't act, we will." His aides used this speech to promote Obama's "toughness" on AQ.

Since then:

Obama's comments have sparked anti-American flag burning demonstrations in Pakistan, and protests by Pakistanis here in the U.S.

Obama's chief foreign policy advisor (not Samantha Power) has claimed that Obama will "respect" Pakistan's sovereignty.

Obama has said he'll "work with" Musharraf and called him an important ally.

Obama has changed his "if he won't act, we will" formulation to "if he can't act, we will"--a change that makes all the different in the world

Obama has said he doesn't know enough about Bush's policy on Pakistan to criticize it--this after his chief foreign policy advistor claimed that his comments on Pakistan were meant as a rebuke to Bush.

Clearly Obama has realized that his comments were overly belligerent and has attemped to soften them.

[ Parent ]
have it any way you like (0.00 / 0)
I can tell you what the new campaign line will be:

"Of course we prefer to work with Pakistan, but if for some reason they will not, we will certainly do whatever it takes to make Americans safe."

If you want to spin it as "dialing back" or a "mulligan," that's your prerogative as an Edwards supporter. There's no way you can claim that he back-tracked so far that it made his previous statements irrelevant. That's just plain wrong, and I would assume you at least realize that.

[ Parent ]
Greenwald (0.00 / 0)
everyone should read that Glenn Greenwald article that's linked to in the post. It's an extremely interesting indictment of the foreign policy elite. Also, he'll be putting up an interview with O'Hanlon, one of the guys from Brookings who wrote that article in the New York Times calling for another 6-month "wait and see" period... should be a good one

The Subtext of This Post (4.00 / 3)
as I read it is that Obama is finally realizing that he needs progressive support--from the netroots and elsewhere--more than his arrogance of hope originally allowed him to realize.

It's a good thing that it's opening up a debate over foreign policy assumptions, but I agree that Obama hasn't really changed his stripes.  He used the netroots to help him win the Senate primary and get a place on the national stage.  Since then, he has had little use for us.  Now, he realizes he has miscalculated, and he's not going to get past Clinton without our help.  But that doesn't really mean a whole lot that you can take to the bank.

The real hope here that I see is that Obama will inspire supporters who will actually want to hold him to his most inspiring promises.

"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

Just read the Power memo (4.00 / 1)
Come on, folks. This is recycled conventional wisdom, full of statements that are just plain false. She says:
* The United States has not talked directly to Iran at a high level, and they have continued to build their nuclear weapons program, wreak havoc in Iraq, and support terror. [Guess she reads only Michael Gordon in the NYT. There's no credible evidence that Iran is "wreaking havoc" in Iraq and little that their nuke program is offensive.]

* The United States has not talked directly to Syria at a high level, and they have continued to meddle in Lebanon and support terror. [Could some people in Washington please talk to some Lebanese who aren't on our payroll? Lebanon is finding its feet as a unified country instead of a mess of sectarian communities and the US is doing everything it can to maintain existing divides so it can blame Syria. Link]

I don't believe this is a fight over foreign policy orthodoxy. It is a generational pissing match: a post-Cold War set of US imperialists want to take over from the old Serious Guys.

Same end -- world domination. None of them give a damn about the actual interests of actual Americans to live in peace and prosperity. And all of them refrain from declaring independence of Israel.

Can it happen here?


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