Obama: ‘Those old categories don’t work’


Further continuing the conversation that we continued here

As you know, I’ve challenged the facile use of the word "conservative." My point is, you can’t just say "I’m conservative" or "he’s not conservative" and have it mean anything. You have to explain, conservative how — in what way? Because alone, the word has had the meaning leached out of it.

Similarly, the word "liberal." This is an excellent video clip of Barack Obama fielding questions about having been judged the Senate’s "most liberal" member. He does a pretty fair job of deconstructing the term, and then goes on to the more important point: "This is the old politics. This is the stuff that we’re trying to get rid of."

He is speaking to… what? … the real split in American politics, between the old-style partisan warriors that we swing voters long ago got sick of, and those who would lead a different kind of pragmatic, results-oriented discussion of issues.


15 thoughts on “Obama: ‘Those old categories don’t work’

  1. Karen McLeod

    Precisely. Maybe then, we can get something accomplished. It seems to me that the last 20 years of politics, at the federal level at least, has been nothing but not a case of ‘let’s see what we can achieve together, but a case of ‘let’s stick it to the other side. Each side introduces bills, but not ones that the other side can tolerate, instead of doing without a few, comparatively minor things, that would at least benefit someone. Or the bills include some item that’s totally unrelated, but guaranteed to bring screams from the other side. I’m tired of this.

  2. Richard L. Wolfe

    Well Karen you had better take your Geritol because if you think that we are going to vote our way to freedom, tolerance, accomplishment, or any other liberal ring around the rosies outcome, then you are as misguided as your mentor Brad.
    The people of the United States no longer run the country. Young Obama will learn this shortly after he takes office. The transnational corporations are running the world and short of a revolution nothing is going to fundamentally change.
    You may get some form of your cherished health care but it won’t be what you envisioned and it won’t be for free.
    I promise you we will be back in four years having the exact same discussion. The conservatives will be saying that Obama’s ideas were stupid and the left will blame everything on the wicked religious right.
    It’s de jav vu all over again. Apologies for the spelling.

  3. Lee Muller

    This is just more content-free pap from Obama. He keeps telling the voters that they are unhappy and they want change, but he offers vision of what that change will be, and his silly followers don’t even stop to ask him.
    Hillary’s message is the same, but it is in the old package of hate. She has personal animosity for many Republicans, back to her days working for David Kendall to draft the impeachment case against President Nixon.
    Obama is new generation, so he lacks Hillary’s personal baggage and vitrol. He hasn’t been able to describe a single problem, much less offer a solution, but he sounds more upbeat and less threatening than The Witch.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Actually, Lee, you have no idea what you’re talking about. “Content-free” … this is THE kind of content that leaders need to be talking about, to free us from the stupid, meaningless habits of discourse that prevent us from harboring an intelligent thought about
    ANY issue, and absolutely prevent us from doing anything about it, while the “left” and the “right” wrestle in the mud and imagine that they’re accomplishing something. They’re not.

  5. Lee Muller

    Since I am not on “the Left” or “the Right” of any issue, I definitely don’t know what you are talking about.
    Why don’t you try to pick an issue and explain in detail what you think Obama or Hillary is proposing to “solve” it.
    Then, let’s post some analysis of the costs of their proposals, along with the track record of similar efforts in the past and in other countries.
    That would be more than any newspaper has done in this entire campaign.

  6. weldon VII

    Brad, when will you finally see that the “old politics” Obama’s talking about is not really partisanship, but whatever lies right of him on the traditional scale?
    He talks a good game, but he stands left of the world. Any compromise he makes would move us left toward him, make our society even more government-dependent and compromise the strength that is our life-blood.
    He has practically promised to tour the world and strike up agreements with the tsetse flies.

  7. bill

    I hate to get personal,but exactly where do you stand? Are you a member of the Misanthrope party?
    Moliere would be proud of you.
    Weldon VII,
    Obama “stands left of the world”?
    Does that put him on Mars?
    I’m sure you’d know a lot more about that than I(hope my grammar is OK,please correct me if not).
    World tours can be a good thing.Ask The Rolling Stones.

  8. Lee Muller

    I stand for a government limited to those activities “enumerated” explicitly in the Constitution. Everything else is unauthorized, and illegal. That means abolition of all tax money spent on welfare, eduation, subsidies for Ethanol or sheep ranchers, foreign aid, most so-called “infrastructure”.
    Property taxes, a relic of the plantation economy, should be abolished, or limited to just business property. Income taxes should be abolished, but certainly should be a single rate for everyone, as required by the Equal Protection clause.
    There should be no government borrowing, except in war, and then only by selling bonds to individuals, with no special tax breaks or high interest on them.

  9. weldon VII

    Yeah, Bill, as far I’m concerned, Obama might be from Mars, though his foreign policy ideas seem more Venusian.
    I guess that makes this election “War of the Worlds.”
    Or, as Edwards might say, the Americas.
    Actually, after I wrote that phrase “left of the world,” it dawned on me that you really can’t stand left of the world, but I was too lazy to divine more suitable hyperbole, so I left it.
    You got me, I guess. But something about Obama still seems a bit too orbital to me, or spaced, if you like that term better.

  10. bill

    Lee,I respectively disagree.
    Jim Jones was a Flav-R-Aid guy.I can’t see Obama being that fiscally conservative.I think he would splurge,and go with Kool-Aid.

  11. slugger

    Obama is the Pied Piper of the day. So that I am not accused of being a person that accuses Obama of being Manchurian Candidate, I only ask that you follow very closely all that he says.
    There is no way that this country can take on all the debt that would be added to the already billions of dollars we already find ourselves trying to decide how to pay.
    Promise them everything for their vote. I thought that it was illegal to pay for votes but when you deliver with all the free socialist programs it must not be against the law. Kind of like taking steroids and say it was B-12 injections.
    There comes a time that sacrifice of the working class for the good of all becomes the downfall of a country. Russia is a prime example of all the things that she has gone trough with history. Hitler tried the same thing in Germany. Are we to repeat their history here in the United States?
    Obama is not the leader coming from the burning bush to save this country. He is a stooge that has been anointed by the powers that be to do their bidding.

  12. slugger

    All of you need to read this article.
    Monday, Feb 18, 2008
    Posted on Mon, Feb. 18, 2008
    Barack Obama casts his magic spell
    Washington Post
    There’s no better path to success than getting people to buy a free commodity. Like the genius who figured out how to get people to pay for water: bottle it (Aquafina was revealed to be nothing more than reprocessed tap water) and charge more than they pay for gasoline. Or consider how Google found a way to sell dictionary nouns – boat, shoe, clock – by charging advertisers zillions to be listed whenever the word is searched.
    And now, in the most amazing trick of all, a silver-tongued freshman senator has found a way to sell hope. To get it, you need only give him your vote. Barack Obama is getting millions.
    This kind of sale is hardly new. Organized religion has been offering a similar commodity – salvation – for millennia. Which is why the Obama campaign has the feel of a religious revival with, as writer James Wolcott observed, a “salvational fervor” and “idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria.”
    “We are the hope of the future,” sayeth Obama. We can “remake this world as it should be.” Believe in me and I shall redeem not just you but your country – nay, we can become “a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest.”
    And believe they do. After eight straight victories – and two more (Hawaii and Wisconsin) almost certain to follow – Obama is near to rendering moot all the post-Super Tuesday fretting about a deadlocked convention with unelected superdelegates deciding the nominee. Unless Hillary Clinton can somehow do in Ohio and Texas on March 4 what Rudy Giuliani proved is almost impossible to do – maintain a big-state firewall after an unrelenting string of smaller defeats – the superdelegates will flock to Obama. Hope will have carried the day.
    Interestingly, Obama has been able to win these electoral victories and dazzle crowds in one new jurisdiction after another, even as his mesmeric power has begun to arouse skepticism and misgivings among the mainstream media.
    ABC’s Jake Tapper notes the “Helter-Skelter cultish qualities” of “Obama worshipers,” what Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times calls “the Cult of Obama.” Obama’s Super Tuesday victory speech was a classic of the genre. Its effect was electric, eliciting a rhythmic fervor in the audience – to such rhetorical nonsense as “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. (Cheers, applause.) We are the change that we seek.”
    That was too much for Time’s Joe Klein. “There was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism…,” he wrote. “The message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.”
    You might dismiss The New York Times’ Paul Krugman’s complaint that “the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality” as hyperbole. Until you hear Chris Matthews, who no longer has the excuse of youth, react to Obama’s Potomac primary victory speech with “My, I felt this thrill going up my leg.” When his MSNBC co-hosts tried to bail him out, he refused to recant. Not surprising for an acolyte who said that Obama “comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament.”
    I’ve seen only one similar national swoon. As a teenager growing up in Canada, I witnessed a charismatic law professor go from obscurity to justice minister to prime minister, carried on a wave of what was called Trudeaumania.
    But even there the object of his countrymen’s unrestrained affections was no blank slate. Pierre Trudeau was already a serious intellectual who had written and thought and lectured long about the nature and future of his country.
    Obama has an astonishingly empty paper trail. He’s going around issuing promissory notes on the future that he can’t possibly redeem. Promises to heal the world with negotiations with the likes of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Promises to transcend the conundrums of entitlement reform that require real and painful trade-offs and that have eluded solution for a generation. Promises to fund his other promises by a rapid withdrawal from an unpopular war – with the hope, I suppose, that the (presumed) resulting increase in American prestige would compensate for the chaos to follow.
    Democrats are worried that the Obama spell will break between the time of his nomination and the time of the election, and deny them the White House. My guess is that he can maintain the spell just past Inauguration Day. After which will come the awakening. It will be rude.
    Write to letters@ charleskrauthammer.com.

  13. slugger

    devil in the form of Rev. Wright.
    What a sad day for the people of the United States of America that a preacher can stand up in his church and say “God damn America”.

    Posted by: slugger | Mar 15, 2008 12:17:18 PM
    From The State March 15, 2008
    In a sermon on the Sunday after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,
    Wright suggested the United States brought on the attacks.
    “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the
    thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Wright
    said. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black
    South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done
    overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s
    chickens are coming home to roost.”
    In a 2003 sermon, he said blacks should condemn the United States.
    “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a
    three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no,
    God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn
    America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for
    as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”
    He also gave a sermon in December comparing Obama to Jesus, promoting his
    candidacy and criticizing his rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
    “Barack knows what it means to be a black man to be living in a country and
    a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” Wright told a cheering
    congregation. “Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called
    a nigger.”
    Obama told MSNBC that he would not repudiate Wright as a man, describing him
    as “like an uncle” who says something that he disagrees with and must speak
    out against. He also said he expects his political opponents will use video
    of the sermons to attack him as the campaign goes on.
    Questions about Obama’s religious beliefs have dogged him throughout his
    candidacy. He’s had to fight against false Internet rumors suggesting he’s
    really a Muslim intent on destroying the United States, and now his pastor’s
    words uttered nearly seven years ago have become an issue.
    Obama wrote on the Huffington Post that he never heard Wright say any of the
    statements, but he acknowledged that they have raised legitimate questions
    about the nature of his relationship with the pastor and the church. He
    wrote that he joined Wright’s church nearly 20 years ago, familiar with the
    pastor’s background as a former Marine and respected biblical scholar who
    lectured at seminaries across the country.
    “Reverend Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my
    life,” he wrote. “And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our
    obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor and to
    seek justice at every turn.”
    He said Wright’s controversial statements first came to his attention at the
    beginning of his presidential campaign last year, and he condemned them.
    Because of his long and deep ties to the 6,000-member congregation church,
    Obama said he decided not to leave.
    “With Reverend Wright’s retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev.
    Otis Moss III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with
    a church that has done so much good,” he wrote.
    Also Friday, the United Church of Christ issued a 1,400-word statement
    defending Wright and his “flagship” congregation. The statement lauded
    Wright’s church for its community service and work to nurture youth and the
    pastor for speaking out against homophobia and sexism in the black
    “It’s time for all of us to say no to these attacks and to declare that we
    will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our
    congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological
    ends,” John H. Thomas, United Church of Christ’s president, said in the
    From the above, we are led to believe that Obama never heard Rev. Wright preach all the hate for the rich and the white people.
    Rev. Wright has set race relations back another 100 years. How can Obama stay in a church for 20 years and did not know what the sermoms were about? What we are talking about here are very serious matters that hate has been preached into the minds of a group of people that attended a church for soul saving and it turned out to be selling their soul to the devil in the form of Rev. Wright.
    What a sad day for the people of the United States of America that a preacher can stand up in his church and say “God damn America”.

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