Monday, May 30, 2011

What it's like to know your core

I remember back when then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted to support the Iraq War. We all knew she'd be running for President and the polls showed that voters supported Bush overwhelmingly in his plans to invade Iraq. Hillary went along.

But when it came time for the 2008 primaries, things had changed. Democrats (and some Republicans) who may have gone along with the emotionality of the moment had seen the debacle of that war unfold. And Clinton's support for it became a liability.

You can't help but wonder what might have happened to her presidential hopes if she'd opposed it. We'll never know.

I thought of that when I read this about Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.

Six months ago, in the wake of the wipe-out midterm elections, moderate Florida Sen. Bill Nelson privately vented that President Barack Obama, weighed down by his health reform effort and muddled messaging, was “toxic” for Democrats back home.

Yet Obama’s approval rating has surged from 42 percent to 51 percent in the last month, and Nelson is now openly embracing the president, pronouncing himself dutifully “fired up” at an Obama-hosted Miami fundraiser this spring.

What’s changed? …Obama’s biggest asset in a critical swing state he won by a mere 2.8-percentage-point margin in 2008 might be Rick Scott, the wildly unpopular Republican governor Democrats are casting as Lex Luthor to Obama’s Clark Kent.

When you don't have core convictions - or don't stick to them - you wind up having to swing with the wind as Senator Nelson is doing right now.

I think many of the frustrati have/or will experience the same thing. We saw it play out with some of them on the repeal of DADT. People like Rachel Maddow were open about it. Others dug their heels in and are forced to defend more and more ridiculous positions (has Glenn Greenwald commented yet on Obama's threat to veto the defense appropriations bill? I don't think so.)

Anyway, when I read things like that about Senator Nelson, one of my reactions is to feel vindicated in my steadfast support for this President. I know that the "long game" will eventually demonstrate that it was a good call. But it takes patience and a commitment to your core.


  1. Smarty, I do wonder about Obama's core over things like the public option, which he was willing to dump without a fight despite his promises, and the land mine ban treaty, which he had promised our Senator Leahy he would sign and then blindsided Leahy by declining to sign it. And there is the renewal of those provisions of the Patriot Act, which seem to be used mostly in the drug war rather than the war on "terror." Among other things that will probably pop into my mind as soon as I've posted this.

    I know you see all this as pragmatism, but as I've said before in another forum, I see it as a willingness to go with what is politically expedient rather than fight for what is right.

  2. Hi Robbie - good to hear from you.

    The one of those I know the most about is the public option. Obama did fight for it - for over a year. But when Sen. Lincoln stands up on the Senate floor and says she'll join the filibuster if the public option is included, its time to wake up and smell the ain't gonna happen.

    The truth is - there were NEVER 60 votes for the PO in the Senate. Before Reid threw him under the bus and put it in the bill (which is what prompted Lincoln's speech), Obama was negotiating with Sen. Snowe to get a triggered PO. That was the best we could have hoped for - especially going into negotiations with the House, which had PO in their bill.

    In a nutshell, that's what happened. People can blame Obama all they want. But the Democrats in Congress screwed it up (with a HUGE assist from the professional left) - and Obama wasn't willing to let the entire reform package (of which the PO was only a small part) go under for it.

    In this case, what you refer to as "fighting for what is right" - would have resulted in nothing getting passed. I know that would have been ok for some. But I think that's extremely short-sighted.

  3. One more thing...

    The core for Obama on this one was getting the health care reform ball rolling - including universal coverage with some attempts to bend the cost curve. That's what he committed to all along. And that's what he got done.

    And with that, it looks like he gave an assist to Vermont to get single payer. The ball's still rolling.

  4. Smarty, Vermont can't do anything about single payer here until 2017 unless it gets a waiver from the federal government, which is not at all assured. The legislature had already begun moving towards that goal before the HCR law threw a wrench into our works with the 2017 thing. So instead of giving it an assist, it may have scuttled it for now.

    And about the land mine ban treaty: Leahy was interviewed on VPR the day Obama announced he wouldn't sign it. Leahy has worked very hard to get that treaty signed, and I've never heard him so emotional. He said, sounding shattered, that he'd stood right in the Oval Office with Obama and got his word it would be signed. And then apparently Leahy found out on the news just like everyone else that Obama had gone back on his word.

    I mean, land mines? C'mon. The rest of the civilized world wants them banned. So what was that all about if not political expediency, making nice again with the GOP instead of doing what's moral?

  5. What's politically expedient about being against the elimination of land mines? How does that help him politically? The only constituency that I can see for that one is folks that would never support him in the first place.

    I don't know the particulars about what Leahy wanted him to sign, but I do know that the big issue is Korea. And that there are all sorts of issues with that in terms of other international commitments/agreements.

    I'm not saying I agree with Obama on this. If you look below, you'll find that I'm not hesitant to say where I disagree with him. But I suspect that there's a lot to this story that I don't know. And I'm not likely to jump to conclusions until I know what all the factors are.

    Political expediency its not though.

    And on health care - yeah, it takes a few years to get a system going that will insure 35 million people who were not otherwise covered. Its high time we got rolling on that one.

  6. And on the 2017 thing, Obama has suggested that they move the timeline for alternative state systems to 2014. Its up to Congress to do that though.