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The Right Stuff: Obama's Talking Points

"Like Krugman, we've been stunned and saddened at the Dem-on-Dem hatred displayed in comments around the web," Bob Somerby wrote this week. "(Our reaction to the South Carolina debate: Those are the three best candidates we've ever seen in a three-candidate forum.) We wouldn't know how to quantify this. But, like Krugman, it's our impression that more of this comes from Obama supporters. We can think of an obvious reason for that: There's a sixteen-year catalogue of demonology to access about Candidate Clinton.

"For our money, it's sad to see how many Democrats have purchased this RNC-inspired, MSM-driven package. But it's understandable that this has occurred. To amplify something Krugman said: Many Democrats also believed that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. Indeed, why wouldn't they have purchased that tale, and so many others like it? They heard these tales a thousand times. They rarely heard them contradicted."

Somerby faults Obama supporters, but not Obama himself, though his campaign has counted on and exploited the Republican attack machine's sliming of the Clintons instead of transcending and uniting. Let's take a look.

*

New Obama ad in Wisconsin: "It's the same old politics, of phony charges and false attacks."

The ad uses four quotes that praise Obama policy positions. Two are from BarackObama.com. And a third cites the AP saying Obama's housing plan "stems foreclosure" - which is simply the AP quoting what the Obama campaign claims.

So, yes, it's the same old politics.

*

The Tribune's Eric Zorn likewise provides a link to an American Prospect article from last September derailing the myth of Hillarycare with two words: "Interesting reading."

Zorn doesn't note that Obama himself has used the same lines of attack against Hillary Clinton, particularly his assertions in debates that she doomed health care reform in the Bill Clinton presidency by being too secretive, and the even more egregious reprise of Harry and Louise.

From the American Prospect, by an insider who was there:

"This was the 'secretive' process that critics of Hillary have in mind when they attack her. Compared to policy development in other administrations, it was exceptionally open and inclusive, but those very efforts to bring people in excited objections that the White House wasn't open and inclusive enough. In setting up the working groups (which were only supposed to develop preliminary options and information, not to conduct negotiations), the White House left out representatives of interest groups.

"No one would have complained about secrecy if the White House had simply done business the usual way - entirely behind closed doors, without any formal external participation.

"Clinton could not get a single Republican vote for his 1993 budget, and Whitewater broke at the beginning of 1994. All the elements of the conservative coalition, from the anti-taxers to the social conservatives, mobilized against the Clinton health plan and against the Clintons personally, while liberals were ambivalent and Democrats in Congress were divided.

"During the battle over the Clinton plan, conservative talk radio hosts and insurance-industry advertising on television conjured up lurid fears that the federal government would control every detail of medical care. But it wasn't only the right-wing noise machine that stirred up panic with outright fabrications. The New Republic carried an article that charged the Clinton bill would 'prevent you from going outside the system to buy basic health coverage you think is better. The doctor can be paid only by the plan, not by you.' In fact, one of the first provisions of the bill stated: 'Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the following: (1) An individual from purchasing any health care services.'

"In a January 1995 Atlantic article, "A Triumph of Misinformation," James Fallows patiently went through the whole catalog of distortions about the Clinton health plan - that it had been 'hatched in secret,' got bogged down and delivered too late, constituted a government takeover of health care when the problem was 'solving itself,' and was developed and presented in so politically naive and doctrinaire a way that the administration missed the chance for bipartisan compromise. But, Fallows notwithstanding, the Hillarycare myths live on even in the same magazine. In an article last year, The Atlantic's Joshua Green repeated many of the old canards about the task force and Hillary that Fallows had shown were wrong.

"Like Green's article, Carl Bernstein's biography argues that Hillary doomed the health plan because of her secretiveness and rigidity. Bernstein, who can't get the basic facts right, supposes that Hillary was entirely in control. "

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Obama's historical recall of the 90s is always from the right-wing perspective.

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Likewise, Obama's rhetoric about where Hillary Clinton stood on NAFTA is just plain in opposition to what insiders and even her own unauthorized biographers, including Bernstein, have reported.

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"We've been here before," Somerby writes.

And it's Obama who is on the wrong side of history.

*

The Obama campaign, in fact, seems to agree with the Republican attacks of the 90s. It's very slogan, "Change We Can Believe In," is meant to convey that Hillary Clinton is a liar.

When campaign manager David Plouffe writes in an e-mail to supporters that "It's time to put an end to the say-anything-to-win politics of the past," he's accusing Hillary Clinton of a willingness to say anything to win.

Michelle Obama is also attacking from the old Rush Limbaugh/Newt Gingrich battlements when she writes in a fundraising e-mail that "We expected that Bill Clinton would tout his record from the nineties and talk about Hillary's role in his past success. That's a fair approach and a challenge we are prepared to face. What we didn't expect, at least not from our fellow Democrats, are the win-at-all-costs tactics we've seen recently. We didn't expect misleading accusations that willfully distort Barack's record."

That's disingenuous on at least three different levels. See if you can find them.

*

For a Democrat to recycle the right-wing attack machinery's talking points of the 90s is disgusting; it validates the very force most responsible for whatever divisions we have. If Obama was a true uniter, he would defend the honor of the Clintons. He could base his campaign on uniting around an agenda: Renew America or American Renewal or something like that. Instead, he's been in the mud since day one. But then . . . that's his history if anyone would bother to pay attention. Some might say he'll do anything to win.

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And by the way, I never voted for Bill Clinton.

*

"Markos Moulitsas Z┬┐niga, founder of the popular blog Daily Kos, accused Obama (D-Ill.) of embracing a 'right-wing talking point' as he campaigned and said: 'I don't want to go into the next election starting off with half the country already not wanting to vote for Democrats. We've done that in 2004, 2000,'" the Washington Post reported in January.

"In a blog post headlined 'Obama slams Gore,' Moulitsas wrote: 'Psst, Barack, slamming John Kerry and Al Gore is what Republicans do. Last time I checked, Gore won his election. And really, is Obama going to argue now that the nation was divided because of the Democrats' fault? Is that the latest right-wing talking point he wants to peddle?'"

Note use of the word "latest."

And check out the Update.

*

More Obama from the right:

- On Social Security.

- On trial lawyers.

(Prompting Kos to say: "I am really starting to see Obama as someone who will rush to embrace every right-wing talking point against every Democratic constituencies."

(And Atrios: "Is there a right wing talking point Obama hasn't rushed to embrace? Going after trial lawyers? Jeebus.")

- On tax cuts.

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And then there's this absurdity. Bill Clinton was one of America's most popular presidents, despite being its most attacked and investigated. The right-wing nutjobs don't want you to remember that; nor does Obama.

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Finally, Obama has linked the Clinton years to the Bush years, while pining for the Reagan years. It's clever to link the Bush and Clinton administrations together as something we need to "turn the page" on, but is honest? Two different eras - in opposition with each other.

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a Hillary Clinton supporter. Nor, for that matter, am I a Democrat. I am a journalist.

*

"It is not our job to fall in love with Barack Obama," NBC5's Phil Rogers said recently. "Our job is to go through his trash . . . we are failing. We are getting F grades on Barack Obama. The news media has jumped on the bandwagon."

And that way, as we've seen, lies madness.

-

From his secret money operation to his media manipulation, Obamathon pulls back the curtain on one of the biggest political fairy tales of our times.



Permalink

Posted on February 15, 2008


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