The Blank Slate

It is time to take a closer look at a guy who has been given a license to trade on his looks, smile and smooth talking. It is precisely his lack of experience that has exempted Barack Obama from the scrutiny we give others. It is tricky to extrapolate from so little real experience, but even in his short career, Obama managed become a big player in the earmark game including those to help clients of a lobbying and law firms that were sources of his campaign contributions.

Obama’s defenders point to the small total number, but we have to recall that he has been in the Senate for only three years. He spent more than half that time running for president and the rest of the time positioning himself for the run. It is impressive that he could make so many lobbying relationships during so few short work weeks. You have to wonder what he could achieve during a normal career.

So much of Obama’s “innocence” results from lack of opportunity. I bet that few of us have ever had relationships with lobbyist or rewarded them with earmarks for the very same reason. But supporters have a point. Obama’s earmarking is small potatoes. We really cannot criticize him too much for what we think he would have done. We should be more concerned with what he didn’t do.

Obama is a blank slate onto which his fans write their own dreams. He affirms that they are good and everybody is happy – hallelujah. That is why they love him so much and send him their money. That is why women swoon. His technique is very much like that of a televangelist. He has even started to mimic the rhythms of their speech patterns. Listen to his accent in his earlier speeches or when he is just talking and compare it to his recent TV performances.

I am not saying Obama is a bad guy. I was impressed that he divested $180,000 in personal holdings of Sudan-related stock, (I wish I had $180,000 of Sudan-related stock so that I could divest it too). He just is not an experienced guy, who seems to have seen his Senate seat as a stepping stone to the Whitehouse. He has no record to run on and he has managed to sell lack of record as a plus. I give him credit for being clever, smooth and good looking. I just think we might want a little more in a president.

We may well see the triumph of hope over experience. Sometimes you can get good results by throwing the dice. Sometimes you get Jimmy Carter. We will see.

BTW - I figure that Obama will beat Hilary. We already know a lot about Hilary, but it is time we looked a little closer at Obama and stop giving him the free ride.

Posted by Jack at February 24, 2008 4:15 PM
Comment #246324

Good Jack.

Barack Obama has a lousy CAGW.ORG pork-barrel grade: 30% (lousy).

Hillary has an even worse grade: 14% (very pathetic).

This is where John McCain has a good record: 95%

How will Hillary and Obama reconcile so much debt and plans for new massive governemnt systems (e.g. government health care)?

Perhaps, if the many abuses ( were addressed FIRST, health care would become more affordable?

Posted by: d.a.n at February 24, 2008 5:19 PM
Comment #246326


If Obama wins, he will come in with slightly more political experience than Abraham Lincoln. They both served for about eight years in the Illinois Legislature. Lincoln served two years in the US House of Representatives. Obama will have served four years in the US Senate.

Electing a President is always a bit of a gamble. One thing I have noticed though, is that peoples’ superficial impressions of Presidents are usually right. Nixon seemed shady when he debated Kennedy - he was. Everyone knew Clinton was horny - unfortunately, this almost wrecked his presidency. Reagan was a smooth talker but not detail-oriented (to put it politely). I think he did OK. I can come up with more examples but I think you get the idea.

Obama has consistently come across as intelligent, thoughtful, and calm under fire. I think this will continue through the rest of the campaign.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 24, 2008 5:58 PM
Comment #246328


I think that by now most everybody is aware of Obama’s lack of experience. What is the deciding factor for most is that we are also well aware of the experience of the other two major candidates. This one is a no brainer requiring little thought.

McCain would definitely by his own admission be a continuance of the status quo. He has surrounded himself with insider lobbyists, and flip flopped on issues so many times that like a true lock step republican of late we really have no idea where he stands on any issues. It is apparent that he will say whatever is necessary to further his cause regardless of that outcome.

Hillary I think would be a good president if she were allowed to freely function. But republican hatred of anything Clinton all but assures a term of turmoil and endless non productive governance. I view her as a junior partner in the tenured club of old school politicians who know the ropes of the system and take advantage of it to further the gains of them and their friends. She and McCain carry that stigma of association with corruption in government. This awareness is what we who are so passionate about change detest the most.

It is that very lack of experience in learning how to pull the ropes of corruption that is Obama’s main draw. You associate that with his persuasive oratory skills, education, obvious intelligence, strong values, compassion and a deep heart felt desire and you have a candidate that appears to represent everything but the status quo which we are so sick of.

I would rather take my chance on an unknown with much promise than simply give up hope on a sure continuance of failure.

Posted by: RickIL at February 24, 2008 6:07 PM
Comment #246329

Callng Obama a “big player” in the earmark game is utterly ridiculous.

McCain is a king of pork. You do realize that, don’t you?

When it goes through an Appropriations bill, Republicans call it “pork”.

When it goes throug an Authorization bill, such as the ones produced by the Armed Services Committee co-chaired by McCain, it magically no longer counts as “pork,” because it’s an “authorization” rather than an “appropriation.” Rather humorously, this distinction was developed by a congressional bill brought to us by none other than McCain.
Snort. What a crock.

Posted by: phx8 at February 24, 2008 6:09 PM
Comment #246346
Jack wrote: It is precisely his lack of experience that has exempted Barack Obama from the scrutiny we give others.

Interesting. Most voters are attracted to the candidate with the least experience, despite Hillary attracting far more of the wealthiest donors making $4600 donations (far more than Obama and McCain combined), and McCain with more years of experience than Hillary and Obama combined. But, are you sure the reason for Obama’s rise is ONLY lack of experience?

Posted by: d.a.n at February 24, 2008 10:54 PM
Comment #246349


What you have is a logical jump re Lincoln, or more likely a statistical one. Somebody will always win the lottery, but you cannot extrapolate from today’s winner to anybody else.

Obama may do well, there just is not particular reason to believe he will.


Obama and all Dems talk about change, but they rarely specify what they mean. They imply results, such as lowering unemployment rates by around 1% (because you cannot lower it much more from what it is), increasing economic growth by about that same amount, paying off the debt and generally making everyone happier. However, none of their proposals are likely to accomplish those things. Their main plan is to raise taxes, which will almost certainly raise unemployment and lower economic growth. It may or may not address the deficit, since we already have record high revenues. The problem of the last few years has not been that we took in too little money, but rather that spending has grown too fast. Both Obama and Clinton promise programs that will increase spending.

In fact the solutions they propose look a lot like those we tried in the 1970s. Obama just thinks they are new because he was young and into things that distracted him during that decade. They did not work then, and probably have not improved with age.

The biggest change Dems propose is that they would pull out of Iraq almost right away. I disagree with that policy. If they really carry out their promises, they will lose all the progress we made since 2006 and set the whole region into chaos. The problems there will follow us home. Of course, everybody wants to end the war, but some of us understand the options do not include just coming home. It is like a guy with a life threatening disease refusing an operation because it hurts. If Obama and Clinton had a little more experience in the real world, they would understand that. My only hope (and actually my belief) is that they are both lying and when they took office they would behave more responsibly.

BTW – re the elements of corruption, according to those figures d.a.n. posted, Obama learned the corruption game very quickly. Ignorance is not much of a defense anyway.


I think Obama is a rock star. People are attracted to him because of his good looks and wonderful speaking abilities. Women literally swoon in his presence. It also helps that he is mixed race. It allows the PC crowd to assuage some of that guilt they always feel. The operative analogy is a televangelist.

The lack of exerience helps him with younger voters. He has not done very much, so he has not made many mistakes. In our political process, doing 1000 things right and one thing wrong means that you did one thing wrong. Obama has made many mistakes (as you link) but his lack of experience means he has done fewer things in general.

Posted by: Jack at February 24, 2008 11:52 PM
Comment #246359

It’s an interesting election in which the far left want to offer us a man with no experience and praise that as virtue and declare those with experience are thus by definition of having experience thus unqualified to hold office. Usually an employer choses someone with experience who has proven they can handle the job.

But this time we are being told by the left that experience is bad, a sign of corruption and no experience is good, a sign of purity.

Posted by: Stephen at February 25, 2008 4:07 AM
Comment #246361


Our lefty friends subscribe to the logic that all drunks go to heaven. To wit:

He who drinks too much gets drunk
He who gets drunk passes out
He who passes out sleeps
He who is sleeping commit no sin
He who commits no sin goes to heaven
Therefore he who drinks too much goes to heaven.

Obama is like that. He has done so little that he has also done little wrong. Of course, he has not done much good either. I saw his supporter on TV who could not think of one great accomplishment, besides being Barack.

Let’s hope the voters logic is a little stronger.

Posted by: Jack at February 25, 2008 4:56 AM
Comment #246362


This election will not be a landslide either way despite MSM’s current love affair with B. Hussein Obama.

B. Hussein Obama fundamentally is flawed yet has done an excellent job covering this up thus far. His style, eloquence, flowery speech, have buried Hillary, but basic mismanagement by her campaign leaders and an expectation that she was the annointed one are the real culprits here.

What happend to her is the same that happend to Rudy…simply put, a bad game plan.

On the other hand, John McCain (not my first choice, by the way) has show a tenacity for survival. That is the same tenacity that he showed while being a guest at the Hanoi Hilton for a long long time.

Those survival instincts…which cannot be understated…are precisely what is going to have him steal this election…which should really be a landslide the other way, I think.

If there is a hint of a terror threat between now and the election..even a hint…I expect him to distance himself from B. Hussein Obama.

In a fight, a pit bull always defeats the greyhound. McCain has always been the pit bull. Always.

The defining issues between the two have yet to be told…what happens in late February and early March is completely different that October and November.

Despite what the left thinks, the right has a formitable information gathering machine, and I think that very shortly things will float to the surface about this guy.

Last I looked, only a Jew who was crucified had the pleasure of a private life prior to his three years of public service.

O. Hussein Obama will not be given that luxury….not by a long shot….

Posted by: sicilian eagle at February 25, 2008 7:21 AM
Comment #246365
What you have is a logical jump re Lincoln, or more likely a statistical one. Somebody will always win the lottery, but you cannot extrapolate from today’s winner to anybody else.

I didn’t make a logical jump; you did it for me. I just meant exactly what I said: Obama has more political experience than Lincoln.

So much of Obama’s “innocence” results from lack of opportunity.

Now THAT, my friend, is a logical leap.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 25, 2008 7:45 AM
Comment #246366


So why compare to Lincoln. A more apt Lincoln comparison is George W. Bush, who stuck with his policies in the face of significant opposition.

Re innocence

The lack of experience cuts both ways. He has not had a chance to shine (except rhetorically) nor has he had a chance of be a big time crook. He is a blank slate.

Or as my father would have put it, a crap shoot.

Posted by: Jack at February 25, 2008 7:50 AM
Comment #246367

An inexperienced President is a crapshoot, but so is an experienced one. Some of the worst Presidents were also the most experienced.

A more apt Lincoln comparison is George W. Bush…

Hahaha. I watched the Oscars last night. John Stewart had some good jokes, but I think you just topped him.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 25, 2008 8:04 AM
Comment #246368

Obama just made a mistake by disrespecing Ralph Nader by saying “he thinks highly of his own work”.

As if Obama does not think highly of his own work?

A bit hypocritical, don’t ya think?

That is also essentially name-calling.
Why doesn’t Obama address the issues instead?

Hmmmm … could be Obama and the Democrat party feels threatend by Ralph Nader’s decision to run for president?

More choices is a good thing. Perhaps some forgotten issues will now get more attention?

Posted by: d.a.n at February 25, 2008 8:38 AM
Comment #246370
Jack wrote: The lack of exerience helps him with younger voters. He has not done very much, so he has not made many mistakes.
What ever experience he has, he’s done enough to raise questions. Take a look at Barack Obama’s voting record. It’s not great. Several things in his voting record alone raise concerns for many people.

And instantly disprespecting Ralph Nader for running too (i.e. Barack Obama saying Ralph Nader “thinks highly of his own work”) was a nasty and hypocritical thing to say; as if Barack Obama alone can say who should (or should not) run for president?

That may prove to be a big mistake by Barack Obama. He may have just lost a lot of independent voters.

  • Posted by: d.a.n at February 25, 2008 9:05 AM
    Comment #246373

    Obama and all Dems talk about change, but they rarely specify what they mean.

    You really have not been paying attention have you Jack. That change we are anticipating is towards a functional, open and honest government capable of producing useful legislation that is good for our country. A trend away from secretive back room politics influenced by nothing more than the lure of money under the illusion of false progress. A trend away from the scum that has a stranglehold on our congress. A trend in direct opposition to past practice. It is really that simple. It is exactly what this country needs and exactly what voters who are disgusted with being forced to accept mediocrity, a degree of corruption and half hearted deceptive promises are fed up with.

    Nobody in their right mind expects a new president and a new congress to effect immediate change. Our problems are too many and too complex to think that they can be handled overnight. Logic and reality dictate that it will take sacrifice and hardships and time to put our nation back on the right road. Thanks to our previous bunch of lackeys our problems are not small and our country has taken many steps backwards in terms of infrastructure, economics, health care, entitlements, military aggression, and world opinion. It is time to address these issues and attack them rather than just talk and shelve them for another day in favor of more lucrative self serving agendas. As I previously stated, it is time for a trend away from past practice. Past practice has proven that it does not and will not work. An elected McCain is nothing more than an assurance of failed past practice. An elected Obama may be a crap shoot. But it is a crap shoot that at least holds promise of an honest effort at repairing what ails government today. Until those repairs can be made I think regression and corruption will be the key words when one thinks America and government.

    Since you continue to bring up Iraq in your replies to my posts in your threads I will give you my two cents. I am not a dispassionate person. I wish the Iraqi’s well. I am glad that they have been able to make some progress in terms of a reduction in violence. However I can not continue to support them in the sense that we must stay there for an unidentifiable amount of time. We simply have too many problems and too much debt of our own here at home that we can use that money for. We have supported them long enough that they should by now be able to continue on their own. Their fate should now be in their own hands. I feel the fact that we continue to throw hundreds of billions their way while being supportive of a corrupt government is doing nothing to motivate their efforts at self supportive measures. It is time for them, much like our government to get their priorities in order and make a real and honest effort at effecting change now. Like a baby they need to be weened of the mothers milk at some time. Now is the time. They are no longer our responsibility. They have a government capable of functionality and the means to support themselves. So long as we continue to let them feed at the breast they will have no motivation to eat from their own plate.

    Posted by: RickIL at February 25, 2008 9:48 AM
    Comment #246374

    Where are Hilary’s supporters?

    I hate to be the one to say this
    But isn’t this all so typical?
    If you vote for Obama, you are voting for the boys club in Washington.
    Nothing is changing there!
    Women used as stepping stones for others success.
    Obama wouldn’t be up there if Hilary wasn’t up there. The only reason he’s here is because a bunch of men in Washington who don’t want a strong intelligent qualified woman in the white house got together and brainstormed how to stop her. Their solution…get a person who will take the minority votes away from her, and cut into her female voting base.
    Couldn’t be a white male, she’d win for sure.
    Can’t find another qualified woman….She’s the only one!!!
    Has to be a black man. Oops, “he’s not black enough”. A minority man who was raised by a single mom. Double wammy!! And we’ll groom him for this soul purpose. Say all the same things Hilary is saying, but make them sound better. Be charming, inspire people with your ideas, have a dream, remind them of MLK. Yeah, that will do it.
    Obama is a puppet.

    I saw Ann Coulter saying she’d vote for Hilary
    They called her a “Hilary Girl”
    Not a Hilary supporter, or a Hilary believer or a Hilary woman, a Hilary “GIRL”
    HELLO! Girl implies: immature, uneducated, ruled by illogical emotions etc etc.

    Ladies, you do not have to defend or justify your reasons for voting for Hilary. You don’t even have to tell people you are voting for her. It’s none of their business! Its your freedom and right to choose who you want to. Even if you are voting for her just because she’s a woman and you want to see a women in the white house so be it! You aren’t making a bad choice!

    Remember when she came charging in to the white house as first lady wanting to do so many things and they told her to shut up and sit down, your just the presidents wife, you can’t have that much power!!!

    Since then she has worked to prove that she is qualified to have that much power. She has refined her goals, objectives and means to a degree that we can be sure she will be able to accomplish them.

    Why is that so scary for people? Why are they all so hell bent on taking her down?
    Why would you vote for a handsome charming inexperienced man who came out of nowhere to challenge her?

    Has he been put in a position to defend his family?
    The press has attacked both bill Clinton and Chelsea for supporting her!
    And Ann Coulter is called a “Hilary Girl”
    How many times did I see Hilary biting her tongue during the Texas debate. There are so many things she could say but didn’t because she would be slammed for it, accused of pulling the “sexist” card, or it would be mis-contextualized and turned against her.

    My father said years ago….”Hilary is unelectable”.
    When I asked him why, he said ”just because” . Well isn’t there any reason in particular?
    “There are to many people in Washington who don’t want her there”.

    They don’t really want a minority there either but it’s the lesser of the two evils and the only way they can stop her.
    Obama would be wise to choose her as his running mate.
    If he chooses a white man what’s stopping them from having him shot so they can get back to normal “white male boys club”
    Minorities will vote for him because they think having him in the white house will represent them, Equalize things etc
    Wake up!
    The only one who is going to shake things up is Hilary.
    They might push her buttons, but they won’t be pulling her strings
    Obama has been carried on the shoulders of a bunch of white men who don’t want Hilary elected.
    Hilary has worked her but off and earned the right to win.

    Posted by: Melissa at February 25, 2008 11:29 AM
    Comment #246376

    Many voters are desperate for CHANGE, but too many voters are looking for a leader to do it for them, while too many voters lazily and foolishly forget (again) that whoever the next president is, the next president will not be likely to CHANGE anything (for the better, that is) when too many voters continue to repeatedly reward most incumbent politicians in Congress with 93%-to-99% re-election rates, despite the majority of voters polled that give Congress dismally low 11%-to-18% approval ratings (

    Voters should take a careful look at their Congress persons’ voting records too (and their state and local offices too), and try not to blindly pull the party-lever, which rewards bad politicians with perpetual re-election.

    Extremely high 93%-to-99% re-election rates for the incumbent politicians in the two-party-duopoly in the Do-Nothing Congress is a major reason for so much government corruption and incompetence.
    The president can not fix it alone, if too many voters are too lazily and foolishly focused ONLY on the office of president, and forget to also vote responsibly to give the president a Congress that is responsible and accountable.
    Otherwise, Congress will perpetuate these 10+ ABUSES (which did not all come about by mere coincidence) that continue to cheat most Americans.
    Perhaps enough voters will notice the obvious correlation (between corrupt incumbent politicians and the majority of voters that repeatedly reward incumbent politicians with very high 93%-to-99% re-election rates) when the abuses perpetuated by those politicians make enough of the voters jobless, homeless, and hungry?
    After all, pain is often the only thing that finally trumps apathy, complacency, irrational fear fueled by the clever and distracting partisan warfare, laziness, and blind partisan loyalty.

    If voters foolishly and lazily pull the party-lever, and saddle the next president with the same bought-and-paid-for, corrupt, pork-happy, spend-crazy, debt-happy, irresponsible incumbent politicians in Congress, the voters’ choice of president will most likely be a waste of time.

    After all, for several years now, no one has been able to name 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, much less 268 (half of the 535) in Congress that are responsible and accountable.
    Unless at least 268 can be identified, what does this say about Congress?
    So why do the voters continue to repeatedly reward them with 93%-to-99% re-election rates?
    Is that working?
    What do they say about doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result?

    At any rate, the voters will still have the government that the voters deserve.

    Posted by: d.a.n at February 25, 2008 11:35 AM
    Comment #246379

    Exactly how has Bush’s “experience” as an AWOL national guardsman, a bankrupt businessman, a history major at Yale and an MBA from Harvard helped the U.S. progress economically (and I’m speaking of people, workers, individuals, not corporation CEOs) and diplomatically??

    Posted by: Rachel at February 25, 2008 12:13 PM
    Comment #246385


    I think you are wrong about the boys club aspect. I am sure there are some of us males out here who would not vote for a woman regardless of circumstances. But I do not think they are a majority. Obama has not been around long enough to be groomed for anything. A few months ago he was the long shot in the game. If Hillary were the only choice I would vote for her in a heartbeat. I think she is a very capable candidate. The crux of the problem lies with an already embedded deep hatred of all things Clinton from the conservative side of the aisle. Our country is in desperate need at this time of drastic change in policy and direction. I simply can not see how Hillary, in light of those conservative hatreds, can be effective at stimulating positive legislation. In a nutshell this really has nothing to with gender or race. Because of those hatreds and their negative effects she simply is not the best choice at this time. I would love to see an Obama Clinton ticket. But I suspect that if the occasion should arise she may not be willing to accept if offered.

    Posted by: RickIL at February 25, 2008 12:57 PM
    Comment #246386

    Ditto, almost word for word, what RickIL said. I would have preferred Edwards, and if she were the nominee, I’d back Hillary. But Obama does have the distinct advantage of being able to unite and lead better than Hillary. No doubt, Democrats will encounter racial prejudice or misogeny no matter who runs. The swiftboating will be even more viscious than usual this time, because it’s the only chance Republicans have of winning- make sure the population is so disgusted that no one will vote.

    Obama offers a great remedy for the slurs that are sure to come.

    And if anyone throws out the “blank slate” mantra, simply refer them to Obama’s site or encourage them to any of the countless debates. What they are saying is they don’t know anything about Obama, his background, or his stands on issues, therefore there must not be anything to know.

    Posted by: phx8 at February 25, 2008 1:17 PM
    Comment #246388

    The above comments are very interesting and revealing. While both Hillary and Obama are espousing basically the same liberal philosophy of big government, higher taxes, and less individual freedom of choice, there is a huge divide in the party between these two candidates. The divide seems to center on style not substance, promises, not past performance and gender versus race. Should the battle for the democrat nominee continue to the convention I see the possibility of a huge chasm developing between the two sides and that fracture could very well cost the party what was perceived not long ago as an easy victory over any republican candidate.

    Posted by: Jim M at February 25, 2008 1:24 PM
    Comment #246389

    Your comments, I can’t speak for you personally, but your comments are bitter and irrational.

    Women voting for women “strictly” on the basis of being a woman is no more a positively good thing, than voting for a man because he is a man is positively a good thing. That is a patently ridiculous position to take. The presidency is about “capability” not “culpability.”

    Obama better pick her for a running mate instead of a white man or else he’s likely to get assasinated so the violently racist elites can get back to the white good ol’ boys club?

    Are you kiddin me? Comments like this usually come from someone who is a little detached from reality.

    Let me reassure you, while there are some whack-jobs out there in America, like everywhere else in the world, the AMAZINGLY vast majority are not psychopaths, or sociopaths, or even racist.

    I can hear how much you want Hilary to win, I have the same passion for Huckabee, but if the media won’t talk about you, despite your amazing strengths, then you have no hope. However, you won’t hear me accusing the media of being psychopaths, or murderers. Just because something is a damn shame, doesn’t make it a violent conspiracy.

    Posted by: Yukon Jake at February 25, 2008 1:25 PM
    Comment #246391


    Experience doesn’t guarantee results, but it is silly not to consider it. What I see with Obama is almost a reverse of good sense. People like Obama not despite his lack of experience but because of it. That is the true crapshoot.

    I thought you’d like the one about Bush. I was just showing how easy it is to make those sort of comparisons.


    Yes. We know that Obama says he wants a competent, honest government. Do you know anybody running who does not want that. He wants to bring prosperity. Who is the candidate promising less of that? He says he want to get money out of politics. That one he is already going back on re public funding.

    Most people want similar things, i.e. prosperity, competence etc. What we are judging is not what they hope to do but rather their prospects for achieving these things. Obama has promised more spending, higher taxes and a quick pull out from Iraq. That is about as specific as he gets.

    Re Iraq – I bring it up because I feel it is Obama and the Dems biggest blind spot. I do care what happens to the Iraqis. I do not want to see them get killed, raped and maimed by Al Qaeda and various thugs. BUT that is not my main motivation. I believe a quick pull out will result in chaos in that region which will spread to Europe and the U.S.

    Iraqi police and security forces are taking over much of their own security. The “triangle of death” Al Anbar, which most pundits and all Democrats called lost in 2006 will be turned over to provincial Iraqi control in about a month, i.e. the Iraqis will take the lead on security, managing and everything else. They are walking on their own, as you suggest.

    We have managed to turn the situation around since guys like Obama wrote their playbook back in 2006. The quickest way out is through success and we are achieving that. Our withdrawal should be based on conditions in Iraq not politics in America. I believe defeat will be disastrous for us. Obama promises defeat. I think there is a good chance for success.


    You feel that Bush did not have enough of the right experience. In fact, he did not have extensive foreign policy & executive experience when elected. The election in 2000 was all about change and domestic considerations. Now you want to elect Obama, who has even less foreign policy & executive experience and the election of 2008 is all about change and domestic considerations. Is this just hope over experience? George Bush is not running in 2008. Now it is Obama w/o the experience who promises hope.

    Obama has united the left wing of the Democratic party. How has he been doing cooperating across party lines?

    Re the blank slate, read his speeches. He is a very attractive speaker, but when you read his speeches there is not much there and even less (as Hilary points out) that is original or innovative. Rick Il provided a good example. He attributed to Obama a lot of wishful thinking and hope that everyone could accept. We all want these things, but just dreaming or hoping is not enough.


    There are plenty of reason I will not vote for Obama. Race is not one of them. It is instructive that the Dems debate among themselves whether they should vote for the black or the woman. They don’t seem to care about the person or the politics as much as the category.

    Posted by: Jack at February 25, 2008 2:11 PM
    Comment #246393

    The categories of black or woman certainly don’t trouble the GOP. Out of 535 congressman, there is not one black congressman, despite the fact blacks represent 12% of the US population. Not one. The GOP does have 20 females in Congress, so they are making BIG progress there. One look at the supporters standing behind McCain on the lectern tell us everything we need to know about the GOP and categories.

    Speaking is a very different form of communication than writing. Speaking is a much slower way to communicate factual information, and it is not really appropriate for transmitting detail in depth. However, speaking is a very powerful form of communication for because of its inclusion of tone, nuance, body language, and so. Speaking transmits a large volume of information, but the info is of a different nature. It is quite appropriate for a politician to be skillful at speaking, since politics by its nature requires leadership, guidance, persuasiveness, and the ability to steer a group in a desired direction.

    Posted by: phx8 at February 25, 2008 2:24 PM
    Comment #246396

    Another spicy Clinton video:

    Does she really think that sarcasm is going to win her any converts?

    Posted by: Woody Mena at February 25, 2008 2:43 PM
    Comment #246397


    What we are judging is not what they hope to do but rather their prospects for achieving these things.

    Nobody is saying that achievements will be easy or fast. The one thing we do know is that the current administration and its soldiers in congress accomplished very little of substance and a lot in terms of regression. They had six years of total unfettered control between the executive and the houses. Their achievements are realized largely in terms of massive debt, military aggression, nation building, inflation, recession, regression of civil liberties, and an uncertain future. Your party of choice which represents McCain has not anted up any accountability to date. Nor have they hinted at any great desire to work across the aisles. Business as usual because they are too stubborn to face up to what got them where they are today. The party of scandal, deception, secrecy and false platitudes. Now just why in the hell would anyone in their right mind want any more of that?

    I understand that many conservative voters recognize a need for the party to get back to a practical value based platform. But I do not see that your party has recognized the need or desire to do so. Until the party can own up to its weaknesses and truly pursue a direction in keeping with real conservative values they will be of little use in the needs of todays world.

    Posted by: RickIL at February 25, 2008 3:24 PM
    Comment #246398

    Jack, you made some excellent points and gave everyone on the blog some serious food for thought. I heard a few snatches of Hillary’s latest stumping and she sounds like a very desperate candidate in her attacks and ridicule of Obama. I have written before of the very likely conflagration coming to Denver in August if wounds are opened and allowed to fester between the adherents of these two candidates. If Obama can not woo Hillary’s fans with his charm and magic wand there will be big trouble in November.

    Posted by: Jim M at February 25, 2008 3:33 PM
    Comment #246400

    Jim M,
    You’re wasting your time hoping the Democrats will somehow self-destruct. Hillary would need to win 60% of the popular primary votes from here on in, in order to win the nomination, and that’s not going to happen.

    She has fought long and hard, and she has fought well. She will not go down without a fight, not in a contest this close, and no one should expect her to give up, not at this point.

    After all is said and done, she will lose because of an intangible. She ran into an intelligent, articulate opponent with an incredible ability to move and motivate and persuade. It’s a rare ability, it’s an ability very few people possess to the degree demonstrated by Obama, and that lack is not something Hillary should be condemned for.

    Posted by: phx8 at February 25, 2008 3:45 PM
    Comment #246401

    Jack…where did I say I wanted to elect Obama?? Nowhere…

    I was speaking to the fact that “experience” can matter evidenced by our current White House incumbent.

    Posted by: Rachel at February 25, 2008 3:48 PM
    Comment #246402

    Actually Phx8, I am just enjoying the show and really don’t care which one wins the nomination. They share the same liberal philosophy of big government, more regulations to strangle our economy and less freedom of individual choice.

    Frankly, I don’t know which one will emerge as the winner. What I am predicting is that if wounds are opened and allowed to fester, there will be hell to pay for the survivor. If I lived in Denver I would arrange to be out of town on convention week.

    Posted by: Jim M at February 25, 2008 4:00 PM
    Comment #246403


    Speaking style is very important. That is why I always like James Earl Jones or Anthony Hopkins. But I am not sure that would make a good president or even a good thinker.

    Thomas Jefferson was such a bad speaker that he avoided it whenever possible, but his ideas were good. Televangelists, whose style Obama is adopting, are usually very moving, but I am not sure of all their ideas.


    McCain has worked across with Dems so often he annoyed his Republican base. They think there are too many bills with names like McCain-Feingold or McCain-Kennedy. Is there ANY important piece of legislation where Obama worked constructively with the opposition?


    Sorry. Given what you write, I thought you would be supporting Obama if he is the candidate in November. At least we agree on not wanting Obama, although the one we DO want may be different.

    Your swipe at George Bush, however, is inaccurate. You may be happy to hear you give him too much credit. As I pointed out, in 2000 Bush had only a little more experience in foreign affairs or executive leadership than Obama has. It was also an election where people thought foreign policy experience didn’t matter and Bush sold the hope of change (we forget Clinton fatigue. Google the term to refresh your memory). People wanted change in 2000 too. People always want change and they are usually disappointed.

    Posted by: Jack at February 25, 2008 4:05 PM
    Comment #246405

    Jack…Where did I write I wasn’t supporting Obama…both times you’ve “assumed” who and what I support…stick to the issue you raised…EXPERIENCE.

    Posted by: Rachel at February 25, 2008 4:33 PM
    Comment #246407


    I don’t care who you support and I think you protest too much about who you are not voting for. So we can officially declare it a mystery who you are supporting in November. I know everyone on Watchblog is eagerly awaiting eventual answer. Perhaps it will influence voting patterns nationwide.

    But the experience issue remains the same. Obama doesn’t have much. Bush did not have much in 2000. Both were the candidates of change and both implied that experience was less important than the need to change what had been going on. As I mentioned, we forget the power of clinton fatigue in 2000. It was a big factor at the time. Google it.

    So if you were trying to argue that experience is less important, your choice of Bush as an example does not support your case. If you are trying to say something else, you might want to phrase it in a different way. Or perhaps that is just another mystery for us to unravel.

    Posted by: Jac at February 25, 2008 4:49 PM
    Comment #246409
    Bush sold the hope of change (we forget Clinton fatigue. Google the term to refresh your memory). People wanted change in 2000 too. People always want change and they are usually disappointed.

    People HATE change…it’s psychologically disruptive…check it out.

    Anyway, in the 2000 election the majority of people who voted cast their ballot for Gore, so they weren’t looking for change, they were looking to more of the same Democratic policies.

    Posted by: Rachel at February 25, 2008 4:53 PM
    Comment #246411

    Wonderful post, clearly established point, couldn’t have said it better than that girl at the end of the bar with the lazy eye, oops, she’s either noticed me or saw the fly caught in her friends drink. Anyway, most of American disillusionment comes from the MSM shelling out Presidential candidates as celebrities rather than providing the true nature of each candidates background. And in doing so, this panders to the political agenda of candidates, garnering support in the form of legislative interests for these MSM’s. There’s no better way than to influence the outcome of an election then plastering one particular candidates ideas all over their news casts, thereby forwarding their own agenda through the goverment when necessary, and securing corporate interests. This could be regarded as conspiracy, but to show the evidence when listed in sites such as, and one need not look further. Just a pattern of abuse by the corporate elite circumventing the American publics knowledge of the facts. That is why the “Revolution” of one candidate is so popular online and highly disregarded offline, the MSM have no control online. Giving one more reason to block American freedoms in the name of neutrality. Thus brings the legislation falsely named “Net Neutrality” where corporations are attempting to regulate and control the wide-spread file sharing world. Information that can travel beyond the MSM’s grasp, and give the public an unadultered view of the relative evidence available is a threat to their society and wallets. This is why the public believes such related evidence to the candidates, they are filtered from the truth, omitting that which is necessary, and providing that which is not necessary. For those that believe this is a clean slate, the MSM’s purpose has been achieved.

    Posted by: dobropet at February 25, 2008 5:18 PM
    Comment #246419
    Is there ANY important piece of legislation where Obama worked constructively with the opposition?

    Obama has worked with Dick Lugar on nuclear non-proliferation and alternative fuels. He has worked with John McCain on climate change and I believe also earmark reform. Next question?

    Posted by: Woody Mena at February 25, 2008 5:57 PM
    Comment #246420


    A quick search revealed these instances of working across the aisles.

    In 2005, he co-sponsored the “Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act” introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).In September 2006, Obama supported a related bill, the Secure Fence Act, authorizing construction of fencing and other security improvements along the Mexico–United States border.[60] President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act into law in October 2006, calling it “an important step toward immigration reform.”[61]

    Partnering first with Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), and then with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Obama successfully introduced two initiatives bearing his name. “Lugar-Obama” expands the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction concept to conventional weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles and anti-personnel mines.[62] The “Coburn-Obama Transparency Act” provides for the web site, managed by the Office of Management and Budget. The site lists all organizations receiving Federal funds from 2007 onward and provides breakdowns by the agency allocating the funds, the dollar amount given, and the purpose of the grant or contract.[63] In December 2006, President Bush signed into law the “Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act,” marking the first federal legislation to be enacted with Obama as its primary sponsor.[64]

    Obama’s energy initiatives scored pluses and minuses with environmentalists, who welcomed his sponsorship with John McCain (R-AZ) of a climate change bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050, but were skeptical of his support for a bill promoting liquefied coal production.[71]

    I am well aware of McCains problems with defiance of republican operating procedure. If I had no better choice McCain is a republican I could vote for. Unfortunately for him he is tied to and beholden to the republican party. And I do have a credible choice. Two of them actually.

    Posted by: RickIL at February 25, 2008 6:04 PM
    Comment #246427

    “we forget Clinton fatigue. Google the term to refresh your memory”

    The phrase “Clinton fatigue” did exist in 2000 , but mainly in the minds of Conservatives:

    “In a Gallup Poll conducted December 15-17, 66% approve of the Clinton is handling his job as president. Clinton’s rating has remained relatively constant over the past year, with an average of 59% approving of the way he has handle the job.”

    CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll

    Posted by: Cube at February 25, 2008 6:54 PM
    Comment #246434

    Here’s some more Obama has contributed to:
    JERUSALEM – The board of a nonprofit organization on which Sen. Barack Obama served as a paid director alongside a confessed domestic terrorist granted funding to a controversial Arab group that mourns the establishment of Israel as a “catastrophe” and supports intense immigration reform, including providing drivers licenses and education to illegal aliens.

    The co-founder of the Arab group in question, Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, also has held a fundraiser for Obama. Khalidi is a harsh critic of Israel, has made statements supportive of Palestinian terror and reportedly has worked on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization while it was involved in anti-Western terrorism and was labeled by the State Department as a terror group.

    In 2001, the Woods Fund, a Chicago-based nonprofit that describes itself as a group helping the disadvantaged, provided a $40,000 grant to the Arab American Action Network, or AAAN, for which Khalidi’s wife, Mona, serves as president. The Fund provided a second grant to the AAAN for $35,000 in 2002.

    Obama was a director of the Woods Fund board from 1999 to Dec. 11, 2002, according to the Fund’s website. According to tax filings, Obama received compensation of $6,000 per year for his service in 1999 and 2000.

    Obama served on the Wood’s Fund board alongside William C. Ayers, a member of the Weathermen terrorist group which sought to overthrow of the U.S. government and took responsibility for bombing the U.S. Capitol in 1971.

    Ayers, who still serves on the Woods Fund board, contributed $200 to Obama’s senatorial campaign fund and has served on panels with Obama at numerous public speaking engagements. Ayers admitted to involvement in the bombings of U.S. governmental buildings in the 1970s. He is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    The $40,000 grant from Obama’s Woods Fund to the AAAN constituted about a fifth of the Arab group’s reported grants for 2001, according to tax filings obtained by WND. The $35,000 Woods Fund grant in 2002 also constituted about one-fifth of AAAN’s reported grants for that year.

    The AAAN, headquartered in the heart of Chicago’s Palestinian immigrant community, describes itself as working to “empower Chicago-area Arab immigrants and Arab Americans through the combined strategies of community organizing, advocacy, education and social services, leadership development, and forging productive relationships with other communities.”

    It reportedly has worked on projects with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which supports open boarders and education for illegal aliens.

    The AAAN in 2005 sent a letter to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in which it called a billboard opposing a North Carolina-New Mexico joint initiative to deny driver’s licenses to illegal aliens a “bigoted attack on Arabs and Muslims.”

    Speakers at AAAN dinners and events routinely have taken an anti-Israel line.

    The group co-sponsored a Palestinian art exhibit, titled, “The Subject of Palestine,” that featured works related to what some Palestinians call the “Nakba” or “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding in 1948.

    According to the widely discredited Nakba narrative, Jews in 1948 forcibly expelled hundreds of thousands - some Palestinians claim over one million - Arabs from their homes and then took over the territory.
    Historically, about 600,000 Arabs fled Israel after surrounding Arab countries warned they would destroy the Jewish state in 1948. Some Arabs also were driven out by Jewish forces while they were trying to push back invading Arab armies. At the same time, over 800,000 Jews were expelled or left Arab countries under threat after Israel was founded.

    The theme of AAAN’s Nakba art exhibit, held at DePaul University in 2005, was “the compelling and continuing tragedy of Palestinian life … under [Israeli] occupation … home demolition … statelessness … bereavement … martyrdom, and … the heroic struggle for life, for safety, and for freedom.”

    Another AAAN initiative, titled, “Al Nakba 1948 as experienced by Chicago Palestinians,” seeks documents related to the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding.

    A post on the AAAN site asked users: “Do you have photos, letters or other memories you could share about Al-Nakba-1948?”

    That posting was recently removed. The AAAN website currently states the entire site is under construction.

    Pro-PLO advocate held Obama fundraiser, describes Obama as ‘sympathetic’

    AAAN co-founder Rashid Khalidi was reportedly a director of the official PLO press agency WAFA in Beirut from 1976 to 1982, while the PLO committed scores of anti-Western attacks and was labeled by the U.S. as a terror group. Khalidi’s wife, AAAN President Mona Khalidi, was reportedly WAFA’s English translator during that period.

    Rashid Khalidi at times has denied working directly for the PLO but Palestinian diplomatic sources in Ramallah told WND he indeed directed WAFA. Khalidi also advised the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference in 1991.

    During documented speeches and public events, Khalidi has called Israel an “apartheid system in creation” and a destructive “racist” state.

    He has multiple times expressed support for Palestinian terror, calling suicide bombings response to “Israeli aggression.” He dedicated his 1986 book, “Under Siege,” to “those who gave their lives … in defense of the cause of Palestine and independence of Lebanon.” Critics assailed the book as excusing Palestinian terrorism.

    While the Woods Fund’s contribution to Khalidi’s AAAN might be perceived as a one-time run in with Obama, the presidential hopeful and Khalidi evidence a deeper relationship.

    According to a professor at the University of Chicago who said he has known Obama for 12 years, the Democratic presidential hopeful first befriended Khalidi when the two worked together at the university. The professor spoke on condition of anonymity. Khalidi lectured at the University of Chicago until 2003 while Obama taught law there from 1993 until his election to the Senate in 2004.

    Khalidi in 2000 held what was described as a successful fundraiser for Obama’s failed bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, a fact not denied by Khalidi.

    Speaking in a joint interview with WND and the John Batchelor Show of New York’s WABC Radio and Los Angeles’ KFI Radio, Khalidi was asked about his 2000 fundraiser for Obama.

    “I was just doing my duties as a Chicago resident to help my local politician,” Khalidi stated.

    Khalidi said he supports Obama for president “because he is the only candidate who has expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause.”

    Khalidi also lauded Obama for “saying he supports talks with Iran. If the U.S. can talk with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, there is no reason it can’t talk with the Iranians.”

    Asked about Obama’s role funding the AAAN, Khalidi claimed he had “never heard of the Woods Fund until it popped up on a bunch of blogs a few months ago.”

    He terminated the call when petitioned further about his links with Obama.

    Contacted by phone, Mona Khalidi refused to answer WND’s questions about the AAAN’s involvement with Obama.

    Obama’s campaign headquarters did not reply to a list of WND questions sent by e-mail to the senator’s press office.

    Obama, American terrorist in same circles

    Obama served on the board with Ayers, who was a Weathermen leader and has written about his involvement with the group’s bombings of the New York City Police headquarters in 1970, the Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972.

    “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough,” Ayers told the New York Times in an interview released on Sept. 11, 2001

    “Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon,” Ayers wrote in his memoirs, titled “Fugitive Days.” He continued with a disclaimer that he didn’t personally set the bombs, but his group set the explosives and planned the attack.

    A $200 campaign contribution is listed on April 2, 2001 by the “Friends of Barack Obama” campaign fund. The two taught appeared speaking together at several public events, including a 1997 University of Chicago panel entitled, “Should a child ever be called a ‘super predator?’” and another panel for the University of Illinois in April 2002, entitled, “Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?”

    The charges against Ayers were dropped in 1974 because of prosecutorial misconduct, including illegal surveillance.

    Ayers is married to another notorious Weathermen terrorist, Bernadine Dohrn, who has also served on panels with Obama. Dohrn was once on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List and was described by J. Edgar Hoover as the “most dangerous woman in America.” Ayers and Dohrn raised the son of Weathermen terrorist Kathy Boudin, who was serving a sentence for participating in a 1981 murder and robbery that left 4 people dead.

    Obama advisor wants talks with terrorists

    The revelations about Obama’s relationship with Khalidi follows a recent WND article quoting Israeli security officials who expressed “concern” about Robert Malley, an adviser to Obama who has advocated negotiations with Hamas and providing international assistance to the terrorist group.

    Malley, a principal Obama foreign policy adviser, has penned numerous opinion articles, many of them co-written with a former adviser to the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, petitioning for dialogue with Hamas and blasting Israel for numerous policies he says harm the Palestinian cause.

    Malley also previously penned a well-circulated New York Review of Books piece largely blaming Israel for the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David in 2000 when Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern sections of Jerusalem and instead returned to the Middle East to launch an intifada, or terrorist campaign, against the Jewish state.

    Malley’s contentions have been strongly refuted by key participants at Camp David, including President Bill Clinton, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and primary U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, all of whom squarely blamed Arafat’s refusal to make peace for the talks’ failure.

    For more see World Net Daily.

    Posted by: dobropet at February 25, 2008 8:49 PM
    Comment #246443


    A technicality. A majority implies more than 50%. Gore did not get that many votes. He won by a plurality. Bill Clinton never won a majority either. Bush #1 won a majority in 1988. Bush #2 won a majority in 2004. Nobody won a majority in between.

    You are right about the change. I should have said, “people always SAY they want change.”


    Maybe that is why Obama supporters prefer the blank slate. When you see what he is actually been up to, it is not so pretty as his soaring words.

    The “net neutrality” rules are bad.

    Woody & Rick Il

    It is interesting that Obama’s bipartisan outreach seemed always to involve McCain. Whereas McCain worked with a variety of Dems, including ultra-liberal. Maybe it is not Obama who was doing the reaching out.


    Google the term Clinton fatigue and you will see that Democrats worried about it and some think it significantly hurt Al Gore.

    Posted by: Jack at February 25, 2008 11:41 PM
    Comment #246453

    Many analysts also believed that if Gore would have utilized President Clinton during his campaign, that he would have won handily. Certainly, the Clinton name didn’t hurt Hillary in New York as some predicted, when she ran for senator.

    There is a big difference in what Bush proclaimed as change, and what Obama and other president hopefuls are calling change today. Today’s hopefuls are referring to a change from Bush’s corrupt and inept administration. The expectations and qualifications expected of our next president are far different than what was looked for in the year 2000. This is evident by who the Republican Party is choosing as their candidate and who is still left for the Democrats. Despite falling behind now, Hillary was able to cash a large amount of currency in part by her association to the Clinton era of the past.

    Jack can lament all he wants, but McCain will have to overcome his association with the Republican Party and Bush if he is going to have a chance to win. It is also obvious that a Conservative in name only doesn’t hold the same appeal as it once did, especially a bumbling one.

    Posted by: Cube at February 26, 2008 2:09 AM
    Comment #246454

    dobro pet Thanks for the informative aticle on Barack Hussein Obama. I have changed ny first impression of him and due to your post will reconsider my vote this november should he become the democratic candidate.
    I have always thought that McCain was a decent man for a politician and now that it appears he will be the repub candidate for president my decison was looking to become tougher.
    I always like the candidate that will help the underdog and well it certainly seems that Obama is that man. Thanks again for the info. Imagine in this day and age a local politician that works with people in his district and supports their causes. Just think what he can do for the nation.

    Posted by: j2t2 at February 26, 2008 2:21 AM
    Comment #246455

    WorldNetDaily, also known as WND, is a far right American conservative online news site[1], founded in 1997…

    WND was founded in 1997 by Joseph Farah. In 1991, after resigning as editor of the Sacramento Union, Farah co-founded the Western Journalism Center, known for its promotion of conservative causes, with James H. Smith, former publisher of the Sacramento Union.[3] In 1994 and 1995, foundations controlled by conservative financier and former owner of the Union Richard Mellon Scaife gave $330,000 to the Center…

    The website features editorials from the site’s founder, Joseph Farah and other conservative authors such as Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, and David Limbaugh…

    On September 13, 2001, WND published a commentary by Anthony C. LoBaido regarding the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington two days earlier. In his column, LoBaido outlined what he regarded as the moral depravity of America in general and New York in particular, asking whether “God (has) raised up Shiite Islam as a sword against America”.


    Posted by: Cube at February 26, 2008 4:40 AM
    Comment #246456


    Does it really matter who was reaching out? We were discussing an ability and desire to constructively reach or work across the aisles. I think it is fair to say that both candidates have exhibited this trait.

    Obama has to date remained within character. He has not displayed the acrid bias which is so apparent in most republican legislators, the executive and many dem legislators of today. I have seen hints of the latter from McCain but I will admit that it does not personify him as it does most of his fellow republicans in government. I bring this up because it is a child like trait that has diseased government and is imo the main obstacle to productive legislation today.

    To be honest I am thinking that were it not for his close affiliation with lobbyists, the republican party and support of the Iraq war McCain would probably make an excellent independent party choice.

    Posted by: RickIL at February 26, 2008 6:46 AM
    Comment #246461
    It is interesting that Obama’s bipartisan outreach seemed always to involve McCain. Whereas McCain worked with a variety of Dems, including ultra-liberal. Maybe it is not Obama who was doing the reaching out.

    It always in involved McCain… except when it didn’t.

    Dick Lugar got a 82% rating from the American Conservative Union. Tom Coburn got 100%. To do better than that, Obama would have to work with Attila the Hun.

    Keep going, we are developing a lot of ammo for Obama here. :)

    Posted by: Woody Mena at February 26, 2008 7:54 AM
    Comment #246465

    McCain? Here’s a little “south of the border” support for this man’s ideas, read carefully as this gives an idea on his temperament and extreme measures that would cost America:
    Mr Big Stick in Latin America
    Meet John McCain

    Now that John McCain has presumably wrapped up the Republican nomination, it’s natural to wonder what kind of foreign policy he might pursue towards the rest of the world if he were elected President. For example, how would the “maverick” McCain deal with Latin America? In recent years, the region has taken a decidedly leftist turn; new leaders such as Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua have openly challenged U.S. diplomatic and political influence. McCain’s record suggests that he would pursue a very hawkish and antagonistic policy in the hemisphere. It’s even possible that the Arizona Republican, who has suggested that the United States might be in Iraq for hundreds of years and might “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran,” could ratchet up military tensions in Latin America and escalate conflict with countries like Venezuela.

    The International Republican Institute (IRI)

    McCain has chaired the International Republican Institute (IRI) since 1993. Ostensibly a non-partisan, democracy-building outfit, in reality the IRI serves as an instrument to advance and promote the most far right Republican foreign policy agenda. More a cloak-and-dagger operation than a conventional research group, IRI has aligned itself with some of the most antidemocratic factions in the Third World.

    On the surface at least, IRI seems to have a rather innocuous agenda including party building, media training, the organization of leadership trainings, dissemination of newsletters, and strengthening of civil society. In reality, however, the IRI is more concerned with crushing incipient left movements in Latin America.

    One of the least known Washington institutions, IRI receives taxpayer money via the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. A.I.D.). The organization is active in around sixty countries and has a budget of $74 million. On the board of IRI, McCain has been joined by a who’s who of Republican bigwigs such as Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick.

    IRI’s Latin American Activities

    In Haiti, IRI helped to fund, equip, and lobby for Haiti’s two heavily conservative and White House-backed opposition parties, the Democratic Convergence and Group 184. The latter group, comprised of many of the island’s major business, church and professional figures, was at the vanguard of opposition to Jean Bertrand Aristide prior to the Haitian President’s forced ouster in 2004. At the same time, IRI funneled taxpayer money to hard-line anti-Castro forces allied to the Republican Party.

    In Venezuela, IRI generously funded anti-Chávez civil society groups that were militantly opposed to the regime. Starting in 1998, the year Chávez was elected, IRI worked with Venezuelan organizations to produce anti-Chávez media campaigns, including newspaper, television and radio ads. Additionally, when politicians, union and civil society leaders went to Washington to meet with U.S. officials just one month before the April 2002 coup, IRI picked up the bill. The IRI also helped to fund the corrupt Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (which played a major role in the anti-Chávez destabilization campaign leading up to the coup) and Súmate, an organization involved in a signature-gathering campaign to present a petition calling for Chávez’s recall.

    McCain and Cuba

    McCain has taken a personal interest in IRI’s Cuba work and praises the anti-Castro opposition. The Arizona Senator has called Cuba “a national security threat,” adding that “as president, I will not passively await the long overdue demise of the Castro dictatorship … The Cuban people have waited long enough.” McCain wants to increase funding for the U.S. government’s anti-Castro radio and TV stations, seeks the release of all Cuban political prisoners, supports internationally monitored elections on the island, and wants to keep the U.S. trade embargo in place. What kind of future does McCain envision for Cuba? No doubt, one in which the Miami anti-Castro exiles rule the island. McCain’s most influential advisers on Latin American affairs are Cuban Americans from Florida, including Senator Mel Martínez and far right Congress members Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros Lehtinen.

    For McCain, It’s Never Ending Free Trade and Militarization

    On Capitol Hill, McCain has championed pro-U.S. Latin American regimes while working to isolate those governments which are rising up to challenge American hegemony. On Colombia, for example, McCain has been a big booster of official U.S. policy. Despite Colombia’s status as a human rights nightmare, the Senator supports ongoing funding to the government of Álvaro Uribe so as to combat the “narco-trafficking and terrorist threat.”

    McCain has taken a personal interest in the Andean region. He has traveled to Ecuador and Colombia so as to drum up more support for the counter insurgency and drug war, now amounting to billions of dollars a year. McCain’s foremost fear is that the Democrats may turn off the money flow to Uribe. “You don’t build strong alliances by turning your back on friends,” he has said.

    McCain seeks to confront countries such as Venezuela and Cuba by encouraging U.S. partnership with sympathetic regimes that support American style free trade. “We need to build on the passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement by expanding U.S. trade with the region,” he has said. “Let’s start by ratifying the trade agreements with Panama, Peru, and Colombia that are already completed, and pushing forward the Free Trade Area of the Americas.”

    Chávez has been one of the greatest obstacles to the fulfillment of McCain’s free trade agenda, however. In recent years, the Venezuelan has pushed his own barter trade scheme, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, which promotes economic solidarity and reciprocity between Latin American nations. Concerned about growing ties between Cuba and Venezuela, McCain said “He [Chávez] aspires to be this generation’s [Fidel] Castro. I think the people of Venezuela ought to look at the standard of living in Cuba before they would embrace such a thing.”

    Fighting the Information War in Latin America

    Speaking in Miami’s Little Havana, McCain said that “everyone should understand the connections” between Evo Morales, Castro, and Chávez. “They inspire each other. They assist each other. They get ideas from each other. It’s very disturbing.” McCain said Chávez breathed “new oxygen” into Castro’s regime, and that the U.S. government should do more to quell dictatorships throughout Latin America. Perhaps not surprisingly given his historic involvement in IRI, McCain’s campaign Web site even featured an online petition calling for support in his quest to “stop the dictators of Latin America.” The petition called for the ouster of Chávez “in the name of democracy and freedom throughout our hemisphere.”

    Though the petition was later taken down, McCain has staked out hawkish territory on Venezuela and would surely escalate tensions with the South American nation. Most troubling is the Senator’s strong push for renewed U.S. propaganda in the region. McCain has criticized the Venezuelan government’s decision to not renew Radio Caracas Television’s license, and has called for reestablishing an agency like the United States Information Agency (the USIA oversaw a variety of agencies including the Voice of America radio network before it was merged into the State Department in 1998).

    “Dismantling an agency dedicated to promoting America and the American message amounted to unilateral disarmament in the struggle of ideas,” McCain has said. “We need to re-create an independent agency with the sole purpose of getting America’s message to the world. Thiswould aid our efforts to communicate accurately with the people of Latin America.”

    If McCain was ever able to push through his aggressive media initiatives, he would antagonize many nations in the region which resent the pervasiveness of U.S. dominated media. Already, Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, and Uruguay have formed a joint satellite news station called Telesur (in my upcoming book scheduled for release in six weeks, I devote an entire chapter to the issue of media politics in South America).

    From Bolton to Big Stick

    To make matters worse, the Chair of IRI has sought to promote neo-conservative figures from the Bush regime such as John Bolton. During the latter’s confirmation hearings in the Senate, McCain urged his Democratic colleagues to approve the diplomat’s nomination quickly. Bolton has been a hawk not only on Iran but also Venezuela. McCain, who refers to Chávez as a “wacko,” said it was important to confirm Bolton. With Bolton at the United Nations, the U.S. would be able to talk back to “two-bit dictators” like the Venezuelan leader.

    Like Bolton, McCain apparently shares his colleague’s disdain for the United Nations and wants to create a so-called League of Democracies. As envisioned by the Arizona legislator, the new body would take the place of the United Nations on such issues as conflict resolution, disease treatment and prevention, environmental crises, and access to free markets. Interestingly, McCain’s inspiration for the League is Teddy Roosevelt, who had a vision of “like-minded nations working together for peace and liberty.”

    Roosevelt, however, was no dove: he wielded a Big Stick and practiced gunboat diplomacy in Latin America. It’s a policy which John McCain would probably like to revive if he is elected President in November.

    Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U.S. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), and Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2008).

    Original posting found on, enjoy.

    Posted by: dobropet at February 26, 2008 11:07 AM
    Comment #246476

    Oh, Jack…you just jump all over the place in trying to refute…

    A technicality. A majority implies more than 50%. Gore did not get that many votes. He won by a plurality.

    Gore got more votes than any other presidential candidate..our system does not require a 51% majority nor a run-off when no candidate gets a majority of votes. So…Gore won on the total number of votes cast. Bush didn’t…what a technicality…

    Posted by: Rachel at February 26, 2008 1:54 PM
    Comment #246480

    No, Jack is right still, the majority did not vote for Gore even in your explanation, that would ignore the votes cast for Browne, Nadar, Buchanan, Phillips and Hagelin…

    Total votes cast: 105,417,258
    Votes for Gore: 51,003,926 (48.4%)

    Posted by: Rhinehold at February 26, 2008 2:29 PM
    Comment #246550


    Thanks. It is hard to explain that majority concept to the Gore won folks. Gore won more votes than Bush but he did not win a majority. This small technicality weakens the rage against the system.


    Another technicality. Attila the Hun was a believer in government control; he did not allow free market; did not believe in free trade; he was suspicious and fearful of Christians; believed that government should set prices and regulate everything and gave “the people” money he had taken from others. He is a liberal, in the current American sense. would support Attila.

    Posted by: Jack at February 27, 2008 11:44 AM
    Comment #246569
    No, Jack is right still, the majority did not vote for Gore

    As I said, the majority of those who voted, voted for Gore…most people understand that as it stands…the most votes went to Gore, not Bush.

    Posted by: Rachel at February 27, 2008 1:46 PM
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