Thursday, June 26, 2008

Barack Obama Turns Right: Say it Ain’t So

Having eliminated his rivals for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama is now in a two man race for the White House against Senator John McCain. And he’s done what Democrats normally do when they secure their party’s nomination---he’s turning to the right, or to the centre as his handlers would describe it.

Here are three issues on which the Senator from Illinois has refitted his sails for a tack to the right:

Obama has decided to opt out of the public financing system for the general election, the first major party candidate to do this since the system was created in 1976. A presidential candidate is entitled to receive funding from the federal government provided he limits his own spending to the level of the matching federal grant which is $84.1 million for the 2008 election. Earlier in the campaign, Obama said he would try to work out an agreement with the Republicans so he could remain within the public financing system. McCain, who has raised less than half as much money as Obama so far, will accept public financing. (It is, of course, ludicrous that in the U.S. that are no limits to the amount a candidate can spend. If he or she chooses to, a candidate can spend any amount by simply opting out of the public system.) Obama justified his decision by charging that: “The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.” While Obama’s criticisms are valid, the step he is now taking will put the last nail in the coffin of the public system that does exist. In the United States, democracy is under threat from plutocracy, a political system in which huge sums of money are the key to the achievement of high office.
The Senator from Illinois supported a deal with the Bush administration on the wiretapping of residents of the United States in the interest of national security. This so-called “compromise” bill will allow the U.S. government to make use of evidence that was previously obtained by wiretapping without a warrant, even should courts later rule that the spying was not legal. Liberal and civil liberties activists are shocked at Obama’s decision to support the bill., for instance, has called on its two million members to demand that Obama stick to his former opposition to the use of evidence derived from illegal wiretaps: “Can you call Senator Obama today and tell him you’re counting on him to keep his word? Ask him to block any compromise that includes immunity for phone companies that helped Bush break the law.”
Although he has been a critic of the way capital punishment has been used in the U.S., Barack Obama declared that he opposed this week’s decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that bars the execution of child rapists in cases where they do not kill their victims. By a five to four decision, the less staunchly right-wing members of the court struck down a 1995 Louisiana law that permitted the use of the death penalty to punish someone convicted of raping a child under the age of 12. For the past thirty years, executions in the United States have been limited to those who commit capital crimes. The decision of the Supreme Court did not narrow the use of capital punishment in any way. It simply prevented a widening of the resort to capital punishment to include a category of non-capital crimes. No one doubts the heinousness of the rape of children. For those who oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, however, which is the position of Canada and the member states of the European Union, alternative punishments exist---in Canada, for instance, criminals deemed to be “dangerous offenders” can be confined to prison for life with no possibility of parole. It is deeply disappointing to see Barack Obama joining Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts in a bid to widen the application of capital punishment in the United States.

Barack Obama’s sheen as the candidate who would transform America is losing some of its lustre. Yes, we can?


Chrystal Ocean said...

Obama has always been right - relative to the Canadian scene anyway. He's also a waffler.

And anyone who truly listens to his speeches realized long ago that Obama is not saying anything. His speeches are filled with warm fuzzies ("Yes we can" and messages of "hope") but they contain little if any substance.

Just WHAT can we do, specifically? (and who's the 'we') How do 'we' accomplish it? With what resources? By what time? ...

If I were an American, no Democrat or Republican would get my vote.

Johnny Eleven said...

Obama does seem to have set some conditions for accepting public funding that weren't met. The conditions would have eliminated the funding advantages Republicans enjoy. News reports omit that point.

If I were an American, I'd hold my nose and vote Democrat. George W. McCain would be a disaster as president.

Skinny Dipper said...

Obama has the charm of another famous politician we all knew: Brian Mulroney--loved at first; hated after. He also has a dash of Kim Campbell's hope.

John Murney said...

"Barack Obama Turns Right:"
Hmmm..I may consider cheering for Obama after all!

Greg said...

I bet all the good little liberal Democrats will meekly go and vote for the guy, though. America is what Canada will look like if, god forbid, we ever have a two party system. You don't like Blue Tories? Well how about new and improved Blue Liberals! We are just as bad, but we care, damnit!

Mark Greenan said...

Yes, it's truly horrible that Obama's campaign is funded by over a million donors, donating on average less than $100.

Damned plutocrats!

Anonymous said...

And so the slide begins. Not merely coincidental with his funding statement was Obama's disavowal of his position on renegotiating NAFTA -- made in the heat of battle, he said. With Hilary Clinton out of the race, now's the time for truth telling. A good time, too, because his NAFTA position made corporate donors uncertain. Now, they're flocking to him as the ideologically acceptable front runner.
Watch him go back on his promise to negotiate condition-free with Iran.
Obama is nothing more than a Reagan Democrat.

James Laxer said...

Anyone who believes that Barack Obama just appeared on the scene as a major candidate and simply attracted hundreds of thousands of small donations to fuel his campaign should read Ken Silverstein's article in the November 2006 Harper's. It is titled: "Barack Obama Inc.: The Birth of a Washington Machine." It documents the corporate ties and the money that are essential parts of the Obama story.

Compared to other American politicians, there is much to admire in Obama---and especially in the Obama phenomenon. When he behaves like a typical politician, though, and exposes his very real limitations, we need to note it.

ken said...

Obama is also switiching to the right on welfare reform, NAFTA re-opening, and on withdrawal from Iraq. There is a recent article in the Wall Street journal that portrarys Obama as running for Bush's third term!

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