Chris Hedges has a brilliant article where he lights into Tim Russert and Barack Obama as courtiers posing as outsiders holding power to account. He is of course right. It was interesting to note David Brook’s column highlighting Obama’s political effectiveness and ruthlessness, Sullivan’s agreement and Yglesias’s “boy-oh-boy is he pissed at Barack Obama”.
I am mostly with Sullivan on this, and most of the above, including I believe Yglesias who agreed with Chait in a bloggingheads.tv diavlog early in the primary season [here or here] that Obama was a skillful politician. The problem is that Obama, being the skillful politician that he is knows how things lie. From Mike Madden at salon (by way of Cole and Shenkman):
Barack Obama has been running for president for 16 months. He’s written two best-selling books, has already spent more money on TV ads in most states than any presidential candidate in history and employs about 1,000 paid staffers — and a legion of unpaid volunteers — working around the clock to spread the word about him.
You’d think that would be enough to get some basic facts about the guy lodged in voters’ heads. But you’d be wrong. In recent focus groups in key battleground states, participants told Democratic pollsters matter-of-factly that Obama, if elected, would refuse to be sworn in on the Bible. In one group conducted on behalf of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, seven out of 12 independent Virginia voters taking part said they thought Obama was a Muslim (he isn’t), and some questioned his patriotism, saying he needs to prove he’s “for America.”
(The thesis isn’t built on a single anecdote but the anecdote turns out to illustrate what is happening quite well.) The simple fact of the matter is that if the narrative that Obama is soft on terrorists is allowed to take hold as a narrative he is going to find it very difficult to get elected.
this is the problems of course that all politicians face, and yet we have to try and dig into a politician’s rhetoric and actions to try and get an understanding of his character and ethics. Hedges is right to be wary of such compromises, but so is Cesca to warn against the kind of nihilistic thinking that gave us Gush and Bore.