Barack Obama and Sarah Palin have been attacking each other’s record. I see that as a good thing.
Let’s take Obama’s attacks on Palin. Obama recently called Palin’s claim that she killed the Bridge to Nowhere “shameless.” Many news outlets have pointed out that Palin initially supported this symbol of pork, but she changed her mind once it became controversial, and Congress wasn’t appropriating enough money for it. “A bunch of heat started generating because people were thinking, ‘Why are we building a bridge to nowhere?'” Obama said to laughter. “So a deal was cut where Alaska still got the money. They just didn’t build a bridge with it, and now she’s out there acting like she was fighting this thing the whole time” (see here).
Palin hasn’t yet explained herself on the Bridge. As far as I know, she hasn’t even given an interview in which she’s had to answer tough questions. Hopefully, Charlie Gibson will grill her for answers this week! Good for Obama that he’ll keep goading Sarah Palin until she offers some.
I’ve loved this characteristic of Obama since his run against Hillary: he’ll use the campaign trail as a place to goad his opponents. He doesn’t limit himself to sappy cliches in his speeches. He asks serious questions that merit an answer! I liked it when Hillary had that goofy 4 a.m. ad that portrayed her as experienced in foreign policy, and Obama said something like, “What is this ‘experience’ she keeps talking about? Has she negotiated any treaties?” Hillary then tried to spin something as foreign policy experience. That led to her making up that whole sniper story, which culminated in her political demise (Hooray!). But I hope it doesn’t get to that point for Sarah.
Now for Palin’s attacks on Obama. I relished something Peggy Noonan said in her September 6 column (see here):
“What she did in terms of the campaign itself was important. No one has ever really laid a glove on Obama before, not in this campaign and maybe not in his life. But Palin really damaged him. She took him square on, fearlessly, by which I mean in part that she showed no awkwardness connected to race, or racial history. A small town mayor is kind of like a community organizer only you have actual responsibilities. He wrote two memoirs but never authored a major bill. They’ve hauled the Styrofoam pillars back to the Hollywood lot.“
I don’t entirely agree with Peggy’s narrative, since Obama has had to endure all sorts of criticisms: about his experience, about his minister, about his wife, etc., etc. But the general tone of the Democratic National Convention was that Obama’s record as a community organizer is sacrosanct. And Palin did well to ask how that meager record prepares him to be President.
Unfortunately, some supporters of Obama will see any criticism of the Senator as racist. The AP has reported the following about New York Governor David Paterson (see here):
“New York Gov. David Paterson said Tuesday that there were racial overtones in the Republican presidential ticket’s criticism of Democrat Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer. ‘There are overtones of potential racial coding in the campaign,’ Paterson said at an event in New York City.”
Get a life, Governor! Obama’s record as a community organizer is fair game. If Obama wants to emphasize that, which is what the Democrats did at the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago, then the Republicans have a right to question it as a qualification for the Presidency. Some people will inject race into anything! Comments like those of Governor Paterson lead many white people to yawn, drowning out the legitimate complaints about racism.
You have some good stuff James!
Obama’s record as a community organiser is fair game?
Palin’s attack of Obama claiming he had “only” been a “community organiser”, was beautifully responded to later by Obama. He told voters, “the Republicans really had fun with the work I did after college. I don’t know if they understand what it means to, at the age of 22 or 23, to pass up more lucrative options and work with people who are having a tough time, and seeing when people work together, we can do amazing things –- rebuilding communities, and setting up job training centers and starting up after-school programs for kids.” One short part of his career.
It’s ironic that while McCain plays on his life as a war hero, Obama and the Democrats only express their utmost respect. However Kerry was riduculed and accused as a traitor by the Republicans for his life as a war hero. McCain has spent his life trying desperately to become the most powerful man in the world, while Obama has fallen into politics almost accidentally due to his genuine concerns and skills. I’d rather have someone who has not been involved in politics all his life than someone experienced in the art of deviousness and deception.
Obama’s experience is more impressive to me than a “war record” or a gun toting ex beauty pagent contestant ‘lipstick wearing Pit Bull’.
He was born in Hawaii, then moved to Indonesia for five years with his step-father from ages six to ten.
After returning to Hawaii for middle and high school, he went Occidental College, a liberal arts school in L.A. After a couple years at Occidental, he transferred to Columbia University, where he majored in political science with a specialisation in International Relations.
After graduating, he went to work as a community organiser in Chicago. Following three years of helping some of Chicago’s poorest residents recover from a steel mill closing through job training programmes, he went to Harvard Law. There, he became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Instead of seeking a high paying job upon graduating from Harvard, he returned to Chicago and went back to the neighborhood communities by organising and helping to register 150,000 voters.
e then began working at a civil rights firm and went on to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He did all of this before his career in politics began. Following that began ten years experience in public office.
His first law was passed with Republican Tom Coburn, a measure to rebuild trust in government by allowing every American to go online and see how and where every dime of their tax dollars are spent. He has also been the lead voice in championing ethics reform that would root out Jack Abramoff-style corruption in Congress. Obama has co-sponsored immigration related bills related to his service on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee including the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act.
I read the following comment somewhere recently and if I was American, I’d be voting for this reason too: “The major reason I am voting for Barack Obama is his demeanor and candor. The Repubs use fear and cynicism to garner votes.”
Thanks, Brian. You’re blog looks cool!
Steph, yeah it’s a small part of his career, but it’s the vast bulk of what was talked about at the convention. And Kerry wanted to have his cake and eat it too. I thought he said that he committed atrocities in Vietnam. But he wanted us to see him as a hero? Which is it?
Every person involved in war commits atrocities – that’s what war is. So did McCain. I don’t think Kerry wanted to be called a hero but he was ridiculed by the Repubs whereas Dems respect McCain for his participation.
You’re kidding, right Steph? Kerry emphasized his war record at the 2004 convention!