In a general election, candidates always ‘tack away’ from the left or the right. It’s always mildly irritating to the bases of the two major parties. There is always some grumbling about it, and there are always news articles praising the candidates for their boldness and independence and political savvy in crapping on the people that just got them the nomination of their respective parties. The news articles are actually the part of it that I find annoying. The rest of it is just by-the-book politics, and I don’t really mind.
The Hill produced one of these articles this morning. It fits the genre perfectly. It’s lazy and sloppy and it misdiagnoses the problem Obama has created with his base. It mentions Obama’s Father’s Day speech in Chicago, where he called on young men (especially) in the black community to act like men and not boys and be fathers to their children. The speech was widely praised by Obama’s base and the black community, but the article makes it seem like a bold slap in the face. It mentions that Obama is running advertisements in Alaska and Montana that hit on Republican themes of patriotism and personal responsibility, as if this too is some kind of distancing from his base. In truth, his base has been extremely enthusiastic about Obama’s willingness to compete in all 50 states. Here’s old artilleryman Markos Moulitsas from last Thursday:
I see this first salvo as spotting rounds. If we see positive movement in places like Alaska and Montana, we may see the campaign fire for effect.
Let’s hope so. McCain doesn’t have anywhere near the resources to fight this war on such a wide front. Their best hope is for a traditional Ohio-Florida campaign to develop. Then, they concentrate their resources on those two states. But Alaska? Republicans can’t afford to see states like Alaska become seriously contested.
It’s a myth that Obama’s base opposes running ads in Alaska and Montana that project his love of country and desire to see people take responsibility for their lives. We don’t like to have our candidates’ patriotism questioned or to have their belief system distorted. We wish John Kerry had done a better job defending himself on those issues.
The Hill article conflates these non-issues with the big one, which is Obama’s refusal to keep his promise to filibuster any FISA bill that includes retroactive immunity. On that one issue, Obama really is tacking away from the left (and the libertarian right). But even that isn’t quite accurate. Opposition to the current FISA bill is a mainstream Democratic position, as evidenced by the fact that 128 Democratic House members voted against it and only 105 members voted for it. Obama isn’t tacking away from the left of the Democrat Party so much as he is actively pandering to the right.
Also, the two sources for this article are about the worst possible. Chris Lehane was Al Gore’s attack dog and is one of the biggest weasels I’ve ever encountered on the Democratic sides of politics. While Tad Levine was Kerry’s attack dog and was wholly ineffective. Neither of them are serving in any official capacity for the Obama campaign, which may be why they are so eager to spout off their centrist mouths and praise Obama for annoying the left. He’s not annoying the left over anything but the FISA bill. And that is where the focus should be. No one cares about adjustments Obama makes to his Social Security plan or shifts in his advertising strategy. The FISA bill is a big concern because it redefines the government’s right to spy on U.S. citizens and it kills any investigation into crimes committed by the Bush administration. Once the bill becomes law there are permanent losses in privacy and sunlight that can’t be or are unlikely to be legislated back into existence.
We’re serious about opposing the FISA law. The rest of it? That’s just politics.