Monday, January 28, 2008

What's in the box?

Tigerhawk raises the interesting possibility that Barack Obama is worth more undefined than defined. To question what does Barack Obama really think about Israel the best answer (from his perspective might be) "what do you think I think?"

Ed Lasky (American Thinker) and Paul Mirengoff (Power Line) are wondering why Barack Obama has enlisted Robert Malley as one of his foreign policy advisors. As the various links reveal, Malley is just about as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli as credible foreign policy analysts get, at least in the United States. Now, Malley is but one advisor to Obama among many, and his views clearly diverge from Obama's stated positions. This raises the question, why does Obama list such an inflammatory figure as an advisor? Does Obama merely want different perspectives on his team, or does he genuinely agree with Malley notwithstanding his soothing words to Jewish groups, or is he sending a disingenuous signal to the big-money donors on the transnational left that America will weaken its support for Israel under an Obama presidency? Any of these explanations strike me as possible. It would be wonderful (hint, hint) if mainstream media journalists made some passing attempt to ascertain the correct explanation.

The conventional wisdom is that political platforms exist to define a candidate, much like a spec sheet describes a product. A candidate who wishes to appeal to certain groups of voters, according to this line of thinking, benefits by tuning himself to their preferences. By adopting an optimal mix of policy positions, each of which yields an expected number of votes, the candidate can craft a plank which maximizes the sum of votes yielded by the different policy positions.

But consider an alternative strategy in which a candidate deliberately keeps one or more of his policy positions ambiguous. Two possibilities present themselves which would otherwise not be available to a candidate who defined himself completely. The first is the prospect of attracting multiple sets of constituencies around the ambiguous policy platform. Each constituency may be allowed to think it knows what the candidate's position will be and act on that misunderstanding or understanding. Obama, by saying he is pro-Israel and appointing Malley as an adviser, creates a kind of political Rorschach inkblot test in which those who think Obama is "pro-Israel" support him and those who think he is "anti-Israel" support him too. They are sold a box. And they think they know the contents of the box. But they only get to open the box after Obama is elected President.

The other possibility having an undefined platform creates is that it creates an implicit bidding situation. Democratic Jewish groups may say, "Oh, if we don't support Obama, then he might be captured by the likes of Malley." And the likes of Malley are probably saying to themselves, "unless we throw everything behind Obama, he may be captured by the pro-Israel lobby." Thus, the two sides will outdo themselves for the favor of the candidate. If in the first case Obama could sell a ticket twice, in the latter case he can hold an auction to sell it to the highest bidder.

Everyone who was once a teenager remembers the situation well. Nothing fired youthful ardor more than the knowledge there was a rival bidding fair for the affection of the girl of your dreams. More often than not, a girl in that position, got two invitations everywhere. "Hope" is a commodity in itself.


Blogger soflauthor said...

Obama appears to be what the media loves—style over substance. It's hard to imagine that the MSM would aggressively address any of the issues raised by Lasky and Mirengoff.

When people listen to this young, charismatic orator, they hear what they want to hear. That's what makes him effective and dangerous.

1/28/2008 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Barack Hussein Obama is worth zero as a defined candidate. He is the current darling because his lack of specificity and sweeping rhetoric reflects whatever the listener wants to hear.

I suppose it's possible that there are enough empty headed voters to keep up the charade for another few months but it doesn't seem likely Obama could withstand the scrutiny of becoming the Democratic candidate.

At least I hope not. The Athenians lost everything because of people just like him.

1/28/2008 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

One of his other foreign policy advisors is Samantha Power, who when asked about Israel/Palistine replied, in part:

Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import; it may more crucially mean sacrificing -- or investing, I think, more than sacrificing -- billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel's military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine

Which is just what the US would do, with a Team Obama administration.

1/28/2008 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

With Team Taft busted up in Ohio it'll be more difficult for the GOP to carry that bastion of Bush43 victory.
The Democrats had a huge turnout for Kerry, but Team Taft held sway. Now that a Democrat holds the Governors office ...

Jeb Bush no longer runs the GOP machine in Florida, there will be a resulting diminished level of enthusiasum, no matter the GOP candidate.

Obama gives a hell of a speech, no denying that. I've heard more than one Republican from Arizona say if McCain is the nominee, they'll vote for Obama, though it is not a rational decision. Some blog posters, as well, have stated such an opinion.
Irrational, but elections are emotional decisions for most folks.

1/28/2008 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Most troubling about Obama is his string of "Present" votes. the slippery bastard has been ducking, for years, taking stands that might be used against him later.

That shows to me, not indecisiveness, but rather long running, troubling calculation. I think I'd prefer Clintonian triangulation -- at least its possible to "deal" there.

He was recently catching some flack from the Left for not being sufficiently pro-choice, on the basis of one of his "Present" abstentions. The campaign's response was that his non-vote was "coordinated" with the state ProChoice (NARAL?) leader. That clearly meant "I'm with you, for real, but don;t rock the boat while I sneak in." So at least that one time, the curtain slipped.

Even where his campaign gets a little more specific on issues, I don't believe 'im worth a damn.

Therefore, although a Fred supporter, I'd think I'd vote for McCain over Obama. The speculation about Huck as McCain's VP would put me in a tough spot if true.

Some elsewhere have been decrying that as a "smear", but I could see McCain using Huck to go for2 out of 3 legs of the "tripod": net sec conservatives swayed by Mac's POW status (over their other doubts) and the more knee-jerk evangelicals brought along by Huch.
Fiscal/small govt/federalist/libertarian cons would be left out in the cold.

1/28/2008 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Jimmy Carter pioneered the tactic of "smile and speak in generalities". It worked for him against Gerald Ford.

What troubles me most about Barrack is that he promises to follow all the failed Carter-era policies which the United States and the World are still paying for today. Iran was a peaceful, stable US Ally until Carter came along and handed it over to terrorists. Can Iraq's nascent democracy survive an Obama presidency?

1/28/2008 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger truepeers said...

This line gave me a chuckle: "How do the other candidates stack up by the standard of intention? I would say that Romney wants to lead the country. Hillary Clinton wants to lead the country. I think that Giuliani and McCain are both running primarily to satisfy their ego. Huckabee wants to charm people. Obama wants to be a sun god, not a president"

And the first rule of a sun god or king is that you insist, without insisting, that people recognize that real authority doesn't have to speak. If you have to insist on your authority, you haven't really got it. All that is required of the sun king is that he make the appropriately minimal gestures to let the people know his mood and desires. "Shall we cut off aid to the Zionists, sire?" A mere lift of the right hand pinky is sufficient reply.

Seriously, I doubt if Obama really knows what he believes on very many issues. He's been in a church environment where, by all reports, antisemitism is rife. On the other hand, he's picked up the idea that Jews are liberals and important in the Democratic party. So he floats along, open to both and all possibilities, insisting that he need not be insulted by making committments inappropriate to the omnipotence that is his true destiny. Change. Unity. Think John Lennon, Abbey Road.

1/28/2008 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

I'm conflicted about Obama.

It has been said many times (correctly) that he's an "empty suit". Not surprising, the MSM and moonbats love Obama. The MSM has more or less given Obama a "pass" in terms of critical review. There is little doubt in my mind that Obama would be a disaster as President.

My source of conflict concerning Obama is whether he would be easier for McCain to defeat than Hillary. My guess is that "Yes", Obama would be easier to defeat in the general election. However given that the economy is in trouble, there is a good chance that whoever the Democrats nominate will win the general election (even a clown like Obama).

Given the choice between Obama and Hillary, I'll take Hillary. She will make a terrible President but probably(?) not lead the nation to suicide (still hoping that McCain can pull a rabbit out of a hat).

1/28/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

All the chatter about Obama is interesting but the Clinton Machine will grind him up into political hamburger before it really counts.

The Clintons reach is very deep. Rezco just got arrested outside his house. Expect the NYT and the networks to work Obama over with that.

Sad part is that the Clintons will pander race into a killing issue and then sell themselves back to the Blacks after Obama bites the dust.

1/28/2008 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Anyone falling for Obama learned nothing from the later 20th century..
Gas Attack

… "there are people all across this great nation who … can't afford another four years without health care, that can't afford another four years without good schools, that can't afford another four years without decent wages because our leaders couldn't come together and get it done."

A doctor visit costs no more than a name-brand pair of sneakers — less, probably, in relation to average earnings, than ever in our history. Hospital emergency rooms treat anyone. The theory that spending a ton of money gets you "good schools" was tested to destruction in Kansas City, 1985-97. All that KC got out of it was the most bloated and corrupt educational bureaucracy since Imperial China's (and increased dropout rates to boot!) And why should employers pay "decent wages" to Americans, when they can pay in-decent wages to illegal immigrants? — those illegal immigrants whose unlawful presence in our country you are just fine with, Senator?

"And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words:"
Yes, we can.

Cynicism towards the kind of vaporous flapdoodle Obama trades in is fully justified, and ought to be encouraged.
The man's a hard-left socialist, for Heaven's sake. Anyone falling for this stuff learned nothing from the later 20th century.
- Derbyshire
Yes we can!
(See See Pwaydays!)
Yet another veiled identity politics advertisement.

1/28/2008 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger truepeers said...

This is what a Gnostic paraclete imagines himself looking like. The only question is whether the Obama crowd is on the slow road of liberalism (where one is not quite willing to kill millions in the name of Unity Peace Justice - but will inadvertantly create the conditions for violent disorder when one's fantasies keep eroding the system's vitality) or the fast road of facism.

1/28/2008 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

This assumes Wretchard that either Clinton or the GOP will just let Obama be all things to all people.

Wrong assumption.

Bill Clinton has already defined Obama as the "Black Candidate" and Obama only got 25% of the White vote in SC. To be fair, Obama himself by appealing on racial terms has defined himself as the "Black Candidate."

In purely domestic terms, a "Black Candidate" will make all other racial groups "lose" politically. Affirmative Action will be expanded, at the expense of other groups, and domestic goodies/pork/spoils will be taken from others and given to Blacks. A losing calculation since Blacks make up only 11-12% of the population.

Clinton has leveraged anti-Black Latino sentiment to good effect, expect it to continue. In the general, expect GOP candidates to define Obama as anti-Israel, anti-American, in thrall to his Kenyan tribe, anti-White, pro-AQ appeasement, weak, willing to surrender to bin Laden, and pro-Islam, to the point of legalizing aspects of Sharia like polygamy.

Willie Horton WORKED because it spoke to voters fears of Dukakis putting Liberal soft-on-crime policies ahead of his white middle class voters. His choices defined him as pro-criminal coddling and willing to release any dangerous con as long as he had a Black constituency.

Racial Identity politics are a two edged sword and that is why Dr. King struggled against it. Obama like Dukakis will be defined as his identity politics make him, to his detriment, and by his opponents.

1/28/2008 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Barack Obama is relying upon cognitive dissonance to win the Presidency.

On the one hand, he talks of uniting the country. Yet, he states very clearly on policy, "I am right and you are wrong". On the one hand, he talks of healing. On the other, he endorses reparations for slavery. He talks of "transcending race" while he regularly attends a black nationalist church in Chicago. Barack Obama's policy on Israel/Palestine is part of this entire strategy. By letting the text and subtext clash, he can milk contradiction and subliminal meaning.

His surrogates raise offense in a manner that underlines the attributes he wants to project. Senator Biden used the word "articulate"; by getting offended, Obama's surrogates ensured that he would be perceived as articulate. When President Clinton used the phrase "fairy tale" to describe Obama's war policy, Obama's surrogates were able to make the phrase backfire. By denying that his candidacy was an "illusion" or a "fairy tale", he was creating the impression that his candidacy was a fairy-tale-come-true. Sometimes, getting wildly offended at something that seems like praise can have the effect of pushing that praise into the subconscious and away from rationality.

Barack Obama is not the first politician to make use of cognitive dissonance, and neither is he the first revolutionary to practice that art. He has an excellent machine of myth generation that portrays him as a quasi-messianic rock star; George Soros will do what he can to grease the skids to anoint his protégé into the Presidency.

Barack Obama is highly likely to get elected; his ambition must be taken seriously. And the less seriously he is taken, the more likely it is he will get elected. While Obama's popularity comes partly out of an unwillingness of his supporters to take him seriously, my opposition against him comes from taking his words and actions at face value.

1/28/2008 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Barack Obama supports giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
A Twofer:
A Black for Wetbacks.

1/28/2008 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

- Sen. Barack Obama easily won the African American vote in South Carolina, but to woo California Latinos, where he is running 3-to-1 behind rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, he is taking a giant risk: spotlighting his support for the red-hot issue of granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

It's a huge issue for Latinos, who want them. It's also a huge issue for the general electorate, which most vehemently does not. Obama's stand could come back to haunt him not only in a general election, but with other voters in California, where driver's licenses for illegal immigrants helped undo former Gov. Gray Davis.

Clinton stumbled into that minefield in a debate last fall and quickly backed off. First she suggested a New York proposal for driver's licenses for illegal immigrants might be reasonable. Then she denied endorsing the idea, and later came out against them.
Ain't Identity Politics Grand?
Supercharged with Shamelessness.

1/28/2008 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

I laugh to see the mainstream media act like Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama was a huge surprise. The Kennedy Clan HATES the Clinton Clan.

Ted Kennedy is one of the "Gang of Four" which includes John Kerry, howard Dean, and Al Gore who have been working behind-the-scenes to spike Billary's nomination.

This is news to the liberal media?!?

1/28/2008 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Barack Hussein Obama's style and campaign remind me so much of Jimmy Carter's 1976 run that it is eerie. They share a lot in common. Both intensely hate Jews and Israel. Both like to preen and posture as morally superior to everyone else. Both have savior complexes and huge egos, and outsized ambition.

I am inclined to think that he knows that if the wider public knew what he truly believed, they would be appalled and run the other direction. The Far Left will vote for him, and for that matter so will some independents. The key is this: will The National Review article that described his candidacy in depth as paralleling Carter's get some notice and traction, so that those of us who lived through the Carter experience will take appropriate action in November.

I am sure some, not most, of the liberal Jews in this country, if they knew the depth of his anti-semitism, would run in the other direction. I am one of those people who does think his true feelings and thoughts dovetail with Malley's, but he will be coy about it as much as he can for as long as he can be. Ditto for his tender solicitude for the Arabs who really should be citizens of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, not that perpetually bloody no-man's land of canon fodder.

1/28/2008 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I am sure some, not most, of the liberal Jews in this country, if they knew the depth of his anti-semitism, would run in the other direction.

Don't be so sure.

Historically, some the world's worst anti-Jews have been Jews. After all, even Adolf Hitler had Judenraten on his side.

1/28/2008 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

In order for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination, Barak Carter Obama will have to be exposed in all his lunacy.

1/28/2008 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Meislin said...

Walt & Mearsheimer have done their work exceeding well.

Along with Carter and Soros, and the Saudis....and all those many others who claim to know what America's true interests are, and have those true interests at heart....

(Even the president now seems in thrall, dragged along by a Secretary of State, converted to "pragmatism.")

Apparently, these fantasists still don't quite know the difference between illusion and reality. Or rather, they have bought into the earnest, realist approach that illusion is reality (complete with copious footnotes).

Well, they're in for a few "surprises." Fasten your seat belts.

1/29/2008 01:40:00 AM  
Blogger Brian H said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/29/2008 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Brian H said...

The problem with investing in a Palestinian state is that the only one the Pals will accept is one right where Israel used to be, before the Jews there were slaughtered or driven off. Billions have already been invested, and somehow ended up in the hands of the hands of the Fatass and Hamass Big Men, in judiciously selected financial havens around the globe.

As the Arabs say, "The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

As for B. Hussein O., never mind Malley. Check out Wright and Farrakand. His spiritual gurus. (Wright is his pastor, who performed his marriage, btw.)

B. Hussein O. has learned taquiyah well.

1/29/2008 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I think that whole focusing on the issues thing has been tried. See Gore, Al. It's unfortunate, but generalities and style are what wins elections.

The good news is that Obama has the substance, too. (See his website if you want details; watch his speeches for the generalities.) He's just too smart to start talking like a policy wonk when he's supposed to be inspiring people to vote.

Then again I'm just some crazy moonbat.

1/29/2008 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Just to prove my point, see how many commenters can't resist using Obama's middle name. Now is that a substantive issue or a stylistic one? Are they complaining about the specifics of his health care plan?

In fact, there are all kinds of non-substantive attacks on Obama in this very thread. There's guilt by association (Power, etc.), ridiculous name-calling ("hard-left socialist"), outrageously false claims ("intensely hate[s] Jews and Israel), etc.

Tell me again how going into the nitty-gritty of the tax-code is a better campaign strategy when the electorate is made up of people like the commenters here.

1/29/2008 02:05:00 PM  

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