Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Barbara LeBey responds

Hey look who found my McCainocrat post -

Hello John,
Since you reviewed my NPR interview, I thought it might be of interest for you to know that I did carefully review Obama's record and found it sorely lacking. I don't make hasty or emotional decisions. Hillary's voting record and her list of achievements is not nearly as liberal as the plans Obama has put forth. She is more of a centrist. Obama is an extreme liberal, really more socialist than even liberal. I am not willing to vote for a socialist. Race is irrelevant. I would feel the same way if Obama was 100% white. As for Hillary's endorsement and her request that her supporters transfer their support to Obama, I would have to say I don't follow blindly. Furthermore, if Hillary wants to continue to be an active member of the party and have a future with the party, she is compelled to get on board whether she actually believes in Obama or not. Personally, I'd like to see her run as an Independent--not likely. As a former judge and corporate lawyer, I have learned early on that a slumping economy does not revive with higher taxes, and leaders of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea respect might, not coddling. With enemies who hate us more than they love life, only strong leadership and a ready military will keep them at bay. Obama's plans are completely contrary to what I believe is the right course of action for our nation. So there you have it. The best, Barbara LeBey

Well, I have to say, I'm still confused. Barbara says she reviewed Obama's record and found it lacking. She says Obama is a socialist and Clinton is a centrist. I say they have very similar records and policy proposals. Rather than throwing out assertions, why don't we look at some facts -

  • Obama's Record - Barbara didn't say what she thinks is lacking in Obama's record, but I found some interesting stats here
    Senator Obama has sponsored or co-sponsored 570 bills in the 109th and 110th Congress.

    Senator Obama has sponsored or co-sponsored 15 bills that have become LAW since he joined the Senate in 2005.

    Senator Obama has also introduced amendments to 50 bills, of which 16 were adopted by the Senate.
    The summary is courtesy of a diary at Kos, but I confirmed the details at, the official congressional web archive. Co-sponsoring legislation isn't all that, of course, but it does show that Obama's been working and the kinds of issues he's concerned with. Then, of course, he has 8 years in the Illinois senate, but I suppose those years don't count.

  • On tax policy, they really don't vary. Both support extending tax cuts for those earning under $250k per year. Both favor letting Bush's tax cuts expire for those making over $250k per year. Barbara says "I have learned early on that a slumping economy does not revive with higher taxes", yet she supported Clinton, who would enact essentially the same tax policy as Obama. Maybe she was voting for Clinton for other reasons, but she cites taxes and the economy in her comment here and in the NPR interview, so it appears to be a key issue for her. I checked several places for information, but a good summary can be found at here for Obama and here for Clinton.

  • Another key issue for Barbara appears to be foreign policy. There are some differences here, but they're not substantive, in my opinion. Here's an exchange from one of the debates
    Q: [to Obama]: Do you support normalizing relations with Cuba now?

    OBAMA: I would not normalize relations until we started seeing some progress [on the US agenda in Cuba]. But I do think that it's important for the US not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies.

    CLINTON: I agree that we should be willing to have diplomatic negotiations and processes with anyone. I've been a strong advocate of opening up such a diplomatic process with Iran, for a number of years. Because I think we should look for ways that we can possibly move countries that are adversarial to us, toward the world community. It's in our interests and in the interests of the people in countries that are oppressed, like Cuba, like Iran. But there has been this difference between us over when and whether the president should offer a meeting, without preconditions, with those with whom we do not have diplomatic relations. And it should be part of a process, but I don't think it should be offered in the beginning

    Here's another-
    Q: Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba & N.Korea?

    OBAMA: I would. The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them is ridiculous. I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.

    CLINTON: I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort but not a high level meeting before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration. I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro & Hugo Chavez & the president of North Korea, Iran & Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
    Clearly they both favor engagement with our adversaries. They differ in details but not in intent. This is a clear break with Bush's foreign policy, and McCain's.

  • This idea that Obama is a socialist and Clinton is a centrist is silly. What does it mean to be a socialist? This is usually what right-wing people throw out as a slur anytime a Democrat proposes a government program. This Washington Post article has a pretty good rundown on the differences between Obama and Clinton in their Senate voting records. To start, they don't differ much - they vote together over 90% of the time. They have some real differences on the Cuban embargo and on gun control, but nothing substantial.

    The funny thing to me about this statement is that on the issue most likely to be labeled socialist - universal health care, Clinton is clearly to the left of Obama. Looking at Clinton and Obama on health care, Clinton has a clear progressive (socialist, perhaps) vison of universal health care involving mandates and universal coverage. Obama seems to support universal coverage, but doesn't support mandates and doesn't seem to have a clear vision as to how to achieve this.

After looking into these things, I can't see how a Democrat who cares about these issues can support John McCain. Maybe Maurinsky is right. She noted in the comments that "I feel confident reporting Barbara LeBey is definitely a Republican ... her whole comment (if that was actually her) is loaded with Republican talking points." I think it probably is the real Barbara LeBey (what possible purpose could deceit serve here?), and I agree that there were several right-wing talking points in the comment. I still lean toward my original assessment that she developed a (perhaps unconscious) antipathy toward Obama that really has nothing to do with his record or his stances on the issues.

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Toast said...

Dude, the moment someone casually lobs the word "socialist" into a discussion of two mainstream Democrats, you pretty much know you're not going to make any headway with them. It's a sad fact that a great swath of our political spectrum has no concept of what socialism is and how it differs from regulated market capitalism. To them it just means "Scary Liberal".

John Howard said...

The bottom line is that whatever small differences there are between Clinton and Obama, even on the issues she mentioned, they don't compare to the wide gulfs between Clinton and McCain or Obama and McCain. If she would rather vote for McCain than Obama, than she should have favored him over Clinton as well. Or at least acknowledge that her hesitation to vote for Obama isn't based on anything tangible.

Chris Howard said...

I didn't expect to convince her, I just thought it would be interesting to go through the exercise. You're right, Toast, when a "life-long Democrat" accuses a mainstream Democrat of being a socialist and implying that it's a bad thing, we're not having a rational discussion anymore. Hell, I wish Obama were a lot more of a socialist.

michelline said...

I would suspect she felt drawn to Hillary because she's a woman, not because she agreed with Hillary's platform. I think the gender call is very powerful. If she agreed with Hillary's platform, she can't possibly agree with McCain's.