The River

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In Obama's New Message, Some Foes See Old Liberalism

By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama offers himself as a post-partisan uniter who will solve the country's problems by reaching across the aisle and beyond the framework of liberal and conservative labels he rejects as useless and outdated.

But as Obama heads into the final presidential primaries, Sen. John McCain and other Republicans have already started to brand him a standard-order left-winger, "a down-the-line liberal," as McCain strategist Charles R. Black Jr. put it, in a long line of Democratic White House hopefuls.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has also started slapping the L-word on Obama, warning that his appeal among moderate voters will diminish as they become more aware of liberal positions he took in the past, such as calling for single-payer health care and an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba. "The evidence is that the more [voters] have been learning about him, the more his coalition has been shrinking," Clinton strategist Mark Penn said.

The double-barreled attack has presented Democratic voters with some persistent questions about Obama: Just how liberal is he? And even if he truly is a new kind of candidate, can he avoid being pigeonholed with an old label under sustained assault?

Despite being rated the most liberal senator in 2007 by the National Journal, Obama has sought to confound easy categorization. While his record and platform mostly adhere to a left-leaning Democratic model, he has cast them as a common-sense response to the Bush administration. His ability to appeal to independents and even Republicans has been one of his main attractions for Democrats eager to retake the White House, and a cause for concern among some GOP leaders.

At the same time, the criticism from the McCain and Clinton operations draws a quick rebuttal from Obama's campaign. His strategists recognize that Democratic voters and the superdelegates who may end up deciding the hotly contested nomination are concerned about the electability of a candidate tagged with the "liberal" label that has fatally wounded nominees such as John F. Kerry, Michael S. Dukakis and Walter F. Mondale.

Although the article quotes more representatives from the left, the conservative bias here is easy to spot. Look at the last paragraph of the above excerpt.

Contrary to the assumption, the three previous Democratic presidential nominees noted lost because they were perceived as weak, and, it must be said, had very little charisma. They were perceived as weak because they didn't fight hard to represent the left. They were less batshit versions of their opponents. They lost because they weren't liberal enough.

Also, we don't really know if the campaign-killing power of the liberal label is what Obama's strategists "recognize." I doubt it.

Later, the author states: "Obama is vulnerable because he can point to no major area where he has broken with liberal orthodoxy,"

Apparently, both liberals and conservatives lose when they aren't conservative enough, a charge leveled against McCain earlier in the primary season.

More bias:

"This is how Obama casts his agenda on the stump. His proposals are mostly from the Democratic canon -- annual increases in the minimum wage, higher pay for teachers, a $4,000 tuition tax credit -- yet he presents them as practical solutions whose appeal should be obvious to anyone, not as the product of one end of the political spectrum."

Yeah, hard to understand the appeal of these ideas because, well, because they are "liberal." You will never see a major media outlet express the same idea about "solutions" from right. After all, the Iraq invasion and occupation are unpopular because they have been mismanaged. The actions aren't suspect because they spring from right wing ideology. They are noble and good, their appeal obvious to anyone.

Obama's problem, the article implies, is that he is out of step with this obvious truth. Unlike conservative candidates such as Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

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