You can tell its going to be a rough election year when you start nodding at Sean Hannity’s opinion about your party’s front runner. Hannity, who may never have yet told the truth on television, asked an assembled “focus group” of Democratic Primary voters to name one thing that Barack Obama had accomplished in his career. Some made an effort; but it was true, no one knew anything about the Freshman senator. Granted, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox had computer generated the entire assemblage. But for the others interested in such non-Hannity issues as integrity and good governance–especially, those like myself who voted for Obama and want to find a good reason to support him–the question remains and it is a difficult one to answer.
Aside from a few key votes, little is said by Obama or his surrogates about his record. A quick look at legislation with the Obama trademark bears little fruit. Obama has sponsored an average number of bills, most of which never saw daylight. But his senate record is certainly nothing to write home about for any aspiring presidential candidate.
The question about what Obama hasn’t done as a lawmaker is a far easier and appetizing one for his supporters.–he did not vote to authorize force in Iraq. Of course, he was a beneficiary of the luck or design of not being a US Senator at that time. Obama’s voting record, however, in the post fairy-tale world–to appropriate Bill Clinton’s maligned comment–where he is a real-life US Senator is conspicuous for its lack of principled activity.
Most recently, Obama failed to show up for the final vote on the heinous FISA Amendments Act of 2007, which provides retroactive immunity to telecom companies that broke the law and sold their customer’s private data and communications to the White House. Obama was only one of three senators who did not vote (one of them, of course, a senator of more widely-advertised cowardice, Hillary Clinton). Obama seems to have purposefully taken advantage of the confusing number of votes surrounding the bill–there were separate votes on amendments introduced by Senator’s Dodd, Feinstein and others. Obama voted for Dodd’s amendment and Feinstein’s, but left the building when it came time to vote for the final bill. In a subsequent oily move, Obama later issued a press release praising himself for supporting the doomed amendments to the bill, while neglecting to mention that he had more important things to do than vote against the final bill. Similarly, Obama did not vote in the original FISA vote–which tabled permanent passage until this February–last year. Obama can now claim to have voted for the amendments when he is in progressive auditoriums, while not having to take the centrist aprobrium for an official nay vote on the actual bill.
More importantly, Obama did not lead on this issue–he gave no speeches, no interviews, he did not mention the upcoming FISA vote or make a plea to his supporters to deluge the phone lines of their representatives to rally against the bill. Certainly, if Obama’s groundswell is what everyone seems to think it is, then the bill would have easily failed if Obama had given it the hairy eyeball. But Obama never used his populist bull pulpit to drive home to his supporters the incredible danger of allowing telecom companies to legally work as spies for the government–receiving money from customers to provide them service, while simultaneously selling their phone calls and emails to the white house. Thus, while the Obama brand is based on his outsider-Washington-cleanser status, his real record outside of his infamous non-act on Iraq is not much different than that of his powerful Democratic colleagues; those unpopular hacks who have failed to back the kind of legislation that Obama’s supporters have championed throughout the last 7 dark years. Read here for further tales of Obama’s unremarkable transformation into full politico.
What is left, then, of Obama? Searching through the hollows of the larger than life construct, we find very little of substance, besides a scandal or two (unethical dealings with indicted former colleague, Reznik, and elastic back-bending for nuclear polluters in his home state). This is not to say that Clinton is the better choice. And forget the laughably ‘straight-talking’ McCain, who only last year was caught using the US military to lock down an entire Iraqi market, so that he could stroll through to ‘prove’ that Iraq was getting safer. It’s also important to remember that Obama faces another year of scrutiny before voters take to the general polls. Much of today’s luster may have dulled by then, as his expedient political pedigree emerges and there are no conveniently barnacled Hillaries to project his own cowardice upon.
Just so we know what we’re getting into.