Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama and the "Far Left"

Here is Andrew Sullivan's take on what will certainly be the key argument that the Republicans make this fall (because it is the key argument that Republicans make every election year):
That's the exhausted meme that Bill Bennett tries to aim at Obama. It is the meme the old right need to force this election back into the red-blue post-Vietnam boomer rubric which is all Bennett understands. But let's be clear. "Far left" means to the right of Clinton in healthcare, right? "Far left" means tax rates broadly within the post-Reagan parameters and certainly far to the right of, say, Richard Nixon. "Far left" means retaining the right to bomb Pakistan if al Qaeda is deemed a threat there. "Far left" means a policy of withdrawal from Iraq that, as Bill Kristol observes, is increasingly close to McCain's. "Far left" means a man that Joe Lieberman was thrilled to get to support his last Senate campaign. "Far left" means a "cap-and-trade" position on climate change very close to John McCain's. "Far left" means well to the racial right of Jesse Jackson. "Far left" means opposition to same-sex marriage and to a federal constitutional amendment (very close to John McCain). "Far left" means a policy on torture embraced by the Republican nominee and endorsed by every American president apart from George W. Bush.

This "far left" meme is meaningless. It says everything about the intellectual bankruptcy of the talk radio right and nothing about the substantive polices and challenges of a president Obama.

Of course it is meaningless, indeed stupid, to call Obama, or really any other Democrat in the primary campaigns who had even a theoretical shot of being successful, an extremist. That will be the accusation, and it may or may not persuade those people too dumb to know the difference not to vote for him. the good thing is that most of the people who believe Obama to be too conservative are, almost by ontological definition, not in line to be persuaded.

John McCain can take comfort in the fact that the equally empty accusations that he is an extreme conservative will not work in any meaningful way. Do I think McCain is too conservative? He is for me. But more importantly, I think he is wrong. More importantly, I think he is more wrong than he was in 2000, because he has shifted rightward on a whole lot of policies. So not only is he more wrong, he is also less principled. Which is a bit of a tough pill to swallow in light of the fact that his principles are what made him most appealing across the aisle.

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