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There is disenchantment on the left with Barack Obama. Many progressives agree with sentiment recently expressed by Professor Cornell West, a professor at the Union Theological Seminary, who recently told Salon Magazine: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street Presidency, a drone Presidency.”

Despite this claim by Professor West, Obama did not campaign for President in 2008 as a tribune of the left. Instead he campaigned as a candidate of bipartisanship. On some campaign issues Obama was even to the right of President George W. Bush. In fact, Obama was elected in part by winning 60% of moderate voters and 20% of conservative voters.

In political advertisements, Obama did not present himself as an unadulterated progressive. He held himself out as a post partisan figure that would work toward bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. Obama featured Kirk Dillard, a Republican who worked with Obama when both served in the Illinois State Senate, in a campaign advertisement wherein Dillard explains: “Senator Obama worked on some of the deepest issues we had, and he was successful in a bipartisan way. Republican legislators respected Senator Obama. His negotiation skills and an ability to understand both sides would serve the country very well.”

Obama entered the national stage in 2004. After garnering the Democratic nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry tapped him to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. While progressives were mesmerized by the delivery of his speech, it was hardly a clarion call to them. Obama did not call for a major expansion of the Social Safety net, or for a more nimble foreign policy, but delivered a mostly platitudinous speech centered on the commonalities of Americans of all ideological persuasions. His signature line was: “There is no red America or blue America. There is the United States of America.”

Liberals saw what they wanted to see in Obama, while turning a blind eye to what the President was actually saying. Now some Progressives are indignant that the President is essentially governing on what he campaigned about.

Obama’s main appeal to liberals in the 2008 campaign was that he was the only major Democratic Presidential candidate who opposed the authorization of the use of force in Iraq, which the U.S. Congress approved in 2002. Obama, no pacifist, told a Chicago crowd that year: “I am not opposed to all wars, I’m opposed to dumb wars.” Progressives saw only Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq, failing to recognize his support for a more robust, interventionist foreign policy, which included using military force abroad.

Obama was a hawk on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. He was explicit in his view that the U.S. should expand its military involvement there. Obama told a Pennsylvania rally in 2008 that the war in Iraq “distracted us from the task at hand in Afghanistan.” Obama made no effort to couch his bellicose policy on Afghanistan, writing in a New York Times op-ed column: “As President I would pursue a new strategy and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan.”

In addition, while enmity proliferates on the left for Obama’s ambitious use of predator drones, Obama was no critic of the use of predator drones during the campaign. In an address at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in 2007, Obama averred that as President he would order attacks inside Pakistan even absent permission of the Pakistani government: “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President [Pervez] Musharraf (Pakistani President) won’t act, we will.”

On both the issue of Afghanistan and the potential use of predator drones in Pakistan, Obama was, in reality, to the right of the Bush administration. This was not a progressive position.

Progressives often excoriate Obama for his failure to condemn the military policies of the Israeli Government, and the fact that he is the only world leader who opposed the Palestinian Authority’s bid to achieve statehood through the United Nations. Yet on this issue too, Obama performed as advertised. During the campaign, Obama presented himself as a supporter of the Israeli government. He said that for a peace agreement to be achieved, “The Palestinians would have to reinterpret the notion of ‘right of return’ in a way that would persevere Israel as a Jewish state.” In 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon, Obama co-sponsored a Senate resolution defending the attack. In fact, he delivered his first foreign policy speech of the campaign before the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

Furthermore, Obama was an exponent of increasing sanctions on Iran to prevent that country from constructing nuclear weapons, and Obama would not take the military option off the table. In addition, Obama supported adding the former Soviet satellites of Georgia and the Ukraine to NATO, a very bold move sure to antagonize Russia.

On domestic issues, then Senator Obama voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which allocated $700 billion to bailout the banking system. Opposition to the bailout became a battle cry for liberals. In fact, U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) publicly exclaimed: “Is this the United States Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?” Goldman Sachs employees were the largest donors to Obama’s 2008 campaign, contributing nearly $1,000,000 collectively. The Financial Services industry donated a collective $43 million to the Obama campaign. Somehow, progressives seemed not to have noticed this not so subtle pattern of behavior on the part of Obama.

Moreover, in 2006, then Senator Obama voted for reauthorization of The USA Patriot Act, whose repeal became a cause célèbre with the progressive intelligencia. In 2008, Obama came off the campaign trail to vote for the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which expanded the federal government’s warrantless wiretapping program. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that President Obama signed a five-year extension of the statute.

Despite what many progressives seem to believe, Obama has not departed from his campaign ideals. The failure to comprehend what Obama actually campaigned on is now leading to righteous anger by Progressives. However, the facts show that Obama’s presidency is no great departure from the way in which he presented himself while campaigning for the Presidency. He has been true to his campaign ideals. Progressives simply put their blinders on, heard what they wanted to hear, and did not stop to listen to what Obama was actually saying during the campaign.


Rand Paul’s Potential ‘Brian Schweitzer Problem’

by Rich Rubino on September 9, 2014

In referring to the reasons for the September 11 hijackings, Republican U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) stated in a 2007 South Carolina Republican presidential debate “They attack us because we’ve been over there.”

He was referring to the nation’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East. Paul later pointed out that by meddling in the Middle East, the nation had effectuated enmity in the region. Osama bin laden referred to such grievances as U.S. troops on Saudi soil, the U.S. supporting sanctions leveled against Iraq — which likely contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, U.S. aid to Israel, and support for secular nationalist autocratic regimes. While establishment Republicans roundly booed Paul, he became a folk hero to the party’s Libertarian bloodline, as well as to Independents, Democrats and the previously politically dispossessed.

While most Democrats had come to oppose U.S. war in Iraq, they opposed it on the grounds that it was simply the wrong war. They did not question the foundations of U.S. foreign policy. For example, U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the Democratic party’s 2004 Presidential nominee, simply proclaimed “It was the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.” The party’s eventual 2008 nominee Barack Obama called Iraq “the Wrong War” while calling the War in Afghanistan: “The Right War.” In fact, he called for sending three more brigades to Afghanistan.

In addition, Paul supported the federal government abdicating its role in interdicting illegal drugs, and letting the states decide their own drug policy. Paul was sympathetic to legalizing drugs, and suggested that the citizens do not need government to regulate them. He said at a Republican presidential debate: “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet nobody would.”

Paul’s call for a complete retrenchment of commitments abroad, coupled with his calls to end the Drug War, and his opposition to NSA spying, along with his support for home schooling and opposition to gun control provided a motley coalition of supporters in his second run for President in 2012. Paul was perhaps the only candidate in American History who could attract supporters from Oz Fest attendees, ACLU members and Wickens on the left, as well as NRA members, fundamentalist Christians, and military personnel on the right.

His son, Rand Paul, was elected to an open U.S. Senate in Kentucky in 2010, largely through the help of the same coalition that so enthusiastically supported his father.

However, in trying to propitiate enough establishment Republicans to secure the GOP Presidential nomination in 2016, Rand Paul is displaying some independence from his father. Unlike the non-interventionist policies of Ron Paul, whose ideological antecedents included Presidents Grover Cleveland and Warren G. Harding, Rand Paul is more of a realist, skeptical toward making commitments overseas, but still recognizing a vital role for the U.S. in the international arena. His “realist” ideological antecedents are Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald R. Ford.

Paul also voted to tighten economic sanctions on Iran. Furthermore, he does not favor liquidating all U.S. military bases outside of the U.S. and he says he would support “some drones.” After Russia invaded Crimea, Paul called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be punished, and averred: “It is our role as a global leader to be the strongest nation in opposing Russia’s aggression.”

While Paul is buttressing his bone fides with the Republican establishment for his prospective 2016 Presidential run, he may have competition from many supporters of his father including the charismatic former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Many states, including New Hampshire, which hosts the omni-critical, first-in-the-nation primary, hold open primaries, meaning that voter’s can choose a ballot from any established party in their state.

Schweitzer mirrors many of Ron Paul’s views on the fundamental foundation of American policy. Like Ron Paul, Schweitzer’s excoriates the influence of “The Military Industrial Complex.” He is a harsh critic of the U.S. war in Iraq, which he calls an “oil-well war to protect profits for multinational oil companies and petro-dictators.” In addition, like Ron Paul, Schweitzer shows no trepidation in warning of the effects of “blowback” on Americans as the result of its interventionist foreign policy. He points out that the tension between the U.S. and Iran began “because of what we did in 1953, replacing an elected official [Prime Minster Mohammed Mossadegh] with a dictator [Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi].” Schweitzer also points out that the U.S. government supplied chemical weapons to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s, which were subsequently used against Iranians.

Rand Paul rarely mentions the concept of blowback. With a war-weary electorate, it is kosher in the Republican Party to call for what George W. Bush in 2000 called “a more humble foreign policy.” However, once a Republican suggests that U.S. policies are a contributing factor to the enmity effectuated toward the U.S., he/she takes a step too far from the party establishment, which will invariably brand such a candidate as “a Blame America First Isolationist.”

Furthermore, Schweitzer, like Ron Paul, is a populist critic of the high command of his own party, calling Barack Obama a “corporatist.” Ron Paul was an incessant critic of George W. Bush. Like Paul, Schweitzer can appeal to Liberals and Libertarians with his criticisms of Barack Obama, particularly on Civil Liberties issues. Schweitzer calls revelations unearthed about the scope of the NSA Surveillance program “un-effen-believable.”Like Ron Paul, Schweitzer declares the War on Drugs lost, saying that Colorado, which recently legalized marijuana, “might have it more right than the rest of us.”

Not all Ron Paul supporters in 2008 and 2012 were Libertarians or Conservatives. In fact, many Progressive Independents and Democrats supported Paul. Political commentator Robin Koerner coined them “Blue Republicans.” Paul drew support from across the political spectrum with voters and previous non-voters who believe the political system is corrupt. They supported Paul’s populist insurrectionist campaign. Accordingly, the fact that Schweitzer, unlike Paul, supports a munificent social safety net, the establishment of a single-payer Health Care System might draw Paul’s more liberal supporters to Schweitzer. In Schweitzer these “Blue Republicans” have a candidate who is more ideologically in tune with them than Ron Paul.

As Rand Paul assiduously cultivates support from within the Republican establishment, he becomes less desirable to the anti-establishment Libertarian, Independent, and Liberal voters who supported Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012.

As Rand Paul becomes more of a traditional Republican, an aperture will form for a candidate more like Ron Paul was in 2008 and 2012. Schweitzer is positioning himself as the anti-corporate political establishment candidate for 2016. His message can strike a resonant chord with the same voters who marked ballots for Ron Paul in 2012, particularly in Open Primary states. Many members of the motley Ron Paul coalition could support Schweitzer rather than Rand Paul. In states with a closed primary, some of these voters might become Democrats to vote for Schweitzer. Schweitzer would appeal to many disaffected voters with his characterization of the nation’s capital as “A giant cesspool filled with special interests.”

An opening is developing for Schweitzer. Crossover support could make him not merely a nuisance to the likely Democratic establishment candidates, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, but also an irritant to Rand Paul as he tries to keep his father’s supporters in the Republican Primary. Bottom-line: for every rank-and-file Republican voter Rand Paul attracts, he could lose a voter from his father’s coalition to Schweitzer.


In the Political Arena an Underdog Challenger Must Be Creative to Force an Incumbent to a Debate

August 5, 2014

In every election cycle, voters witness the spectacle of an underdog candidate challenging an incumbent elected official to participate in a series of debates. This is usually a starting bid, with the underdog hoping the incumbent will engage in at least one debate. A debate is an opportunity for a challenger to share the same […]

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When a Political Gaffe Torpedoes a Political Candidate

July 15, 2014

With another election season upon us, it is close to certainty that we will see political candidates make major gaffes, including answering a question honestly, when political correctness would be the prudent tactic. Candidates sometimes misspeak, like in 1968 when Democratic Presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey told Playboy magazine: “No sane person in the country likes […]

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Eric Cantor Is Not the First National Political Figure to Lose His Congressional Seat

June 17, 2014

No matter what else he accomplishes in life, David Brat’s obituary may well read “Giant Killer” or something to that effect. The fact that the formerly obscure Randolph-Macon College Economics Professor defeated U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in his bid for renomination to his congressional seat sent shockwaves through the body politic. The […]

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What’s in a Name? In Politics, Perhaps a Lot More Than One Might Think

May 6, 2014

The old saying goes “What’s in a name?” Actually, names can be very important in the political arena and have changed the course of American political history. In 1946, after entering a race for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, future President John F. Kennedy used a creative tactic to muster an […]

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Will the Carpetbagger Card be Effective Against Scott Brown in the New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race?

April 25, 2014

Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) has packed his truck and moved full-time to his former vacation home in Rye, New Hampshire. He is running for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in November. With Brown the putative favorite for the nomination, the general election will likely be a donnybrook. This […]

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Two Potential 2016 GOP Presidential Candidates Face Re-Election Hurdles

April 25, 2014

With the U.S. Congress suffering from single-digit job approval ratings, governors are likely to be in vogue as potential presidential candidates in 2016. Two swing state governors, John Kasich from Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are believed to be seriously considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Both men are currently seeking re-election […]

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Political Insults: Cheap Shots or Do They Play an Important Role in American Politics?

April 25, 2014

U.S. House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) had no problem publicly belittling Republican President and friend Gerald R. Ford. He said Ford was “worse than [Warren G.] Harding and [Herbert] Hoover put together.” Yet O’Neill and Ford had a friendly personal relationship. They often golfed together. Ford took O’Neill’s criticisms in stride, knowing that they […]

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John Boehner Is Not the First GOP House Leader to Experience Dissention Within His Own Party

March 19, 2014

John Boehner is experiencing a difficult tenure as U.S. house speaker. Boehner was re-elected to the post by his Republican colleagues with just 220 votes in 2013, just six more votes than the 214 necessary to be re-elected. Twelve members of Boehner’s party did not vote for him. The conservative Tea Party caucus within the […]

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