Bullshit Philosophy

Half-assed political and religious commentary from a cynical left-winger

BLAST FROM THE PAST: On Obama and Litmus Tests

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 3/13/07]

I do have things to say occasionally, but I’m usually not within easy reach of my blog when I think of them, and they end up being forgotten. However, today something stuck out to me in an article about Barack Obama by Allan Hunt Badiner that I feel the need to sound off on:

A sizable percentage of the progressive sector may not be happy with any candidate who does not agree with them on every issue. They have already shown a surprising lack of concern for the political and practical consequences of their inflexibility. The following that Dennis Kucinich, and Ralph Nader enjoyed are cases in point. Intractable liberal voters are like window shoppers who feel most comfortable going home empty-handed and later whining that they couldn’t find something they liked. They may have been as responsible for reelecting Bush as his hard-core conservative base.

I’ll admit, I do have a couple litmus tests for potential candidates. One is on the occupation of Iraq. Any candidate that does not support an end as soon as possible, not just in talk but in actions, will not be getting my vote. On this issue, I have no real problem with Obama, aside from the fact that he, like other Democrats, opposes the war while still embracing much of the foreign policy philosophy that led to it (particularly preemptive war, but more generally they have the same vision of America’s role in the world as the neocons, with a few modifications). However, if this were the only sticking point then Obama would be good enough on this issue that I could grudgingly vote for him.

The problem is my other litmus test. As I regularly tell my Obama-supporting fiancee Rebecca, I absolutely have to insist that my leaders not be liars and murderers. Is that so much to ask for? To the Allan Hunt Badiners of the world, it apparently is.

The primary issue to which I refer here is the Israel/Palestine conflict, on which Obama is extremely regressive. I’m not “anti-Israel,” as I’ve previously argued, but I frankly believe Israel to be a colonial occupier that should be treated as such. I’m really not inflexible on the issue, though; as long as a candidate supports a truly even-handed approach that recognizes the bad deeds done by both sides and is willing to put pressure on the Israeli government where need be, I can live with that person.

Unfortunately, the previous statement does not describe Barack Obama. Judging by his public statements, a President Obama would mean little if any change in the status quo in which the Palestinians are expected to make the most as well as the biggest compromises, the crimes of the Israeli government are ignored and we continue to give them the weapons, money and diplomatic cover to commit those crimes.

As Rebecca described to me from a constituent coffee in Washington, DC, that she attended, Obama expressed absolute support for the Israeli attack on Lebanon last summer, with nary a word about Israel’s targeting of civilians there. In addition, there is little silver lining to be found in his recent speech to AIPAC. Here is a good article on the subject. My favorite quote:

“But in the end,” he added, “we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli prime minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States.”

You really can’t get more clear than that on where Obama stands.

As some have noted, it was not always this way; Obama was previously at least mildly sympathetic to the Palestinians. This changed when he ran for national office. I guess how one interprets this is matter of opinion; Rebecca insists that this means that Obama’s “pro-Israel” (for lack of a better term) stuff is just going through the motions to avoid having AIPAC goons come after him, and that if elected he’ll give Palestinian concerns a fair shake. I look at it and see someone who is willing to sell out oppressed people for votes and money. Why should I trust this guy? Is it really so wrong of me to have qualms about supporting someone who knowingly sides with the oppressors over the oppressed? Shouldn’t we insist on more from our leaders? Or should we, as Badiner seems to argue, passively accept Obama’s position as the best we can do even as people continue to suffer and die in the slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Occupied Territories?

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