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Mike Allen & Ben Smith have an article over at Politico - Liberal Views Could Haunt Obama - about a questionnaire Obama filled out when he was first running for the IL legislature in 1996.  The questionnaire was from a group called the Independent Precinct Organization, whose endorsement he was seeking and eventually received after a unanimous vote of support was taken.  

When Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was seeking state office a dozen years ago, he took unabashedly liberal positions: flatly opposed to capital punishment, in support of a federal single-payer health plan, against any restrictions on abortion, and in support of state laws to ban the manufacture, sale and even possession of handguns.

Seriously you guys, I personally don’t have a problem with his answers (I would have said the same things) but what concerns me is that the republicans will make a point of hammering at this stuff 24/7 if he’s our nominee in the general election next year.  Make the jump – there’s more...

Here are some of the questions on that form – and his answers...

Do you support a ban on the manufacture, sale & possession of handguns - Yes.
Do you support restrictions on abortion - No.
Do you support single payer healthcare - Yes.
Do you support capital punishment - No.

The form included space next to each question to allow him to elaborate and add to his answers on these emotionally charged and hot button issues, but he gave simple one-word answers.

When Politico spoke with Obama’s campaign folks, they said his views have been consistent, and pointed out that his positions have always been more nuanced than can be conveyed in yes or no answers.  Fine – he had extra space to elaborate so why didn’t he use it??!

Look I know it’s tough to run for president after you’ve served in the Senate or in some other legislative body.  There are rarely yes or no answers to complicated questions of our time.  And hopefully (!!!!) our candidates have always been smart enough to know that if you get the chance to clarify or elaborate on your answers (either in a debate or in some questionnaire by a group whose endorsement you’re courting), you grab that chance with both hands and run with it!

(Now in all fairness to Obama, he does seem to learn his lesson along the way.  Lynn Sweet found a questionnaire that he filled out for that same group in 2003 and he actually made use of those extra spaces meant for elaboration and clarification.  Here’s his answer on handguns...

"35. Do you support legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?

While a complete ban on handguns is not politically practicable, I believe reasonable restrictions on the sale and possession of handguns are necessary to protect the public safety. In the Illinois Senate last year, I supported a package of bills to limit individual Illinoisans to purchasing one handgun a month; require all promoters and sellers at firearms shows to carry a state license; allow civil liability for death or injuries caused by handguns; and require FOID applicants to apply in person. I would support similar efforts at the federal level, including retaining the Brady Law." )

I don't disagree with his answers personally – not one bit.  I’m a life-long Dem and ardent progressive / anti-war / pro-choice / tree-huggin’ / million-mom-marchin’ activist.  But OMFG (!!!!), the republicans are going to make mincemeat of him – using his own words against him in the general election next year.

This questionnaire and Sen. Obama’s responses to the questions raises some serious points of concern regarding his electability in next year’s general election...

1 The goopers will use this in every single freakin' ad they air to destroy him in the general.  As they note in the Politico article, he's NEVER faced a serious republican opponent, and they'll use this ammo over and over and over again to destroy him if he's our nominee.  The goopers will be ready to torpedo him no matter how he plays this out.  They'll either paint him as a flip-flopper if he tries to distance himself from his answers, or as a "lefty", and an "unrepentant liberal" if he stands by them now.  They’re good at this tactic – they’ve had a LOT of practice!  He may win the nomination with these positions, but they'll destroy him in the general.  Add to all this his support for giving undocumented immigrants (I hate the word "illegal") drivers licenses, and this thing will be over before it begins.

2 His answers here were clearly designed to appeal to the progressive group who sent this to him.  His "present" votes on those 7 bills re restricting a woman’s access to abortion show us that he’d already backtracked on what he said in that questionnaire.  As we've seen with Krugman, he'll throw us under the bus with little or no notice.

Obama’s campaign is saying his views haven’t really changed.  From that Politico article...

Obama, who makes an issue of his opponents’ consistency in the presidential race, has tempered many of those 1996 views during his quick rise to the pinnacle of American politics.   He now takes less dogmatic positions many of those hot-button issues – in the view of some Democrats, he abandoned the stands as he rose through the ranks.

For instance, Obama says he supports the death penalty in limited circumstances, such as an especially heinous crime. The campaign says Obama has consistently supported the death penalty in principle and opposed it in practice.

Principle vs practice.  Ummmmm... HUH?!  

Sorry but this is EXACTLY the kind of thing the goopers are going to gobble up next year in the General.  It’s a golden nugget on a silver platter.  And a major rookie mistake.

3 Sen. Obama has pointed his finger at Hillary and accused her of "triangulating" on some of the issues of the day.  Remember though – when you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointed right back at you.  Eriposte noted in his/her column over on The Left Coaster on Sunday that Sen. Obama’s got some serious chinks in his armor on this score himself.  S/he noted some 13 different points showing us where Sen. Obama's triangulated over the years to get what he wants.

The Politico article notes that the goopers can't WAIT to run against (and destroy) the good Senator in the general.  This latest problem will just add more fuel to their firepower.

Obama did get something of a valentine this week from the conservative
Weekly Standard, which ran a "Saint Barack of Iowa" cover story saying that "it looks increasingly as if the Democratic contest might come down to a battle of Hope vs. Muscle."

Hope vs. Muscle.  Hmmmm... I wonder which one will stand a better chance against the goopers in the general.

One more thing... Obama's camp provided comment for this article, saying Obama has always held these views and still does (which I’m not sure is an entirely accurate claim).  HowEVER - they're denying he actually filled this out, claiming his campaign manager completed the questionnaire – although it includes first-person comments such as "I have not previously been a candidate".  

Good luck pointing that out amidst the noise and confusion the goopers will generate around this issue.  Unfortunately for him - this story's spreading like wildfire around the Net and I’m certain the Goopers are storing this away for future use – just in case.  They’ll use this whether Obama or his manager completed the form and no one will hear what he says in response.

If we care about our party and our chances to retake the WH next year we have GOT to address this stuff head on with it comes up.  

Ignore this sort of stuff to avoid the heat and confrontation and we're fucked next November.

But take heart my friends – there is a candidate out there who has the experience we need in a nominee, and the confidence of fellow Democrats when it comes to beating back the goopers in next year’s general election.  At least according to a new poll out by CBS / New York Times.  Chris Cillizza had this to say on the Washington Post’s blog...

63 percent of Democratic primary voters believe Clinton has the best chance of winning the White House back for Democrats in 2008, while just 14 said Obama was Democrats' best chance and 10 percent said the same of former Sen. John Edwards.

(And on the question of who’s ready to be president – the poll found that 83% said Hillary’s ready while fewer than half - just 41% said Obama’s ready).

This comes on the heels of a poll out last week by CNN showing that Hillary had the confidence of more than double that of Obama’s by voters (Hillary 53% to Obama’s 25%) when it comes to who they think has the best chance of beating back the Repub. nominee.  An LA Times / Bloomberg poll has Hillary leading 54-17 % on that same question, and a Time poll from mid-November also shows us that Hillary is by far the most likely to win the general election.

This election’s too important to take a chance with someone the Republicans will be sure to clobber in next years general election.  Hillary’s got the experience we need, and the scars to show for her battles with them over the past 15 years.  

No other candidate is better prepared to kick some elephant @ss than Hillary.  

Originally posted to Alegre on Tue Dec 11, 2007 at 05:45 PM PST.

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