Originally posted at CrossLeft.
Why is Obama ashamed of wearing the liberal badge of honor? Why does he run away from the very label that FDR, Harry Truman, JFK and LBJ all honestly embraced? But most of all, why does Obama choose to distance himself from many the vast majority of his own supporters who proudly embrace liberalism?
AUSTIN, Texas - In his radio and TV ads that are blanketing Texas, Barack Obama claims a chief executive can make more money "in 10 minutes" than an ordinary worker makes in a year. Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, enact a national health plan, offer a $4,000-a-year tuition reimbursement in exchange for national service, and have the government intervene to prevent home foreclosures.
But he doesn't want anyone to call him a liberal.
Obama did his St. Peter-at-dawn dance again during last night’s debate. It came when he was asked about The National Journal’s ranking him as having the Senate’s most liberal member. Instead of explaining how liberalism is all about community and self-discipline, he basically repeated his Austin, Texas spiel.
The only sound effect missing was a rooster crowing three times.
And as Alterman noted a few days ago:
I saw this headline. It began well: "In the shadow of the state capitol that provided the United States with one of the most conservative presidents in recent history, Obama last night railed against the charge that being 'liberal' was a bad thing." But then it continues:
"Oh, he's liberal," he said. "He's liberal. Let me tell you something. There's nothing liberal about wanting to reduce money in politics that is common sense. There's nothing liberal about wanting to make sure [our soldiers] are treated properly when they come home."
Continuing on his riff: "There's nothing liberal about wanting to make sure that everybody has healthcare, but we are spending more on healthcare in this country than any other advanced country. We got more uninsured. There's nothing liberal about saying that doesn't make sense, and we should so something smarter with our health care system. Don't let them run that okie doke on you!"
First of all, just what the heck does it mean to "run that okie doke" on someone? But second of all, how is that rallying "against the charge that being 'liberal' was a bad thing"? To me, he's making it sound as if it's a really bad thing, and certainly something that's not "okie doke," at least as I understand the term. In fact, it is "liberal" to want to do all of those things, Barack.
Alterman, a writer who understands the honor and integrity the definition “liberal carries, compared the Illinois senator’s reaction to another liberal legend, one to whom he is often compared:
Speaking to New York's Liberal Party in September 1960, [John F] Kennedy proclaimed, "What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label 'liberal'? If by 'liberal' they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then...we are not that kind of 'liberal.' But if by a 'liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people--their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties--someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a 'liberal' then I'm proud to say I'm a 'liberal.' "
And don’t think for a second that the GOP spinners haven’t noticed this flub either. In fact they have and are fine tuning their arguments accordingly.
I find Senator Obama’s rather odd “defense” of liberalism extremely disappointing. If he were truly the new JFK, he would then proudly defend what is clearly his political philosophy. As Peter Canellos astutely observed in his Boston Globe piece, “In this case, it's hard to tell whether Obama is rejecting a Washington "okey doke" or embracing one.”