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Crossposted at my personal blog.

My second diary on this site, posted in November 2005, was a diary bashing Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman's support of S.2126, the Family Entertainment Protection Act. In late 2005 Lieberman was already quite the pariah around these parts, but Hillary was not.

S.2126 reeked of the kind of craven political opportunism that turned me away from Hillary in the first place. The gamer constituency doesn't get much love in politics, so the gaming industry tends to be a convenient whipping boy for politicians looking to bolster their "Save the children!" cred without having to commit to anything more substantive.

Although I'm a gamer (and an advocate of free speech), the details of entertainment and gaming policy are less important to me as an issue voter than they are as yardsticks of a politician's reliance on political expediency. I'm of the opinion that Hillary's 2005 stance on federal regulation of the gaming industry was motivated by the same thing as her Iraq vote, and her vote for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment: expediency. Hillary decides what to do based off of the personal repercussions of a decision. If the political brownie points to be gained by taking a a given position outweigh the political heft of the group that will be antagonized, her position is clear. Sometimes that position is on a matter of relative triviality, like regulating video games. Other times, her positions are on matters of terrifying gravity, like consenting to a war of volition. In either case, Hillary is governing for the benefit of only one person: Herself.

It took me a while to come over to Obama's camp, but his response to this same issue helps me to reaffirm my choice. On Tuesday, Obama was quoted by a Pennsylvania newspaper on the topic of parenting and games:

He noted that "government can't do everything," and offered this advice for parents: "Turn off the television, turn off the video games."

What a radically sensible position to take. What an empowering position to take: Parents are the gatekeepers to the media their children purchase and consume.

I searched to find Obama's position on S.2126 and came upon a blog that quotes a response a reader got from Obama's office on the topic:

"Thank you for your letter opposing the Family Entertainment Protection Act. I appreciate knowing your views on this matter... There has been some significant Congressional activity lately in response to growing concerns among parents that video games have become too sexually explicit and that violent content has been made too easily available to minors. Among these bills is S.2126, the Family Entertainment Protection Act... I understand the concerns of those who believe that Congress is meddling too deeply in this issue and that the proposed legislation could raise free speech problems. All members of our communities, in my view, do have an obligation to ensure that children are protected from harmful material, but that should never come at the cost of denying others their constitutionally protected rights. The challenge here is finding the right balance between these two principles... Thank you again for writing. Please stay in touch as this issue develops."

"That should never come at the cost of denying others their constitutionally protected rights". Obama demonstrates a sensitivity to both sides of the issue by distilling their respective arguments down to a charitable nugget that become palatable to everyone: Protect the children, but don't do it by restricting free speech.

Unwillingness to pile on the scapegoat and take a position for the sake of expediency is political courage. The same courage he showed in opposing the Iraq war, opposing the Lieberman-Kyl Iran amendment (in position, although he was unable to vote on it), his unwillingness to throw Rev. Wright under the bus, and scores of other issues. The same political courage that Hillary lacks without exception. The choice between Hillary's realpolitik and Obama's reallife is an obvious one.

Originally posted to laughlin on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 01:46 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  what are you playing these days? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sagesource, oldjohnbrown, laughlin

    I'm hooked on Bioshock. Thinly veiled Ayn Rand as undersea super-villain, vintage 40s soundtrack, art deco design . . . it doesn't get much better.

    And violent? You betcha. Joe and Hillary would freak.

    We drew our heavy revolvers (suddenly in the dream there were revolvers) and exultantly killed the gods. -- Jorge Luis Borges, Ragnarok

    by Hobbitfoot on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 01:50:31 PM PDT

    •  GTA, Fallout, All The Adult RPG's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sagesource, laughlin

      Most of which don't contain more violence or sex than what I was exposed to as a kid reading the pulp and the classics in the library, but still cause a caniption fit amongst the Joe Liberman crowd today, labeled matue or not.

    •  Writing my own levels for HL2... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldjohnbrown, laughlin, Hobbitfoot

      ...or trying to. Hammer's a finicky beast.

      My son, who is too young for shoot-'em-ups, is totally hooked on Garry's Mod to HL2, the so-called "physics sandbox." And his teachers wonder where he gets all his knowledge about physics and simple machines.... he knows enough not to tell them, "Well, I spent the weekend building catapults in Garry's Mod."

      •  This points to one of the coolest uses (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hobbitfoot, cfaller96

        for video games. I don't have the link, but I read an article about teachers who use games like NWN to create word problems. The kids react the same way I did, and the same way my grandparents did, to the classic word problem, but if you tell them they have to fit every one of these boxes into that cargo hold and drop them in the game on the dock, they're there.

        Appropriating the physics engine of a real-time game is another great idea.

        Forget regulating video game content, I'd love to see legislation to explore and expand this possibility. If kids can do their homework on Nintendo, or even just play in a way that engages and educates them, then we're on to something.

        No laws but Liberty. No king but Conscience.

        by oldjohnbrown on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 02:45:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Somebody wrote a book about this (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          oldjohnbrown, laughlin

          and went on the Colbert Report to discuss it.  I can't remember the title though (but my wife is a librarian and I'm sure she could find it).

          The author asserted that video games accelerate and improve children's problem solving skills, because essentially that's all games really are- puzzles and problems dressed up with eye candy.  The repetition combined with the imaginative thinking required to solve the puzzle enables kids to be more innovative in problem solving.

          The damage that games cause is vastly overrated, and the benefits are never discussed.

          Civic spirit drowns in a hurricane of mere survivalism - McKenzie Wark

          by cfaller96 on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 03:14:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Team Fortress 2 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Has had me hooked for a long time.

      Call of Duty 4 is a pleasant diversion once in a while.

      I'm also known to log onto WoW occasionally...

    •  Oh yeah, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Rock Band every couple of Sundays with a few friends and a few beers. The best social gaming experience ever, I think.

    •  COD4 and Team Fortress 2 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      by dagnabbit on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 02:19:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wish we could get this on diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sagesource, laughlin

    The gamer mags. ;)

  •  All-around panderer.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    laughlin, Liberal Youth, kingfishstew

    ...that's HRC. Partnered with Liarman on this one, I do believe. There's a pair that think dead bodies in reality are good, dead pixels in fantasy are bad.

  •  Call me an old timer, but.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    autoegocrat, oldjohnbrown, laughlin

    ...videogames were much better when they looked like this:

  •  It's "All in The Family" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sagesource, laughlin, cfaller96

    This legislation is in keeping with her other (allegedly Family/Fellowship inspired) morally conservative legislation.  And JoJo the Turncoat Monkey is listed as a regular attendee at the Senate Prayer Group cell meeting, too.

  •  This was the original deal-breaker for me (6+ / 0-)

    You've put it so succinctly: expediency. When Hillary Clinton started spouting off about legislating video games of all things, my support for her began to wane. It was so clear at that point what she was doing, and as you have correctly pointed out, it continued to manifest itself in other areas.

    Let's also not forget that we have Tipper Gore to thank for those silly-ass stickers on CDs. Al Gore really screwed that one up when he invented filesharing, didn't he?

    And for the record, Neverwinter Nights is a great game that never gets old. Avoid the sequel, just get the original and its expansions, get online, and have a great time.

    (-5.88, -6.46) Democracy is what happens between elections.

    by autoegocrat on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 02:02:16 PM PDT

    •  Totally OT (0+ / 0-)

      but what do you like about neverwinter nights?  I've played EQ, EQ2, Vanguard (a little bit) and one of the pirate ones (a little bit) ... never WoW it just looks too cartoony for me.

      Disclosure: Proud to be the Volunteer coordinator for Indiana for WesPAC

      by ElaineinIN on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 02:30:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Endless variation (0+ / 0-)

        The game comes with a toolkit for making more games. There's also a huge and vibrant community still cranking out great content. Not too shabby for a product six years old.

        (-5.88, -6.46) Democracy is what happens between elections.

        by autoegocrat on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 05:30:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  just like coming out in favor of school uniforms (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      it's largely pointless pandering.

      Steam came shooting out of my ears at those  Congressional hearings about steroids in baseball.

      No one is in favor of steroids in baseball, of course, but it isn't a federal issue!

      If they could make it possible for you to box members of Congress with Wii boxing, I'd pay extra. There are a lot of member of Congress I'd love to virtually sock in the mug, hard.

  •  Great diary (6+ / 0-)

    And I like Obama more each day.  This is so great:

    He noted that "government can't do everything," and offered this advice for parents: "Turn off the television, turn off the video games."

    That's something, from a politician, involving censorship, that is actually correct!!!  That is the opposite of the sort of pandering that Hillary does.

    It turns out that Bush IS a uniter... he united the good half of the country virulently against him.

    by fizziks on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 02:08:05 PM PDT

  •  Am I dense? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oldjohnbrown, Catte Nappe, laughlin, SciVo

    I just read the quote from Obama regarding the legislation for the third time, and I can't for the life of me figure out whether he's for or against it.
    All I know for sure is that he understands the concerns of people on both sides.

    •  It is a little Opaque (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sagesource, oldjohnbrown, SciVo

      I don't think he wanted to take a clear position on the legislation in this letter, but the conclusion I draw from it is that he's thoughtful enough to consider what the bill's supporters and detractors care about, and can synthesize a position that is acceptable to both.

      This kind of political Judo is a trademark of his, as we saw when he couched his remarks against homophobia in the context his Christian faith to an audience who might be alienated otherwise.

    •  You're kinda missing the point... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      laughlin, SciVo

      Look, Obama's human- he's going to inevitably piss off and disappoint some of us at some point in time.  And he may very well disagree with the gamer community on legislation like this.  Sometimes life's like that.

      But there's a contrast here that you seem to be missing- instead of instinctively and reflexively embracing the patronizing and socially intrusive conservative position, as Hillary and Lieberman did, Obama understands and fleshes out both sides of the argument, and then takes no position (although his most recent statement is an indication that he's probably against that legislation).

      The point is not where his position ended up.  The point is how he got to his position.  This is a diary offering a contrast on the process behind the positionmaking of Clinton and Obama.  Clinton takes the lazy, blur the lines, 'my God the country is conservative so therefore I must be!' tack without giving the position much thought.  Obama takes a more thoughtful, conciliatory non-position (and ultimately ends up NOT taking the conservative position).

      Ultimately it shows to me that Obama is NOT going to be bullied or fearmongered into any kind of politically expedient position (AUMF is another example of this).  And that bodes well for his presidency, IMO.

      Civic spirit drowns in a hurricane of mere survivalism - McKenzie Wark

      by cfaller96 on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 03:26:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Against. Bright line around the consititution. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      My understanding is that similar bills coming out of state legislatures had been consistently shot down by courts for First Amendment violations. So, if that bill (which apparently never made it out of committee) had gone forward in a similar form, we may deduce that Obama would've opposed it.

      "Tough talk is not a substitute for sound judgment." -- Barack Obama

      by SciVo on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 04:13:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Every time I see HRC on the screen, I expect.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oldjohnbrown, laughlin

    ...her to begin singing....

    This was a triumph,
    I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS!
    It's hard to overstate
    My satisfaction....

  •  It's not the first time with Hillary, diarist (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Kitsap River, laughlin

    I'm a gamer too, and you express my views perfectly (not a dealkiller, but more a test of a politician's capacity for opportunism).  And yes, Hillary and Lieberman pissed me off with their work on this.

    But let's not forget flag burning.  Or gay marriage.  Or AUMF.  Or Kyl-Lieberman.  Or God knows what else.

    This isn't the first time and it won't be the last time Hillary Clinton sells an interest group down the river to try and pander to red state voters.

    Civic spirit drowns in a hurricane of mere survivalism - McKenzie Wark

    by cfaller96 on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 03:09:25 PM PDT

    •  flag-burning (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      But let's not forget flag burning.

      If you're a liberal supporting Obama, you probably should, because his position on flag-burning is identical to Clinton's.  

      [Page: S6523]
      There is, in fact, another way. There is a way to balance our respect for the flag with reverence for the Constitution. Senators CLINTON and BENNETT are proposing an amendment to this proposal that would protect the flag without amending the Constitution. Their statutory approach is a new one that doesn't fall into the same constitutional traps that doomed previous flag protection bills. The Clinton-Bennett amendment is narrowly drawn to meet the first amendment tests the Supreme Court has laid out in previous court decisions. It makes it illegal to burn a flag in a threatening way or to incite violence. I believe this statute will pass constitutional muster and be upheld by the Supreme Court.
      I will vote for the Clinton-Bennett amendment in an effort to find a way to balance our respect for the flag and our protection of the Constitution. I urge my colleagues to do the same.
          --- Senator Barack Obama

  •  Court have struck down videogame laws (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    At least two federal appeals courts and judges in several other jurisdictions have struck down laws regulating minors' access to videogames. The reasoning: the laws are vague; and unlike in the case of soft-core porn, there is no category of violent entertainment that is considered OK for adults but "harmful to minors".

    Anyone who sponsors videogame laws is either betting that the new Supreme Court side with them (a chancy proposition, even with Alito and Roberts aboard) or pandering to security moms.

    Replete with "misstatements" and elisions and retracted and redacted and revoked assertions.--Carl Bernstein on HRC's record.

    by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 03:29:07 PM PDT

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