But Bill Ayers? Does anybody really seriously believe that Barack Obama is a secret left-wing radical? And if not, then what is this fuss and fury supposed to show?
Then a whole bunch of NR folks responded that yes, they do seriously believe that Obama is Joseph Stalin and Emma Goldman’s love child, just pretending to be a moderate. The quotes Hilzoy pulled are pretty funny. Here’s the best one:
Obama’s radicalism, beginning with his Alinski/ACORN/community organizer period, is a bottom-up socialism. This, I’d suggest, is why he fits comfortably with Ayers, who (especially now) is more Maoist than Stalinist. What Obama is about is infiltrating (and training others to infiltrate) bourgeois institutions in order to change them from within — in essence, using the system to supplant the system. A key requirement of this stealthy approach (very consistent with talking vaporously about “change” but never getting more specific than absolutely necessary) is electability. With an enormous assist from the media, which does not press him for specifics, Obama has walked this line brilliantly. Absent convincing retractions of his prior radical positions, though, we should construe shrewd moves like the ostensibly reasonable Second Amendment position as efforts make him electable.
This is why Ayers is so important: it is a peek behind the curtain of Obama’s rhetoric.
This seems plausible to conservatives because they’re projecting George Bush’s behavior onto Obama. In 2000, Bush ran for President as a moderate; Bush campaigned on a platform of humility in foreign policy,1 against extreme partisanship, and for fiscal responsibility. But even before 9/11 gave Bush a blank check, the Bush administration intended to break those promises. Instead, the Bush administration has governed from the extreme right.
I’d like it if Obama pulled a Bush (but from the left). But I doubt he will. Obama’s career shows a canny politician who has thrived by fitting in to the existing political culture, and there’s nothing to indicate that Obama shares Bush’s unwillingness to compromise, or inability to question his own beliefs and plans.
Bush’s reckless approach came with a political price; by digging in his heels and refusing to waver for reality, Bush trashed his own party’s reputation.2 The result is likely to be a strong win for the Democrats in a month, not only for the White House but also in Congress. Obama, who is the antithesis of “reckless,” won’t act the same way.
- “If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we’ve got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.” — George Bush, October 2000. [↩]
- When Bush took the oath of office in 2001, The Onion “reported” Bush saying “Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over.” Damn, were they ever right. [↩]