The Ever "Present" Barack Obama: Heaven's Response to Bush's Signing Statements
[NOTE: Obama supporters are advised to either skip this post entirely or use this Paul Krugman interview comment thread as an example to guide your Politics of Hope, Optimism and ChangeTM-based speculation about my level of pro-Clinton shilliciousness. Further, don't be misled by Paul when he says he doesn't have any children or that his cats don't work for the Clinton campaign. I am fairly certain that Hillary Clinton controls his mind remotely using her Irresistible and Eeevil Brain WavesTM that routinely violate the laws of quantum electrodynamics.]
Well, I think that what Senator Clinton’s been doing is running what’s considered a textbook Washington campaign, and what that says is that you don’t answer directly tough questions. You don’t present tough choices directly to the American people for fear that your answers might not be popular, you might make yourself a target for Republicans in the general election.
...what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we've seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues.
And here's what he recently said in his op-ed in the Des Moines Register (which endorsed Sen. Clinton):
We can't avoid tough questions and tell everyone what we think they want to hear - we have to tell people what they need to hear. We can't afford to triangulate and poll-test every position because we're afraid of what Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani might say.
The Democratic Party has made the most difference in people's lives when we've led not by polls, but by principle; not by calculation, but by conviction; when we've had leaders who could summon the entire nation to a common purpose.
That's why I'm running for president.
I'm giddy already - why didn't we just have this guy appointed President yesterday?! It's not worth waiting for a billion dollar election - let's just email his statements to all the youth in all of our colleges! I'm so impressed with everything he SaysTM that rather than support him in the Primaries, I will do one better. I will highlight - thanks to Raymond Hernandez and Christopher Drew of the NYT - how Sen. Obama has been living up to his amazing, larger-than-life principles (almost Godly one might say!):
In 1999, Barack Obama was faced with a difficult vote in the Illinois legislature — to support a bill that would let some juveniles be tried as adults, a position that risked drawing fire from African-Americans, or to oppose it, possibly undermining his image as a tough-on-crime moderate.
In the end, Mr. Obama chose neither to vote for nor against the bill. He voted “present,” effectively sidestepping the issue, an option he invoked nearly 130 times as a state senator.
Sometimes the “present’ votes were in line with instructions from Democratic leaders or because he objected to provisions in bills that he might otherwise support. At other times, Mr. Obama voted present on questions that had overwhelming bipartisan support. In at least a few cases, the issue was politically sensitive.
...Although a present vote is not unusual in Illinois, Mr. Obama’s use of it is being raised as he tries to distinguish himself as a leader who will take on the tough issues, even if it means telling people the “hard truths” they do not want to hear.
What does all of this highly irrelevant and distracting stuff mean?
Well, if you read the comments from Saint ObamaTM supporters in the article, you will discover that the Anti-DuckingTM (cf. Kyl-Lieberman, Move.Org, abortion, etc.) and Anti-TriangulationTM (too many items to list) candidate was really taking a Principled StandTM
in favor of against Bills through his "present" votes. However, I need to translate their words into non-campaign speak for the benefit of our readers:
- Sometimes it was a Principled StandTM that he should not lose the next election
- At other times it was a Principled StandTM that he should help his colleagues not lose the next election
- At yet other times the Principled StandTM was that he would vote how the party leadership told him to vote as part of a "broader legislative strategy"
- Sometimes it was just a Principled StandTM that he so liked and disliked the Bill that he couldn't make up his mind
- Let's not forget, there was also the most important Principled StandTM - that a Bill was allegedly unconstitutional and therefore required neither a yes nor a no vote. Well, you can certainly trust that Saint ObamaTM can be entrusted with protecting the Constitution!
I can already see the PrincipledTM President Obama waiting to sign legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, discovering that it is unconstitutional, and making the Tough ChoiceTM to not sign or veto the Bill. I imagine he might appear in the White House signing room, BoldlyTM register himself as "Present" (giving Chris Matthews, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter and the Boston Globe editorial board goosepimples) and BoldlyTM head back to his office. Hey, that's much better than Bush's signing statements, so whom am I to complain!
As I said, the NYT article includes a response or two from the Obama campaign. Here's one:
Mr. Obama’s aides and some allies dispute the characterization that a present vote is tantamount to ducking an issue. They said Mr. Obama cast 4,000 votes in the Illinois Senate and used the present vote to protest bills that he believed had been drafted unconstitutionally or as part of a broader legislative strategy.
Of course, if they dispute it they must be RightTM! In fact, I am saddened that the authors of the NYT article did not make it clear that what Sen. Obama really meant to say with his repeated criticism of Sen. Clinton during this campaign was that she should be making the tough choices at least 3870 times out of 4000 and it is perfectly OK to not make tough choices 130 times out of 4000 if you can come up with some nice-sounding excuse that will make Chris Matthews, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter and the Boston Globe editorial board jump out of their chair and applaud loudly.
It is also instructive to go back to the article to understand parts of Sen. Obama's "broader legislative strategy". For example:
In Illinois, political experts say voting present is a relatively common way for lawmakers to express disapproval of a measure. It can at times help avoid running the risks of voting no, they add.
“If you are worried about your next election, the present vote gives you political cover,” said Kent D. Redfield, a professor of political studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “This is an option that does not exist in every state and reflects Illinois political culture.”
The vote on the juvenile-justice bill appears to be a case when Mr. Obama, who represented a racially mixed district on the South Side of Chicago, faced pressure. It also occurred about six months before he announced an ultimately unsuccessful campaign against a popular black congressman, Bobby L. Rush.
State Senator Christine Radogno, a Republican, was a co-sponsor of the bill to let children as young as 15 be prosecuted as adults if charged with committing a crime with a firearm on or near school grounds.
The measure passed both houses overwhelmingly. In explaining his present vote on the floor of the Senate, Mr. Obama said there was no proof that increasing penalties for young offenders reduced crime, though he acknowledged that the bill had fairly unanimous support.
“Voting present was a way to satisfy those two competing interests,” Ms. Radogno said in a telephone interview.
Thom Mannard, director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said political calculation could have figured in that vote.
“If he voted a flat-out no,” Mr. Mannard said, “somebody down the road could say Obama took this vote and was soft on crime.”
Mr. Obama’s aides said he was more concerned about whether the bill would be effective rather than with its political consequences. They did not explain why he did not just vote no.
You can see how, unlike the Precocious and BrilliantTM writings of Frank Rich, this article is so highly biased against Saint ObamaTM. They dare ask him for an explanation (an explanation!) on why he did not just vote no against a Bill that he disagreed with and whose effectiveness he thought was questionable! What has news reporting come to these days? On top of that they insinuate that political reasons may have been behind his "present" votes, even though they provide No EvidenceTM for this theory!
Pam Sutherland, president of Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, said Mr. Obama was one of the senators with a strong stand for abortion rights whom the organization approached about using the strategy. Ms. Sutherland said the Republicans were trying to force Democrats from conservative districts to register politically controversial no votes.
Ms. Sutherland said Mr. Obama had initially resisted the strategy because he wanted to vote against the anti-abortion measures.
“He said, ‘I’m opposed to this,’” she recalled.
But the organization argued that a present vote would be difficult for Republicans to use in campaign literature against Democrats from moderate and conservative districts who favored abortion rights.
Somehow, I suspect "Democratic Courage" (whose "hero" Nancy Pelosi - whom I like very much, by the way - has obviously ensured that FISA bills rubber-stamping Bush's criminality don't get passed by Congress and has also ensured that we are no longer funding Bush's war in Iraq) is not about to run ads against Saint ObamaTM since his last name doesn't start with the letter C. After all, Saint ObamaTM has a history of taking Principled StandsTM even in the U.S. Senate, especially in this election year. [Sarcasm aside, I am glad I am not contributing to Planned Parenthood. If this is the kind of stuff they actually encourage politicians to do - i.e., vote "present" as if that will prevent bad bills from passing, then this is the kind of organization that doesn't particularly deserve my support. Stated another way, what is the point of having allegedly pro-choice candidates in the Legislature if they are afraid to vote pro-choice out of the fear that they will be defeated, and what is the reason for existence of an allegedly pro-choice organization that proudly encourages Democrats to not vote pro-choice so that they can stay in power?]
If you are not impressed enough by that Cornucopia of PrincipleTM, rest assured that there's more:
Lisa Madigan, the Illinois attorney general who was in the Illinois Senate with Mr. Obama from 1998 through 2002, said she and Mr. Obama voted present on the anti-abortion bills.
“It’s just plain wrong to imply that voting present reflected a lack of leadership,” Ms. Madigan said. “In fact, it was the exact opposite.”
Yay! This is the kind of leadership that an Attorney General should be displaying - in fact, she should be pleading with juries, asking them to vote "Present" on the cases she is prosecuting everyday to show their LeadershipTM! Someone has to say this, so here goes - three cheers for Principled LeaderTM Lisa - Lisa Madigan for President! You can bet she will be "Present" for Bill signing ceremonies but you will never have to worry about any unconstitutional signing statements from her because she won't sign or veto the bills. She will be "Present" to look at it though, before she BoldlyTM returns to her office. That's the kind of Principled LeadershipTM we need at a time like this.
Unfortunately, rather than realize that, the reporters at the New York Times, continued their biased tirade against Saint ObamaTM:
Mr. Obama did not vote yes or no on a bill that would allow certain victims of sexual crimes to petition judges to seal court records relating to their cases. He also voted present on a bill to impose stricter standards for evidence a judge is permitted to consider in imposing a criminal sentence.
On the sex crime bill, Mr. Obama cast the lone present vote in a 58-to-0 vote.
Mr. Obama’s campaign said he believed that the bill violated the First Amendment. The bill passed 112-0-0 in the House and 58-0-1 in the Senate.
In 2000, Mr. Obama was one of two senators who voted present on a bill on whether facts not presented to a jury could later be the basis for increasing an offender’s sentence beyond the ordinary maximum.
State Representative Jim Durkin, a Republican who was a co-sponsor of the bill, said it was intended to bring state law in line with a United States Supreme Court decision that nullified a practice of introducing new evidence to a judge in the sentencing phase of the trial, after a jury conviction on other charges.
The bill sailed through both chambers. Out of 174 votes cast in the House and Senate, two were against and two were present, including Mr. Obama’s.
“I don’t understand why you would oppose it,” Mr. Durkin said. “But I am more confused by a present vote.”
All I can say is, this is as good time a time as any to recall why Sen. Obama doesn't believe in voting yes or no:
Obama spokesman Bill Burton issued an even tougher rebuke of the Democratic front-runner. "It's absurd to compare a simple yes or no question about immigration that Senator Clinton still won't answer seven days after the debate to the despicable Republican attacks against John Kerry and Max Cleland's patriotism," he said. "Senator Obama believes that to truly stand up to the Republican attack machine, we have to be honest and straightforward about where we stand on the major issues facing America."
I agree. Sen. Obama is a truly remarkable and PrincipledTM candidate who clearly believes in saying yes or no except on those numerous occasions when he believes in not saying yes or no.