Why Doesn’t Michael van der Galien Support Obama?

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If you’ve been following my discussion with Michael about Obama and Hillary, then you’re all caught up. If not, you can click here and here.

Initially we were talking about identity politics, but the discussion quickly moved onto the experience issue and what being “moderate” means. Basically, I’ve been taking Michael to task for railing Obama over his lack of experience and centrism, while offering nothing but vague opinions as to why Hillary’s experience and centrism are that much more impressive.

This incongruity, at least in terms of experience, was especially evident when Michael thought that the grossly underqualified Michael Steele would make a good GOP VP nominee. Quick background on Steele, he served one term as a Lieutenant Governor and lost his campaign for the Senate. That’s the sum total of his legislative experience. A heartbeat away from the top spot? No thank you. And frankly, I was quite disappointed that Michael seemed to approve of Steele because he could provide insulation for the GOP from potential identity political attacks.

In any event, yesterday I read more of why Michael doesn’t like Obama, and he’s still only offering one vague opinion after another…

It seems to me that there isn’t enough evidence that Obama will compromise with conservatives or govern in a more moderate way, unlike what some believe. Moreover, most of the evidence points in the opposite direction (because his relatively short voting record shows a liberal slant).

Michael is right when he says that Obama has had a relatively short voting record and it is fairly liberal. But guess what? Obama has never promised to govern in any other way than being open to ideas and trying to find common ground when it’s possible.

However, in Obama’s time in office he has helped pass bipartisan bills on fuel efficiency standards, emergency energy funding for low income homes, a searchable database to increase government transparency and nuclear antiproliferation. Is this not seen as being moderate in Michael’s definition?

Let me flip the question on Michael for a moment and ask, “Where’s the evidence that Hillary will work with conservatives?” Both Hill and Obama have nearly identical party loyalty ratings when voting, that being around 90%. I’m sure Hillary has cosponsored bipartisan legislation too, but with a voting record like that, it can’t be that much more. She’s no Blue Dog Democrat, so I think the evidence proves that it’s pretty much a dead heat when it comes to their records. And yet Michael doesn’t trust Obama. Why?

Michael also has a problem with Obama’s foreign policy philosophy…

I especially feel strongly about this because I think it will happen foreign policy wise. In my opinion, a liberal foreign policy will prove disastrous. Especially when we talk about Iran, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, andsoforth
(I’m admittedly hawkish on these issues), but also with regards to Iraq […]

I’m not sure what Michael means by liberal foreign policy. Apparently it means being “hawkish.” However, Obama is far from being a Kucinich or a Gravel (or even a Ron Paul for that matter) on this issue. In fact, he talks in very hawkish terms about protecting America at all costs. He’s also in favor of strengthening the military by increasing the number of troops, making sure they have the training they need and the equipment that will save their lives, as well as giving them longer breaks between combat so our men and women are the best they can be when the time comes to act. That seems like a good start to rebuilding the type of hammer we need in order to put diplomatic pressure on foreign powers.

Let’s also not forget that Obama said he would go into Pakistan and capture Bin Laden without the country’s permission. If I remember correctly, Michael thinks this a stupid move, but I think many Americans think a new approach to Pakistan is long overdue since we now know that Musharraf and friends have been squandering our billions and making no progress in fighting al Qaeda.

And what about Hillary? What makes her that much more hawkish? Honestly, I don’t know besides the fact that she said she wouldn’t talk to our enemies. And let’s not forget that Hillary has done some pretty significant gymnastics trying to explain her vote on the war. But here’s her position on it: she was never for it. Again, how this makes her more hawkish than Obama is beyond me. Michael’s vague opinions continue to not stand up to close scrutiny.

Ultimately, though, I don’t think this has anything to do with Barack or Hillary. I think what this all boils down to is the fact that Michael and I have a difference of opinion about what “moderate” means. I think it’s about having an open mind to new ideas, while not compromising your core beliefs. And in my view, when you do disagree (which is inevitable), it’s the way you disagree that’s important. Michael seems to think that being moderate means consistently compromising on legislation, and sure, there’s inevitably going to be some of that, but I don’t think that’s the important part. In fact, I’d argue that’s the weakest part of it because compromise as a rule of thumb is shaky ground to stand on fully. Respect, however, is very solid and if you have a respectful debate with your adversary, instead of trying to paint them as a coward or a thief or any number of epithets, odds are that the voters will take notice. And maybe if your bill doesn’t get passed this time around because you didn’t have enough, well, maybe the voters will give you the majority you need because you’re trying to inspire instead of instigate.

Here’s more from Michael on why he doesn’t trust Obama…

The problem is that Obama could be using rhetoric to mislead people into thinking he’s more moderate than he really is. That doesn’t mean that people who take him at his word(s) are stupid, it just means that he could very well be doing what most politicians do- telling people what they want to hear.

This is why I don’t buy it without proof- if others choose to believe it, that doesn’t make them dumb but it does indicate a higher amount of trust than I’m willing to give… especially to a politician and especially to a politician with the ambition to become the most powerful person in the world (save God).

First, the charges being leveled at people who support Barack Obama could easily be said about Hillary supporters too. It’s not like she has this amazingly longer resume than Barack. What’s more, Hillary hasn’t run a very high-minded, policy-rich campaign as of late. She’s been attacking Barack at every turn and knowingly mischaracterizing his statements to score political points AND to paint him as some sort of Republican lover. And perhaps that’s what’s so odd about Michael’s opinion about being “moderate” while still supporting Hillary…because she tried to turn Dems against Barack by saying that Barack liked Republican ideas!

Also, if Michael is really worried about a politician telling him what he wants to hear because of an ambition to get into the White House…I’m sorry, but has he been following Hillary’s career? And her win-at-all-costs drive has been especially apparent in recent weeks. So I agree with Michael about being afraid of overly ambitious candidates, but I’m so much more afraid of Hillary than Obama. Her dirty tricks have turned me against her candidacy once and for all and it’s because it hints at a mindset that IS NOT moderate and will continue to poison our national dialogue with partisan backbiting for years to come.

And to that point, here’s one last bit…Michael’s opinion about Obama’s moderate potential…and probably the most revealing peek into why he’s really for Hillary.

This is an issue I feel quite strongly about and, sadly, that sometimes causes me to be a bit ’short’ (with that I mean very dismissive of a person). I realize that, it’s one of my major (blogging) flaws.

Yep, I think it’s pretty obvious now why Michael doesn’t support Obama. Because he ultimately doesn’t buy into a more moderate “approach” to politics. He’s more in favor of a candidate who displays the very same flaws that he himself freely (and nobly) admits. That’s fine, but I wish he would recognize that for what it is, instead of painting supporters of Obama as naive and uninformed.


  1. Michael van der Galien

    January 30, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Yep, I think it’s pretty obvious now why Michael doesn’t support Obama. Because he ultimately doesn’t buy into a more moderate “approach” to politics.

    Justin, I get a bit tired of this. The problem is that Obama’s all talk, all moderate talk, yet his record – especially as senator in Illinois – is liberal to very liberal. Talking friendly yet pushing through liberal policies isn’t even almost centrist.

    Aside from that he has no experience on a national level and, also very important, he’s not good at foreign policy, and even if he showed that he truly understands the issues, he’s too dovish for my taste.

    So why am I not supporting Obama? Because I don’t agree with him on the issues and because he lacks experience. Is that enough of an explanation?

  2. anon

    January 30, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Because Michael isn’t a moderate, he’s a conservative. He supported the war in Iraq and supports more war in the Middle East, and he’s going with the candidate most likely to do that. But remember, he’s an outsider observing the U.S. political system with no real stake. He didn’t live through the Clinton or Bush years, and won’t have to this time around.

  3. Justin Gardner

    January 30, 2008 at 12:02 pm


    No, that’s not enough of an explanation. You’re again offering few, if any, actual facts as to why Obama is not acceptable and yet Hillary is. All you’ve done is reiterate the opinions you made in your previous post. If that’s all you’re comfortable doing, then that’s how it is, but I wish you’d back it up with something weightier.

  4. Michael van der Galien

    January 30, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    His uberliberal record as Illinois senator is opinion? That’s called a fact Justin.

    No experience? That’s not an opinion Justin, that’s a fact.

    Foreign policy: That’s an opinion.

  5. TerenceC

    January 30, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I’ve seen many people with the narrow opinion and dismissive nature as opined my van der G. Societies don’t move forward without a revolution of some sort – either economically or politically, and in some violent cases both. Dismissing someone who has spent the better part of their adult life helping people as “inexperienced” is simply narrow minded. It isn’t lack of experience – it’s just different experience – government and public policy is all about people. So why not put someone in place who has an actual track record of helping people as opposed to “being in charge of them”, controlling their economies, or simply playing political games and enriching themselves and their “friends”. Going to war for a country like the USA is easy – just look at our history. Taking the promise of what the USA offers the world and choosing to make things better as opposed to killing is simply the right thing to do. It sounds to me like Mr van der G is opposed to doing the right thing – and in favor of doing the “usual” thing. All I can say is that I hope you have a chance to be proven wrong – because that method of decision making has gotten the USA no where in the last 40 plus years. There are millions and millions of people feeling real pain in this country – and we are in a position to help them as a nation and choose not to – it’s just wrong to look the other way – it’s gone on too long. A true Christian would never have allowed the travesties of the past decade to occur – but they did. Which side are you going to be on – the choice is really quite simple.

  6. anon

    January 30, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    If we’re talking about experience, Van Der Gailen has no experience of his own to be considered an authority on anything related to U.S. politics. Why put stock in what he says?

  7. Vicky

    January 30, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    You do know that Michael is just a 23 year old Dutch college dropout in the Netherlands and no one really cares what he has to say or who he “supports”, right?

  8. Michael van der Galien

    January 30, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    LOL – quite a nice bunch of commenters Justin.

  9. Justin Gardner

    January 30, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Folks, the personal attacks against Michael should stop. Either bring something substantive to the table or leave your opinions to yourself.


  10. Jammer

    January 30, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Justin, here are two points I would be interested in your take.

    One of Obama’s primary foreign policy advisors is Dr Susan Rice, along with other old Clintonistas. She and the others in Obama’s camp, I understand, were dead set against any intervention in Rawanda to stop genocide. This was a biog point of criticism of Bill Clinton by liberals. He says Hillary urged him to intervene, and he believes his failure to do that, by listening to the advisors who said dont, was his greatest error as President. I want my next President to be someone who would intervene in a Rawanda the next time around. Would Obama or wouldnt he, given his advisors of the day.

    A position that matters deeply to me is health care reform. I have studied it in depth. I am firmly convinced that whatever reforms are coming, ALL people must participate in the system. There are two ways to do that: single payor, which isnt going to happen, and mandatory insurance. Mandatory insurance is HRC’s plan. I believe, although I stand to be corrected if wrong, that Obama is against mandatory insurance, and wants to get people to buy voluntarily by making insurance more affordable. Laudable in the abstract, but a recipe for not getting everyone into the system. Without getting everyone into the system, the insured end up paying for the uninsured, and the rates for insureds go up and the costs at hospitals go up when they cannot recoup their expenses from someone with no money or insurance.

    Is Obama for mandatory insurance and 100% participation of all persons in the health cost system, or is he not?

    Is Obama prepared to play ruthless hardball to achieve great goals? All presidents who have achieved great goals have played ruthless hardball. I think what Michael and others mean by experience, in part, is that HRC is well schooled in how to exercise every conceivable lever of power at her disposal to achieve great goals. Is Obama so schooled? Is he prepared to abandon Mr Nice guy when (as I fully expect) the Republicans refuse to play along?

    Finally, I see from commentators that many Obama supporters are one issue ponies: did you support or oppose the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, and that to them, anyone who voted yes is a conservative. I couldnt disagree more. I know many liberals who were conflicted over the resolution, and who believed Tony Blair if not Bush, that the UN and inspectors was the goal. Some supported it. The Public supported it. The number of people saying they were against it from the start, I believe, is way more than the number who actually vocalized anything against it at the beginning. I surely wish we could progress beyond the, were you for it or agin it 4 years ago, and begin talking in real terms about what to do now. The Repubs are going to be screaming about surrender because the Dems want out. HRC has left herself the room to leave some troops there if the military tells her its needed. What will Obama do if when he gets into office his military tells him it would be a huge mistake to just pull everyone out in 12 months without exception.

    So, there are a few substantive issues to chew on and maybe you will respond to them.

    I love Obama’s rhetoric, but the devil’s in the details.

  11. Justin Gardner

    January 30, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Jammer, great questions, although it sounds like you’ve your mind made up on most of them. Still, let me attempt to answer and possibly persuade.

    1. Obama has consistently said he’s for intervening in a substantive, boots on the ground way in Darfur. That would suggest that while Rice may be a policy advisor, she doesn’t hold sway over his opinions concerning mass genocide. What he will do once he’s in office is anybody guess, as it is with every other candidate.

    2. Health care reform is indeed a complicated issue. As such I don’t agree that it boils down to only the two options you mention. Because what you’re basically proposing is a) complete government control of healthcare or b) a system that penalizes people for not buying health care coverage via the government’s program.

    The first idea is obviously dead as disco, but the second one (which is Hillary’s) is full of political landmines. Can you imagine trying to convince Blue Dog Democrats and the Republicans we’ll need to pass this thing that we should force people to buy health care or levy a fine against them? And while it’s true that Obama’s could end up not driving down the costs because there could be people left uninsured, I think we’ll ultimately find that the people who need to be covered most (those who get sick and have to have other people pay for them) will be covered by this program. In short, they won’t refuse health care because they desperately need it. And the people who don’t want to be in the system will most likely be people who are relatively healthy and don’t think they need it.

    I think Hillary has characterized this stance as naive, but I think what we’re ultimately talking about is a difference in the perceived appearance of one philosophy (mandatory) over another philosophy (optional). And if American politics have taught me anything, people HATE the word mandatory. They want to have choices, even if they’ll all buy into the same system anyway. That’s why I think Obama’s plan ultimately has a better chance of passing and covering the majority of the population and thus driving down the costs as a result.

    3. No, Obama is not going to play bare knuckle politics. His entire campaign has been about taking a different approach. But I think there’s genius in that idea because it automatically paints the other side as adversarial if they don’t come to the table with a spirit of some amount of cooperation. The American people will see one side saying, “Hey, we just want to talk about how we can solve problems,” while the other side is saying, “They’re wrong. This will never work.” Obviously this is very simplistic way of describing it, but it boils down to changing the tone of politics, which many in America are currently clamoring for. After all, more voters want “Change” than anything else when polled.

    On the other hand, I think Hillary would play bare knuckle and it would be the same old stuff we’ve had for the past 16 years. And ultimately she would ruin liberalism best chance for gaining the type of foothold in the American psyche as Reagan’s conservatism did. This is obviously a philosophical difference, and I don’t expect you to agree with me, but I really think bare knuckle politics will not serve the next President well in either party.

    4. I’m going to have to take you to task for that broad generalization. Because if you’re looking just to commentors in blog posts as your gauge of what Barack’s supporters think, well, you need to find other sources. Specifically, you need to start looking at the exit polls from the early primary states that show Barack’s support spans many different age groups and political philosophies. As such, I think if Barack is presented with some compelling facts on the ground, he could take that case to the American people and present them with a new solution. But make no mistake, what he does want to do is get those troops out ASAP so no more of them die and the Iraqi government is forced to stand up on their own.

    Jammer, hope these helped clear up a few things about Obama and explains a little more why I’m supporting him. And do know that all of this is out there on his site or in debate transcripts, but it does require a level of attention that most people just don’t have the time for. Since I’m a blogger it’s just part of what I do, but I understand why it’s not a nationwide trend. :-)

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