Monday, September 21, 2009

Republicans Making Better Arguments Regarding Obama and Paterson

Although they are clearly self-interested, some Republicans are making better arguments regarding President Obama's "dissing" of New York Governor David Paterson. Recently, Obama asked Paterson, who has low approval ratings, not to run for election in 2010. Paterson was previously the Lt. Governor, but he replaced Eliot Spitzer who resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal.

Five Issues That Obama's Supporters Fail to Address
I have discussed this issue at length with many liberal-identified friends, and they have defended Obama almost exclusively. Most of them deny that race has anything to do with this issue and that Obama has the "right" to tell weak candidates not to run. Although these arguments have marginal merit, they miss more compelling issues. Here are five points Obama's supporters fail to analyze:

First, Obama strongly encouraged (warned?) Paterson to choose Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton. Paterson did not. If Paterson had followed his marching orders, I seriously doubt that Obama would have told him not to run. Obama is punishing Paterson for acting independently.

Second, other incumbents are also facing tough races, and they have poor approval numbers. Jon Corzine and Deval Patrick come to mind. Yet, Obama has not rebuked them. Instead, he recently praised Corzine, who trails his competitor. This disparate treatment suggests that Obama singled out Paterson because he did not choose Kennedy. If Paterson selected Kennedy, I suspect that Obama and Kennedy would be praising him to the high heavens. Paterson did not "pay" so he cannot "play."

Third, during the Democratic primaries, most of Obama's supporters waxed poetically about the prospect of electing "the first black president" and how this would indicate racial progress. When I suggested that his success would represent a symbolic racial victory, they disagreed. But now, some of these same people deny the presence of even symbolic racial concerns regarding Obama's demand that the fourth black governor in the country's history move aside for another political dynasty to regain control in New York.

Andrew Cuomo would likely win the nomination (whether Paterson runs or not). Ironically, Cuomo was a surrogate for Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries. He provoked the wrath of Obama's supporters when he said that Obama would be unable to "shuck and jive" his way through a press conference. Now, some of the same individuals who said that Cuomo was a racial pariah and that Clinton was a racist by association are saying that removing a black governor to open the door for Cuomo has no racial meaning whatsoever. The contradictions are dizzying.

Fourth, Paterson's numbers declined dramatically after he declined to appoint Kennedy as Clinton's successor. Paterson, however, says that race motivates some of his opponents; he also predicted that race would motivate Obama's opponents.

Some of the same people who blast Obama's opponents as racists deny any racism regarding Paterson. Ironically, Obama -- unlike Paterson -- rejects efforts to unveil the racism of his opposition. Despite this fact, Obama's supporters continue to view him as a racial victim -- but deny that race has impacted Paterson. The contradictions are dizzying.

Fifth, During the Democratic primaries virtually all of Obama's surrogates and endorsers demanded that Clinton drop out of the race. The parallel is too blatant to deny. This seems to be a signature maneuver by Obama: Disparage the "opposition" by portraying him or her as unworthy of even running for office.

Republicans Are Offering Better Commentary
Unfortunately, my liberal colleagues are sounding weaker than Republicans (again). I have not been able to make that claim for several months, but the shoe definitely fits.

Former New York Governor George Pataki, for example, offered the following observation:

New York state is facing very difficult times. We're going to have an extraordinarily difficult challenge in dealing with the state's financial situation. . . .To weaken and undermine the governor beyond the weakness that already exists, at a time when he will be the governor for the next 15 months, to me just doesn't serve the interests of the state, doesn't serve the interests of our country (ellipses in original text).
Michael Steele, whom I recently described as an "idiot," also raises good points. Steele wonders why Obama did not ask Corzine not to run, given his abysmal approval numbers. Here's the Youtube video of Steele's interview with Face the Nation:

Bob Schieffer looked bewildered by Steele's insinuation that either by intent or impact race matters. Of course, liberals (myself included) have blasted Justice Thomas' racial jurisprudence since the time he first became a Supreme Court justice. Accordingly, the notion that Obama cannot treat blacks differently than whites (and in a bad way) is preposterous. I, like Steele, wonder how this will play out among black politicians.

Update: The Editorial Board of the New York Times has criticized Obama's action. See: With Friends Like These.


Kansas City said...
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Kansas City said...

I still don't see how Obama's move regarding Patterson has anything to do with race or is anything other than trying to get a weak candidate out so as not to lose the governor seat and other contests that day (including the Senate seat).

More interesting to me is Darren's honest acknowledgment that Justice Thomas has been the victim of racial discrimination by liberals:

"Of course, liberals (myself included) have blasted Justice Thomas' racial jurisprudence since the time he first became a Supreme Court justice. Accordingly, the notion that Obama cannot treat blacks differently than whites (and in a bad way) is preposterous."

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...


Getting rid of a weak candidate 14 months ahead of time, who is an incumbent who failed to appoint your biggest political supporter to the Senate (after you called and "asked" him to do so) sounds FISHY.

Second, I did not say that Thomas was the victim of racial discrimination. Instead, I said that liberals have no difficulty seeing Thomas as making decisions that harm blacks. Ergo, they should be able to apply the same standard to Obama. This should not shock you. You have read this blog long enough to know that I am not beholden to anyone.

Cranky Girl said...
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Cranky Girl said...

Another great one!

I agree. I think this is completely payback. I am a life-long, progressive Democrat. I worked to get Hillary elected and saw firsthand these types of tactics. I didn't like it then. I don't like it now.

I am a big supporter of parity. We need a lot more people of color and women in elected positions. It means something that our "leaders" look like those they lead. Because of that, I also celebrate Patterson as one of only a few disabled people who have been able to serve in this way. Americans rarely cross this divide while in the voting booth. It is as important that Patterson is a black, blind governor, as it is important that he defied his President. “Dissent is Patriotic”…or was it only patriotic during the Kerry campaign?

I can’t stand that folks are calling this action “Post-Racial.” The term "Post-Racial" makes me cringe as much as "Post-Feminist" does. It is arrogant and ignorant simultaneously. Obama's election didn't eradicate racism, overt or covert. We still have many battles to fight before we can ever come close to claiming victory.

This debate does nothing more than confirm a feeling I had during the primary battle… for all the messianic language used about Obama, he is nothing more than a politician in the coldest, hardest sense. Great inspirational speeches are meaningless, emotional tools to get the real mission accomplished: self-aggrandizement and political self-preservation. Win at any cost, and keep winning at any cost. Agenda be damned.

How else can we reconcile candidate Obama that ran against torture and government waste and for quality healthcare reform (without a mandate) and the environment and civil rights and on and on… with President Obama that has already flipped on all of those promises?

All five of your points are right on the money. Thanks. Just keep up the good working reminding all of us to hold dear to our principles over party or personality.

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