On Obama and Good Men
It’s time to quote some bloggers who have expressed what I’ve been feeling better than I’ve been able to express it.
I agree with — and incorporate by reference, as if fully set forth again here — Patrick’s many reservations about Obama and his bad policies. I’ll add to those that I think Obama has knowingly, and inexcusably, chosen to associate with some bad people — among whom I’d certainly include twisted dollop of evil scum Bill Ayers and convicted politician-buyer Tony Rezko. Obama’s decisions to associate with those folks, and with several organizations who shelter and attract bad people, would lead me to agree that Obama has consistently demonstrated very bad judgment.
But “bad man”? Naw, I’m just not there yet. Might get there, but not there yet.
I don’t think that’s because I’m being “noble,” and I would vigorously dispute that it’s because I’m being naïve. I’ll go so far as to concede that I’m deliberately giving Obama the benefit of the doubt on some of his associations, to call that merely “bad judgment” as opposed to evidence that he, himself, is also a “bad man.” And I respect Jeff, and others, who disagree, and I credit them with good faith in making that decision (at the same time I urge them to return that respect to those who haven’t).
I agree with all of this — and I will point out that I have said exactly the same thing about Obama’s relationships with Rezko, Ayers, and Wright, and what it says about his judgment. (I think some of you have missed that; especially those of you who aren’t regular readers. Blog readers are an impatient lot and sometimes miss what Allahpundit loves to call nuance.)
Speaking of Allahpundit:
One of the last things Dean Barnett said to me was that, as best he could tell, Barack Obama is “a good guy and a decent man.” I don’t think he’d mind me telling you that, especially under the circumstances.
. . . .
[C]ongratulations to Barry O on a race superbly run and to our country for not having let the wrong reasons deter it from making the wrong choice. I’ll never be a fan, but I swear I’ll never take a nutroots posture either in relishing his failures because it helps my party. Like it or not, he’s my president. As a great man once said, country first.
[A]s members of a pluralistic society, we must have some basic level of respect for those with whom we disagree, regardless of the legitimacy of those disagreements. When lefties said, after 2004, that George Bush is “stupid” and a “moron,” they were insulting not just President Bush, but all those who voted for him. When lefty Hollywood types threatened to leave the country, if President Bush were to be elected (or reelected), they were saying to all of those who voted for the President: “I dislike your politics so much, I don’t want to even live in the same country with you.” That’s not a recipe for a strong and healthy society.
It is this last point that I think is the most important.
I think it’s important for the other side to realize that there are Republicans who won’t write off all Democrats as Bad People because of what they believe. There’s a guy who used to comment here who was an insightful commenter, but whom I had to ban because when his self-righteousness got the better of him, he was unforgivably rude. He reminded me today why I first banned him, leaving a comment in moderation that said:
You’re a stupid f—-k, Patterico.
Putting aside all of the attacks on Barack Obama for being associated with Ayers and redistributive Marxism, his creating weird symbols of power before even getting in office, his campaign’s financing FRAUD disabling basic protections to raise millions of foreign and over the limit donations, and his “overlooking” of his campaign’s voter registration and, of course, voting fraud.
Putting aside all that.
You just posted the other day about his supporting partial birth abortion and how abhorrent this is (you left out infanticide, but whatever).
And now you say he’s basically a nice guy for a politician?
You’re an ass——–.
To this person, and many others, the fact that someone believes in partial-birth abortion means that they are a Bad Person. I consider the practice horrific, and it’s not overstating it to say I believe it is evil. For some people, it’s an easy step from that to saying that anyone who supports it is evil. That’s 23% of Americans — tens of millions of people — that you’re writing off as Evil People.
I’m not willing to say these are evil people. I think many have been misled by propaganda, and many simply disagree with me. I’d rather not call them Bad People. I’d rather try to persuade them that they’re wrong.
There are people who argue that a good man would not take his children to Rev. Wright’s church. That’s a lot of people that you’re writing off as Bad People. And Rev. Wright’s church is hardly unique among black churches.
I’m not willing to say that all black people who attend Rev. Wright’s church and churches like it are Bad People. I’d rather try to convince them that they shouldn’t feel this country is as biased against black people as Reverend Wright thinks. The election of Barack Obama is a positive step.
I just heard a black man on the radio saying that he is starting to think of this country in a different way. He didn’t believe the polls; he thought when the polls said Obama was up by 7 points, that he really wasn’t, because white people wouldn’t go into the privacy of a voting booth and vote for a black man. He’s thinking differently about his country now, and that’s a good thing. His new way of thinking will marginalize the Reverend Wrights of the world.
We don’t have to write off the members of Rev. Wright’s congregation as Bad People. We can persuade them that they are wrong in their beliefs.
Obama talks about spreading the wealth around. It’s class warfare and I disagree with it. It’s a point of view that has its roots in socialism and Marxism. But you can say that it’s a bad set of policies, or you can say that everyone who agrees with him about these policies is a Socialist and a Marxist and an Other, and say that nobody can be a “good man” if they believe such things.
We don’t have to write off people who believe in spreading the wealth around as Bad People. We can persuade them that they are wrong in that belief.
All of this is important to say, I believe. Jeff Goldstein thinks I believe this for shallow and opportunistic reasons: I want a pat on the back. He says: “I believe Patterico determined beforehand that if Obama won, he’d show how classy he is — and how essentially kind are conservatives — by posting such nonsense.”
Sorry, Jeff. I’m too busy to decide that kind of thing beforehand.
I respect Jeff Goldstein and I believe I can still call him my friend, though we’ve never met. He’s a fine writer and makes a spirited argument. If he didn’t insist on questioning my motives, I would simply say I respect his opinion but I disagree. A conservative friend at work came up to me and told me my post was the stupidest post I had ever written. I think he too missed the nuance, but I didn’t get offended, because he knew I was sincere, and he didn’t impugn my integrity.
But Jeff, I will tell you exactly what I was thinking and why, since you seem so interested in my particular thought process.
This kerfuffle has its roots in what I wanted to teach my daughter about political disagreement. I have already written that, after we voted and we were awaiting election results, this episode happened:
I have told her that Obama will probably win, and she was sad. “I don’t want Obama to be my President!” she said. I told her that McCain and Obama are both good men — and although I disagree with Obama, if he wins, we have to say: “Oh well, we tried. But he will still be my President.”
She’s still not very happy. Nor am I. But I want her to learn that no matter who wins, he’s a good man trying to do what he thinks is right for the country.
I thought that was an important lesson for her to learn.
Later that evening, I watched McCain’s concession speech. I was terribly embarrassed when I saw the crowd booing Obama, and I was proud of McCain for forcefully stopping it and delivering the speech he did. And I noticed something: the crowd paid attention. He was speaking to thousands of people, and aside from one or two idiots yelling once or twice, you could have heard a pin drop.
And I thought, for the first time: you know, he could have done that during the campaign. During the campaign, I was too busy defending McCain and Palin against what were certainly unfair attacks to notice this. Yes, it was unfair to McCain and Palin to assume that they heard death threats yelled from the audience, when apparently nobody else did either, including Secret Service agents and everyone they interviewed. But there most certainly was some booing and ill will expressed towards Obama. Wouldn’t it have been something if McCain had been as forceful about stopping that during the campaign? If he had been as magnanimous in his praise for Obama’s historic campaign as he was when he delivered that concession speech?
I’m not sure whether that would have helped or hurt him. I don’t think there was anything — anything — he could have done to win. But it would have been inspiring, and who knows? A lot of Americans might have been impressed. [UPDATE: Here is an account of him doing just that, but it was too late, and the media was able to portray it as a reaction to the ugliness that had prevailed in preceding weeks. Meanwhile, Obama had a standard line that he repeated again and again: “Don’t boo. Just vote.”]
I’m sick of people who want to write off entire groups of people as Bad People because of what they believe in. I’ve watched the left do that, and I’m seeing a lot of people on the right doing that now as well. (I’m not talking about Jeff here; I think he’s too smart to demonize all Democrats. But I believe some folks out there are demonizing people for their beliefs.)
When it comes to Obama, we’re obviously talking about a different situation. Many here are calling him a bad man because he has done some bad things and associated with some bad people. It’s true, he has, and I can respect the people who write him off for that reason. I’m simply not going to do it, yet. Like Beldar, I’m
deliberately giving Obama the benefit of the doubt on some of his associations, to call that merely “bad judgment” as opposed to evidence that he, himself, is also a “bad man.”
And like Beldar, I may well end up admitting that I was wrong about that.
But I’m not going to write Obama off as a Bad Man because of his beliefs, contrary to the wishes of my former commenter. And I’m not going to write him off as a Bad Man — or the majority of his supporters as bad People — based on what I’ve seen to date. So far, as I’ve said, I see him as a basically good and decent man who, like many politicians, has engaged in some highly questionable behavior in the pursuit of power.
You may disagree with my view, and that’s fine. I can respect your disagreement.
I’m not going to pretend he conducted a purely honorable campaign, and I’m sure as hell not going to say that I’m supporting his policies. But I’m going to say that I respect him and the people who disagree with me — even as I work to persuade them that they’re wrong when I can, and seek to overrule them via the political process when I can’t persuade them.
And I’m not trying to be smug about this. You can certainly go back through my archives and find evidence of my not trying to live up to this ideal. I’m sure I will fail again. But failing to live up to an ideal doesn’t make it a bad ideal. And at this particular point in time, I think Republicans would do well to show the other side that it’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.