Vote Obama – if you want a centrist Republican for US president

 Because Barack Obama has adopted so many core Republican beliefs, the US opposition race is a shambles.

American presidential elections are increasingly indistinguishable from the reality TV competitions drowning the nation’s airwaves. Both are vapid, personality-driven and painfully protracted affairs, with the winners crowned by virtue of their ability to appear slightly more tolerable than the cast of annoying rejects whom the public eliminates one by one. When, earlier this year, America’s tawdriest (and one of its most-watched) reality TV show hosts, Donald Trump, inserted himself into the campaign circus as a threatened contestant, he fitted right in, immediately catapulting to the top of audience polls before announcing he would not join the show.

The Republican presidential primaries – shortly to determine who will be the finalist to face off, and likely lose, against Barack Obama next November – has been a particularly base spectacle. That the contest has devolved into an embarrassing clown show has many causes, beginning with the fact that GOP voters loathe Mitt Romney, their belief-free, anointed-by-Wall-Street frontrunner who clearly has the best chance of defeating the president.

In a desperate attempt to find someone less slithery and soulless (not to mention less Mormon), party members have lurched manically from one ludicrous candidate to the next, only to watch in horror as each wilted the moment they were subjected to scrutiny. Incessant pleas to the party’s ostensibly more respectable conservatives to enter the race have been repeatedly rebuffed. Now, only Romney remains viable. Republican voters are thus slowly resigning themselves to marching behind a vacant, supremely malleable technocrat whom they plainly detest.

In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party’s defining beliefs. Depicting the other party’s president as a radical menace is one of the chief requirements for a candidate seeking to convince his party to crown him as the chosen challenger. Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the right in their rhetoric and policy prescriptions that they fall over the cliff of mainstream acceptability, or even basic sanity.

In July, the nation’s most influential progressive domestic policy pundit, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, declared that Obama is a “moderate conservative in practical terms”. Last October, he wrote that “progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion”, because the president – “once you get past the soaring rhetoric” – has “largely accepted the conservative storyline”.

Krugman also pointed out that even the policy Democratic loyalists point to as proof of the president’s progressive bona fides – his healthcare plan, which mandates the purchase of policies from the private health insurance industry – was designed by the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s most rightwing thinktanks, and was advocated by conservative ideologues for many years (it also happens to be the same plan Romney implemented when he was governor of Massachusetts and which Newt Gingrich once promoted, underscoring the difficulty for the GOP in drawing real contrasts with Obama).

How do you scorn a president as a far-left socialist when he has stuffed his administration with Wall Street executives, had his last campaign funded by them, governed as a “centrist Republican”, and presided over booming corporate profits even while the rest of the nation suffered economically?

But as slim as the pickings are for GOP candidates on the domestic policy front, at least there are some actual differences in that realm. The president’s 2009 stimulus spending and Wall Street “reform” package – tepid and inadequate though they were – are genuinely at odds with rightwing dogma, as are Obama’s progressive (albeit inconsistent) positions on social issues, such as equality for gay people and protecting a woman’s right to choose. And the supreme court, perpetually plagued by a 5-4 partisan split, would be significantly affected by the outcome of the 2012 election.

It is in the realm of foreign policy, terrorism and civil liberties where Republicans encounter an insurmountable roadblock. A staple of GOP politics has long been to accuse Democratic presidents of coddlingAmerica’s enemies (both real and imagined), being afraid to use violence, and subordinatingUSsecurity to international bodies and leftwing conceptions of civil liberties.

But how can a GOP candidate invoke this time-tested caricature when Obama has embraced the vast bulk of George Bush’s terrorism policies; waged a war against government whistleblowers as part of a campaign of obsessive secrecy; led efforts to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs; extinguished the lives not only of accused terrorists but of huge numbers of innocent civilians with cluster bombs and drones in Muslim countries; engineered a covert war against Iran; tried to extend the Iraq war; ignored Congress and the constitution to prosecute an unauthorised war in Libya; adopted the defining Bush/Cheney policy of indefinite detention without trial for accused terrorists; and even claimed and exercised the power to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield and without due process?

Reflecting this difficulty for the GOP field is the fact that former Bush officials, including Dick Cheney, have taken to lavishing Obama with public praise for continuing his predecessor’s once-controversial terrorism polices. In the last GOP foreign policy debate, the leading candidates found themselves issuing recommendations on the most contentious foreign policy question (Iran) that perfectly tracked what Obama is already doing, while issuing ringing endorsements of the president when asked about one of his most controversial civil liberties assaults (the due-process-free assassination of the American-Yemeni cleric Anwar Awlaki). Indeed, when it comes to the foreign policy and civil liberties values Democrats spent the Bush years claiming to defend, the only candidate in either party now touting them is the libertarian Ron Paul, who vehemently condemns Obama’s policies of drone killings without oversight, covert wars, whistleblower persecutions, and civil liberties assaults in the name of terrorism.

In sum, how do you demonise Obama as a terrorist-loving secret Muslim intent on empowering US enemies when he has adopted, and in some cases extended, what was rightwing orthodoxy for the last decade? The core problem for GOP challengers is that they cannot be respectable Republicans because, as Krugman pointed out, Obama has that position occupied. They are forced to move so far to the right that they render themselves inherently absurd.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/27/vote-obama-centrist-republican

           © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved

Urban Legends Website Routs Conspiracy Theorists

Analysis:We are asked to believe that Barack Obama, who for over 20 years has professed to be a devout Christian and spoken publicly of his “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” is in fact secretly a Muslim who has lied all along about his true religious affiliation. 

No proof of any kind is offered by those who make these claims — no sightings of Obama attending a mosque, no pictures of him reading the Koran, praying to Mecca, or observing Islamic holidays with his family. The entire case, such as it is, rests on a confused and error-ridden recitation of Obama’s upbringing and purported childhood influences. It also rests on — that is to say, exploits — a deep fear and mistrust of the Muslim faith.

At no time has Barack Obama publicly evinced a belief in, or commitment to, any other religion than Christianity.

    • CLAIM: Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., was a “radical Muslim who migrated from Kenya to Jakarta, Indonesia.”

      STATUS: FALSE. Though Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was raised a Muslim, he had lost his faith and become a “confirmed atheist” by the time he attended college, according to his son. Obama’s parents separated when Barack was two, his father moving not to Jakarta, but to the United States, where he attended Harvard. Eventually he returned to Kenya.

  • CLAIM: Obama’s mother went on to marry another Muslim named Lolo Soetoro who “educated his stepson as a good Muslim by enrolling him in one of Jakarta’s Wahabbi [sic] schools.”

    STATUS: PARTLY TRUE. When Obama’s mother remarried, it was indeed to an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro, whom his stepson later described as a “non-practicing” Muslim. But it was his “secular” mother who directly supervised his education, Obama has written, sending him to both Catholic and Muslim primary schools after the family moved to Jakarta.

    There’s nothing on record to indicate Obama attended a madrassa (Muslim religious school) run by Wahhabists, and in any case it’s unlikely his mother would have chosen to expose him to such an extreme form of Islam given her stated abhorrence of religious closed-mindedness and her stated goal of giving her son a well-rounded education, including in matters of faith.

    (Update: CNN tracked down the Indonesian school in question, the Basuki School in Jakarta, which a deputy headmaster describes as a “public school” with no particular religious agenda. “In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don’t give preferential treatment,” the headmaster told CNN. A former classmate of Obama’s describes the school as “general,” with students of many religious backgrounds attending. Obama entered the school at the age of 8 and attended for two years.)

 CLAIM: “Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim while admitting that he was once a Muslim.”

STATUS: FALSE. Once a Muslim? When? Unless I missed it while skimming his two books and a great many news interviews, Obama has never mentioned, let alone “admitted,” being a Muslim at any point in his life. Yes, he lived in a Muslim country during part of his childhood, but there’s no evidence he was literally raised in the Muslim faith, nor has he ever been, so far as any public evidence shows, a practitioner of Islam.

 CLAIM: When Obama was sworn into office he used the Koran (Qur’an) instead of the Bible.

STATUS: FALSE. According to news accounts Barack Obama placed his hand on his personal Bible during his Senate swearing-in ceremony, which was conducted by Vice-President Dick Cheney. Those making this allegation have apparently confused Obama with Congressman Keith Ellison, who actually is a Muslim and was sworn in on January 4, 2007 using a copy of the Koran.

Here is another story which resurfaced recently on Facebook:

Obama Faces More Questions on Citizenship
April 1, 2009AP – WASHINGTON D.C. – In a move certain to fuel the debate over Obama’s qualifications for the presidency, the group “Americans for Freedom of Information” has released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College.

Released today, the transcript indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate at the school. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship. This document would seem to provide the smoking gun that many of Obama’s detractors have been seeking.

The news has created a firestorm at the White House as the release casts increasing doubt about Obama’s legitimacy and qualification to serve as president. When reached for comment in London, where he has been in meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama smiled but refused comment on the issue. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at the report stating that this was obviously another attempt by a right-wing conservative group to discredit the president and undermine the administration’s efforts to move the country in a new direction.

Britain’s Daily Mail has also carried the story in a front-page article titled, “Obama Eligibility Questioned”, leading some to speculate that the story may overshadow economic issues on Obama’s first official visit to the U.K.

In a related matter, under growing pressure from several groups, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments concerning Obama’s legal eligibility to serve as President in a case brought by Leo Donofrio of New Jersey. This lawsuit claims Obama’s dual citizenship disqualified him from serving as president. Donofrio’s case is just one of 18 suits brought by citizens demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship or qualification to serve as president.

Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has released the results of their investigation of Obama’s campaign spending. This study estimates that Obama has spent upwards of $950,000 in campaign funds in the past year with eleven law firms in 12 states for legal resources to block disclosure of any of his personal records. Mr. Kreep indicated that the investigation is still ongoing but that the final report will be provided to the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder. Mr. Holder has refused to comment on the matter.

Analysis: Hoax. The original April 1, 2009 posting date suggests it may have been intended as an April Fools prank, but given that the text does little else but parrot actual tenets of the so-called “Birther” movement (those who claim Barack Obama is ineligible for the presidency due to a forged or invalid birth certificate, etc.), it barely qualifies as satire.

    • Is it really an AP news story?

      No. The Associated Press (“AP”) never published such a story. It didn’t run in any real newspaper, nor on any real wire service. It can, however, be found posted and reposted on hundreds of anti-Obama blogs and websites.

  • Is it true that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on Obama’s citizenship and eligibility?

    No. The Supreme Court has refused to hear the Donofrio case, not to mention every other Obama citizenship case submitted to date.

 

  • Did a group called “Americans for Freedom of Information” release Obama’s Occidental College transcripts?

    No. The organization doesn’t exist — or didn’t at the time the above message first began circulating, at any rate. A similarly-named website went up after the fact, but there is no evident connection between that website and the fake news story.

 

  • Has anyone released Obama’s Occidental College transcripts?

    No, the transcripts haven’t been released (federal privacy laws forbid it), nor has any court of law “ordered” them released. (Source: Occidental College)

 

  • Did Obama attend Occidental under the name “Barry Soetoro”?

    No. Soetoro was the surname of his stepfather, but there’s no evidence Barack Obama used it when he attended college. Fellow alumni quoted in the press remember him as “Barry Obama.” According to an Occidental spokesperson quoted on FactCheck.org, the college has no records showing Obama used his stepfather’s last name.

 

  • Did Obama attend Occidental under a Fulbright Scholarship for Foreign Students?

    No. According to various news sources Obama did attend on a scholarship, but it wasn’t a Fulbright scholarship, let alone a Fulbright scholarship for foreign students. The Fulbright Foreign Student Program accepts Master’s Degree and Ph.D. candidates only. Obama, an undergraduate, was neither. He couldn’t have been awarded a Fulbright scholarship for foreign students even if he had been born outside the U.S. (Source: Fulbright Program)

 

  • Did the Daily Mail discuss these “revelations” in a news story entitled “Obama Eligibility Questioned”?

    No. No such story turns up in a search of the London newspaper’s archive.

 

  • Did Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation release research showing Obama has spent $950,000 or more “to block disclosure of his personal records”?

    I’ve found no record of any such “research” being published. The U,S. Justice Foundation does exist and its executive director is indeed a man named Gary Kreep, but he’s on record saying the above claim is a hoax.

    The fact of the matter is that specific expenditures pertaining to litigation on Obama’s Constitutional legitimacy aren’t a matter of public record. What are a matter of public record — and what have have been continually misrepresented as moneys spent fighting citizenship lawsuits — are the total year-to-year legal expenditures of Obama’s campaign finance committee. Anyone who purports to know exactly what portion of those funds were spent responding to citizenship challenges is merely speculating.

    Moreover, it’s disingenuous to characterize Obama’s legal expenditures on these cases as funds dispensed “to block disclosure of his personal records.” While various personal documents have been requested in the filings, securing their release wasn’t the point of the litigation, which aimed to have Obama’s candidacy ruled unconstitutional on a variety of different grounds.

    Lastly, it isn’t as if a presidential candidate whose legitimacy is challenged in court has the option not to mount a legal defense — just ask John McCain.