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The Real Truth About Obama

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 16 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.

Yesterday I got a fund-raising pitch for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, courtesy of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Along the way they expressed outrage that:

The other take away is that our opponents are ready to play dirty. CNN recently reported that an anti-choice group calling themselves The Real Truth About Obama, Inc., is trying to Swift Boat Barack Obama by running false ads in key states during the electioneering communication blackout period 60 days before the general election.

They link to a story on CNN Political Ticker as their source. Here’s what the story has to say about this terrible ad:

The Real Truth About Obama wants to post ads on its Web site and on the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity talk shows in key states during the electioneering communication blackout period 60 days before the general election. The ad features an Obama-like voice saying he would make taxpayers pay for all abortions, ensure minors’ abortions are concealed from their parents, appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices and legalize the late-term procedure that abortion opponents call partial-birth abortion.

Oh, please.

Let’s break this down and look at what, if CNN is reporting the contents correctly, the ad actually claims.

  1. Barack Obama would make taxpayers pay for all abortions. — Obama opposes the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal healthcare programs from funding abortions. NARAL also opposes the Hyde Amendment. Obama’s opposition to the Hyde Amendment is one of the reasons that NARAL supports Obama’s candidacy. All abortions is no doubt wrong — even if the Hyde Amendment were repealed, it would mainly affect women receiving Medicaid, women in federal prisons, women in the military, and a few other groups of women who receive their healthcare coverage from the federal government. But since Obama, like most progressives, believes in substantially expanding the scope of federally-funded healthcare programs, and believes in repealing the Hyde Amendment, he is also committed to believing that many if not most abortions should be paid for using federal tax dollars. I oppose federal funding of abortions because I oppose all federal funding of healthcare. But I see no reason to discriminate against abortion here as opposed to all other surgical procedures: if you believe strongly in making taxpayers pay for other people’s medical care, and you believe that abortion is a legitimate form of medical care, then why the hell wouldn’t you believe in making taxpayers pay for other people’s abortions?

  2. Barack Obama would oppose laws requiring parental notification when minors get an abortion. — Of course Obama would oppose laws requiring parental notification when minors get an abortion. NARAL also opposes laws requiring parental notification when minors get an abortion. As well they should: parental notification laws, which treat young women as if their reproductive organs were the property of their parents, are tyrannical, foolish, and destructive invasions of young women’s freedom, as well as extremely dangerous for young women in abusive or unstable family situations.

  3. Barack Obama would appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices. — Of course Obama would appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices. The fact that he would appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices is a large part of the reason that NARAL supports Obama’s candidacy. And for good reason: pro-choice Supreme Court justices are much less likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.

  4. Barack Obama would work to repeal the federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortion. Obama voted against so-called partial-birth abortion bans in the state legislature in Illinois and in the federal Senate. NARAL also opposes these bans, and the fact that Obama opposes them is one of the reason that NARAL supports Obama’s candiday. And for good reason: late-term abortion procedure bans are tyrannical, foolish, and destructive invasions of women’s rights to control their own bodies, and doctor’s rights to choose the safest available procedure for a late-term abortion. The bans endanger women’s health and criminalize doctors for practicing good medicine.

There’s no Swift Boating here, because the ad consists mainly of factual statements about Barack Obama’s positions — positions which Barack Obama is, in the main, right on, and which NARAL agrees he is right on. Of all the claims made in the ad, only one part of one of the claims actually attributes a position to Barack Obama which he does not hold. Only part of one of the claims attributes any claim to Obama that NARAL does not actually support. And only one of the claims attributes any claim to Obama which he is actually wrong to hold. The ad says a bunch of things about his view which are mostly true and which he is mostly right about. His views on these topics may be controversial, but they are only controversial among people who are already anti-abortion, or who are take-one-for-the-party doughfaces and useless hand-wringers without any consistent position. They are certainly not controversial within the pro-choice movement. And what the hell is the point of an outfit like NARAL if not to publicly support and agitate for controversial positions on behalf of the pro-choice movement, rather than pretending as if it were somehow bad to have those positions attributed to you?

A little courage of our convictions, please.

5 replies to The Real Truth About Obama Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. heather reddy

    WORD. on demand and without apology– when did we forget about that?

  2. Black Bloke

    Hey Charles, do you hae any opinions on this piece on Obama from Counterpunch?


  3. Black Bloke

    Hmm… I guess my comment might be in holding because of the links.

  4. Rad Geek

    Black Bloke,

    I found the article rather disappointing.

    I think that Yates is right that indifference to or resentment of Obama among the older white rust-belt workers that the New York Times talked to is not merely the result of white working-class racism. But I’m skeptical of narrative-heavy political trend stories like these as a rule — the New York Times article, like most of this kind of article, is long on impressionistic quotes from a smattering of man-on-the-street sources selected by means we don’t know, but short on actual data about how widespread or firmly held these views are. And, even granting that the narrative is pretty well descriptive of the general run of views among white working-class people in the area, I don’t think Yates does an especially good job of explaining the reasons behind the indifference or resentment. (Obama’s likely NLRB appointments? Come on. How many people even know who’s on the NLRB now?)

    At a more general level, about all Yates has to offer is the standard issue narrative of spineless establishment Democrats, which I could have gotten off of any old Progressive blog, in one of their less intoxicated moods. Not only is this a shopworn bit of Progressive conventional wisdom, it also fails completely at explaining the preference for Hillary Triangulation Clinton, of all people, over Barack Obama. A serious attempt to approach the problem would have to talk a bit about why so many working-class folks (black, white, Latino, male, female, etc.) are so deeply cynical about political parties and electoral politics as such, and how Obama in particular has crafted his public image and his rhetoric to appeal mainly to some fairly specific demographics — chief among them the professional-class urban Progressives who sit around reading lefty news analysis sites like CounterPunch in their spare time. If you want to understand why Hillary Clinton did so much better among white Pennsylvania working-class voters, then I’m sure part of it has to do with race; but a lot of it also has to do with the fact that Obama was and is simply chasing a different set of voters, who tend to be in short supply outside of major cities.

    On the other hand, there’s also a lot to complain about in the fetish for (1) older, (2) white, (3) non-immigrant, (4) male, (5) industrial, (6) working-class folks, as if these were all simply identical with the working class as a whole (young working-class voters and black working-class voters are much more likely to support Obama than the folks the Times talked to, for instance). And in the presumption that theories that explained the voting preferences of older, white, non-immigrant, male, industrial working-class folks would easily translate into just as good an explanation for all other working folks. (Many female working-class voters preferred Hillary Clinton for quite different reasons. Many younger working-class voters didn’t prefer Hillary Clinton at all. The explicit identification of small industrial shop towns with rural workers is simply bizarre. Etc.)

  5. Nick Manley

    Perhaps, the only redeeming thing about the Democrats is their catering to the pro-choice voting block.

    It’s one interest group I doubt they will throw overboard.

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Anticopyright. This was written in 2008 by Rad Geek. Feel free to reprint if you like it. This machine kills intellectual monopolists.