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Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama as Most Liberal

A label that come from a survey of the Senate voting record from 2007, conducted by the National Journal. I've heard its ranking of Obama as "most liberal senator" contested by leftist partisans, amid some quibbling. What are we to think? Well, Charles Green, NJ's editor, discusses the criticism, summarized here.

Of the 442 votes called, 99 were selected for their ideological quality, useful in determining the leanings of the given senator. The list was then sent to the Brookings Institution, which tallied up the votes for each senator. The ideological value, yea or nay, was compared to the number of votes actually cast, and the resulting ratio determined the score. Thus, while Obama only voted on 66 of the 99 possible, he voted liberal on 65 of them, a score of 65 out of 66. Says Green, "Obama's No. 1 ranking is akin to being declared the major-league batting champion. The honor goes to the player with the highest batting average, regardless of whether he has the most hits."

No presumptions can be made as to how Obama would have voted on votes he did not cast. No presumption, that is, other than that he would maintain his general pattern. Indeed, to point to his absenteeism is hardly complimentary to him. As a senator, he has very few actual concrete duties -- but the primary one would be to vote when there was a vote-call. How are his constituents represented, by his absence?

Another criticism of the ranking is the supposition that other senators are manifestly more liberal -- Sanders of Vermont, Boxer of California. "It's true that those senators are generally perceived as being more liberal than Obama. But our ratings are based on actual votes, not perceptions.... Just because someone is perceived as a liberal doesn't mean he or she votes the liberal position every time." Funny how often we have to point out that reality is about what actually happens. Missed votes, that Obama did not cast, are not real. Likewise, wearing pink bowties or Birkenstocks, or talking but not voting the liberal party line -- these are not diagnostic of the left. It's what we do that counts, not what we wear, say or seem to be.

"In the end, the debate over whether Obama was the most liberal senator last year doesn't strike me as particularly useful. If Obama had voted differently a couple of times, or if we had added or subtracted a couple of other votes in our ratings, he might not have been ranked as the most liberal senator. ... (In his first two years in the Senate he was ranked as the 16th- and 10th-most-liberal senator.) But by virtually any measure, he still would have had a solidly liberal voting record..."

It just worked out that way. But that's the way it is. Now, in this election season, I'm sure Obama is no longer talking or voting -- if he votes -- as the most liberal. What is he really? How could we know? He's a guy who's most notable accomplishment is having delivered some very sonorous speeches. That makes it hard to say what he really is. He is all about words.

I could make the usual observations that the man generally grows into the office. The minor, and dangerous presidents, like Carter and clinton, don't seem to have done that. Carter just got old and nagging, and clinton became that giant carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors -- but generally the weight of office squeezes out some dignity and a moiety of wisdom. Right? But I don't know if I believe it, that men change in the office. Out of all the presidents, how many rank as great? All the rest rose, at best, to mediocrity.

Not promising, for Obama.

Odd, though, how I write these things. Last night I was at the place I'm doing some of my workouts, and the fella said that a spider always cast a web, that was gone in the morning. This spurred that cascade of ideations in me that so often sweeps me up in its tide. I instantly started talking about how if you constantly destroy a spider's web, it goes mad, weaving chaotic webs, then just odd, meaningless and disconnected strands, and then it dies. Then I talked about the experiment where rats were placed in water and left to drown. As they finally gave up and sank, they were rescued, and then later put back in the water. They lasted many times longer. When they were rescued again, and then tested, they lasted longer still.

They had learned to hope. As the spiders learned futility. Hope is learned, as is despair. And I didn't say, but I thought, that this is the value of compassion. Compassion acts. And when it does, it teaches hope.

Last night, later, I was thinking about the time a boy on the playground took my thermos and threw it across the lunch tables. I remembered the sound of the broken glass. I remember my tears and fear of what my parents would do. I haven't thought of that since it happened.

And about a week ago I was thinking about Pandora's Box. We all know the myth, which seems to teach the folly of curiosity, or the foolishness and primal guilt of women, or the inevitable doom that justifies our darkest forebodings. But then I remembered something, that I hadn't thought of since I first learned the myth of Pandora, over forty years ago -- about the same time as that other newly-fresh memory. After every evil thing had poured out like shards of glass from that Box -- pestilence and catatrophe and atrocity -- the last thing to emerge was hope.

Funny how I write these things. I just this very moment saw the news. McCain's picked Sarah Palin for VP. My choice.

We just won.

Hope.


J

1 comment:

Will C. said...

"Funny how I write these things. I just this very moment saw the news. McCain's picked Sarah Palin for VP. My choice.

We just won.

Hope."

Today was a good day my friend...