Monday, October 06, 2008

Obama's "Liberal Record" In Line With Most Americans' Views

While the McCain-Palin campaign has officially begun their 30-day, swift-boating plan for Barack Obama by saying he likes to "pal around with terrorists," I'm somewhat sure they'll stop just short of Photoshopping Obama attending an al Qaeda planning meeting and focus much more intensely on defining the Democratic nominee as -- horror of horrors! -- a liberal.

"We are looking for a very aggressive last 30 days," said Greg Strimple, a McCain talking head, over the weekend. "We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama's aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans."

And in the first presidential debate, McCain himself moved in that familiar direction, crowing that Obama has “the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate."

So I think we can see where this is going.

The Obama-Biden ticket could always hit back that the GOP again using "liberal" as a curse word ignores the fact that liberals are responsible for such all-American favorites as Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, the Peace Corps, Clean Air and Clean Water legislation, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

But they might do better right now by breaking down exactly what McCain and Palin are talking about when they cite the National Journal's 2007 Congressional vote rankings from which they cull their reference to the "most liberal" U.S. Senator in their attempts to make Obama look "too risky."

The National Journal looked at 99 Senate votes in 2007 and used those as the basis of what the McCain-Palin team sees as a stinging indictment of the Democratic ticket. Sadly for McCain, looking at many of those votes indicates that Obama is very much in the American mainstream and provides an excellent rationale for why more of us should vote for Obama and not him.

Of the votes used to give McCain his latest name-calling gambit, a good number of them show Obama on what most voters would consider the right side of issues such as the Iraq war, raising the minimum wage, energy independence, stem cell research and increased domestic security.

Two of the votes that will cause McCain and Palin to shriek "liberal" at Obama were in favor of raising the Federal Minimum wage for the first time in a decade -- something Americans overwhelmingly supported -- and against another piece of cruel Republican legislation to kill the minimum wage entirely. And, yes, for all you folks out there making the lowest required wage rate, Senator McCain did vote to abolish it and let your employers decide based on state law or their own kindness how much you earn.

Obama also voted for a whole slew of other popular things including fully funding special education in our schools -- you know, Governor Palin, for kids with special needs -- allowing more children to get basic health care and lowering prescription drug prices on our senior citizens. Here's to hoping our elderly in Florida consider that last one and allow the "liberal" cry from John McCain to send them to the voting booth for Obama.

Stem cell research? The vast majority of Americans support that science and the promise it holds for new treatments and cures for some of the most debilitating and deadly diseases. Barack Obama supported the "liberal" position of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act and, as a matter of fact, so did John McCain -- but that won't keep McCain and Palin from using it like a bat to beat Obama with.

The same hypocrisy is true with legislation by that flaming liberal Joe Lieberman that called for the creation of a Senate Office of Public Integrity to, as Lieberman put it, "aggressively investigate allegations of misconduct among [Senate] Members." Lieberman, McCain and other Republicans voted for that -- but somehow Barack Obama also voting in favor makes him an evil liberal American.

American energy independence is one of the hot topics this campaign season and yet two votes cast by Obama to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil will be assailed by Team McCain -- even though John McCain couldn’t even be bothered to show up for either of those votes.

And on Iraq, caring for our troops fighting there and in Afghanistan and securing America within our own borders, Obama has consistently voted for what "Main Street" thinks is right and which again, in Bizarro Republican World, would make voting in step with the American people a bad thing.

The majority of Americans no longer want us bogged down in the Iraq quagmire and all of Obama's votes to set a timeline to get the hell out of that mess makes for more GOP evidence of his "liberal" ideals. Obama also voted to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations -- how did that become a liberal stance? -- and to fund screening of cargo containers at major U.S. shipping ports… McCain didn’t show up for work to vote on those issues that day either.

Finally, it's a very strange part of the election cycle when the McCain-Palin team thinks it can turn votes Obama made on behalf of America's troops and their families against him -- but they're going to do exactly that when it comes to the Democratic nominee's efforts to limit the duration of Iraq deployments and extend the period of downtime troops receive with their families before they can be sent back.

"This is an amendment that is focused squarely on supporting our troops who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), a combat Veteran, arguing for one of two bills he authored to give troops more time between deployments. "It speaks directly to their welfare and to the needs of their families by establishing minimum periods between deployments for both our regular and reserve components."

Obama voted with the troops and their families on that issue, McCain voted against them -- and this is a bad thing for Obama?

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel sponsored a bill to limit Iraq deployments to 12 months saying that the extended tours favored by the Bush administration is "…wearing down the troops and their families, impacting the mental and physical health of our troops."

Again, wherever Sarah Palin speaks in the next month, she will try to convince voters that Obama siding with Hagel and military families was a nasty liberal plot while McCain voting with Bush and against the troops was the right thing to do.

So we're in the homestretch. The Obama-Biden ticket is surging in the polls and even making states like Indiana and North Carolina look like they may vote Democratic this year -- so desperate times will call for desperate and dirty Republican tricks and labeling.

But if they're going to resort to their tired old tactic of standing on the street corner like crazy people yelling "liberal, liberal, liberal," let's at least let them know that, along with Obama and Joe Biden, they're including the mainstream of America under that umbrella.

Update: You can go here to see a chart of Obama votes that the McCain-Palin ticket finds so offensive.