Obama’s Constitutional Theory

Obama supporters think it wrong–an example of “negative campaigning”–to draw attention to this 2001 radio interview, in which the future presidential candidate contemplates how to redistribute wealth. But a candidate’s beliefs and political philosophy are surely far more important than isolated policy prescriptions. I would like to concentrate on the constitutional theory that this former constitutional law professor sets forth:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I’d be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.

To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

First of all, is there anything more important than knowing what a presidential candidate believes about the Constitution that he must swear to defend and protect? Second, isn’t it significant that Obama wants to “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution”?

If you agree with that, fine, but we all need to realize that this is what he believes. That includes a big government that goes beyond constitutional restraints. And that one of this big government’s roles is “redistributive” change. Civil rights are not enough, since those are constitutional, and property right is a civil right.

Would that the debates, questions, and media attention focused more on such “theoretical” issues.

UPDATE: I see in finally checking the comments that FW has commented on this under “Conservatives for Obama.” He says this is just judicial conservatism, reflecting the limits of what the courts can do. But he is surely opposing here the philosophy that the government should be limited to what the constitution says it should do, which is one of the hallmarks of a conservative political theory and, indeed, of the rule of law. And “redistributive change” is not just talking about a progressive income tax!

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  • Of course it’s important to know what each candidate’s view of our governing document is. It’s the old truth: if we have a living Constitution then we have a dead Republic. Obama believes that the Constitution is a living document (whether the smallest, human children are “alive” is above his pay-grade).

    I guess we should speak out while it’s still legal to.

  • TK

    Whoa. I can’t believe what I just read. Very disturbing comments. Does anyone know if Senator Obama has backtracked or spun these comments since 2001? Sometimes, I get the feeling that Obama really is not a Rohrshack but a chameleon. His circle of influence, his community and his financial supporters want(ed) to hear him expound on what is considered to be edgy, progressive and non-populist topics and so he obliged. Now, he’s trying to (and, perhaps wants to) be seen as a non-scary moderate. He may even have every intention to be a middle of the road president, but when you pull up the pieces of his history it just doesn’t add up.

  • LAJ

    Could it be that he has stopped talking radically because the American people aren’t ready for it just like liberal pastors, who do not believe much of the Bible, but don’t preach like that because their congregations aren’t “ready” for it? I hope it’s because he has changed his views, but I doubt it.

  • FW

    Dr Veith. your post troubles me.

    You miss an important part of the quote that seems to indicate that he actually approved of the warren court NOT being more activist and criticizing the civil rights movement for relying too much on the court. he basically channels rosenburg/klarman who both say that the courts should not make rulings that are outside of a broad social consensus. he states in his interview on judicial appointments that the supremes should not make laws, and that he would be troubled if the court today were as activist as the warren court was on civil rights saying that was a unique and special case. This seems to me to be at the conservative end of democratic politics, and infact more conservative than many republicans. The way to change judicial decisions, according to Obama, is to change the underlying political and social dynamics; changes in the law primarily follow changes in society, not vice versa. This IS the context and gist of his interview.

    the parts of the interview you miss are as follows:

    The first mention of redistribution, which does not appear on the YouTube clip, comes when Obama discusses a 1973 Supreme Court ruling finding that there is no right to education.

    “One other area where the civil rights area has changed… is at the state level you now have state supreme courts and state laws that in some ways have adopted the ethos of the Warren Court. A classic example would be something like public education, where after Brown v. Board, a major issue ends up being redistribution — how do we get more money into the schools, and how do we actually create equal schools and equal educational opportunity? Well, the court in a case called San Antonio v. Rodriguez in the early ’70s basically slaps those kinds of claims down, and says, ‘You know what, we as a court have no power to examine issues of redistribution and wealth inequalities. With respect to schools, that’s not a race issue, thats a wealth issue and something and we can’t get into.”

    Later in the interview, Obama seemed to concur with conservative and mainstream liberal scholars on the court’s more modest view of its powers:

    “Maybe i am showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but you know, I am not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts,” he said. “You know the institution just isn’t structured that way. Just look at very rare examples where during he desegregation era the court was willing to, for example, order … changes that cost money to local school district[s], and the court was very uncomfortable with it. It was hard to manage, it was hard to figure out, you start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that is essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time. The court is not very good at it, and politically it is hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So i think that although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally, I think any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts, I think that as a practical matter that our institutions are just poorly equipped to do it.”

    Obama did suggest in the interview that he favors “redistributive change,” and that it should come though “political and organizing activities,” and that’s the discussion Republicans are jumping on, arguing that it shows the same philosophical impulse as Obama’s now-famous commetn to an Ohio plumber that he favors “spread[ing] the wealth around.”

    Here is a quote from the McCain camp that distorts Obama´s position, and suggests that he is using “code words” to signal his REAL intentions. very dishonest. it smells of desperation.

    “Now we know that the slogans ‘change you can believe in’ and ‘change we need’ are code words for Barack Obama’s ultimate goal: ‘redistributive change,'” said McCain advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin. “No wonder he wants to appoint judges that legislate from the bench – as insurance in case a unified Democratic government under his control fails to meet his basic goal: taking money away from people who work for it and giving it to people who Barack Obama believes deserve it. Europeans call it socialism, Americans call it welfare, and Barack Obama calls it change.”

    here is a conservative leaning law blog that deals with the FULL interview. they also link to an interview where Obama lists his favorite supremes of all time, and talks about his judicial philosphy at length. he is no radical here, or at least no more so than a typical democrat.


    It does seem that Obama´s core conviction in fact is that if the courts get ahead of society in their rulings that those rulings will be unstable.

    money quote:

    “It’s true that most Americans, when asked by pollsters, think that it’s emphatically not the government’s job to redistribute wealth. But are people so stupid as to not recognize that when politicians talk about a “right to health care,” or “equalizing educational opportunities,” or “making the rich pay a fair share of taxes,” or “ensuring that all Americans have the means to go to college,” and so forth and so on, that they are advocating the redistribution of wealth? Is it okay for a politician to talk about the redistribution of wealth only so long as you don’t actually use phrases such as “redistribution” or “spreading the wealth,” in which case he suddenly becomes “socialist”? If so, then American political discourse, which I never thought to be especially elevated, is in even a worse state than I thought.”

    here is an analysis from Politico, ben smith. someone I consider center/left. some consider him right. some of the reader responses to his post are worthy reads.


  • Jim

    Obama’s argument does can be easily understood to be upholding the original constitution as against subsequent judicial interpretation. He’s basically suggesting that judges have construed the Constitution too narrowly — i.e., more narrowly than the text or history of the Constitution requires.

    His whole sentence reads, “essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least AS ITS BEEN INTERPRETED and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties.”

    So Obama’s argument, such as it is, would be one that is consistent with “conservative political theory,” to the extent that he truly believes that the text of the Constitution endorses positive rights.

    I’d disagree with that conclusion in the main, but it seems possible that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause can be reasonably read to impose an affirmative duty on government to protect everyone equally from things like crime.

  • FW

    note well that an important part of the 2001 interview that is missing in the youtube clip says clearly what Obama is thinking when he says “redistribution”:

    “A classic example would be something like public education, where after Brown v. Board, a major issue ends up being REDISTRIBUTION — how do we get more money into the schools, and how do we actually create equal schools and equal educational opportunity?”

    This, while not being a conservative view, is also not radical in the sense of being an outlier in the general public discourse as the Mc Cain camp are distorting this interview to make the case that Obama is much more liberal than he is presenting himself as.

    they are trying to make the case that obama is in fact a radical marxist/socialist or neo-marxist who´s TRUE sympathies lie with the underlying philosophies of ayers and men and women like him.

    This IS the case they are trying to make . In effect that Obama is lying and dishonest and disseminating about his true ideological allegiances.

    This is not right.

    This most recent line of attack, that you seem to be fully on board with, does not hold up to scrutiny and rather reveals the McCain campaign as being very dishonorable in their being free and lose with the facts. and stupid I might add, because unlike 2000 and 2004, the internet will quickly overcome these kinds of lies and distortions.

    The age of Rove/Atwater are gone. McCain and the republicans need to catch up to 2008.

    I, unfortunately, will not expect any kind of retraction here in light of your seeing the parts of the transcript that were missing in the Youtube clip put together by republican hacks and edited to be heavily slanted in a lame attempt to further the joe plumber/socialism narrative.

    I think you owe us a public retraction.

    I think you also owe us a proper condemnation of Mc Cain´s tactics as being disingenuous at best and beneath his stated standards for decency in the campaign.

    of COURSE sen Obama´s, sen mc Cains, sen bidens, and gov palin´s legal views are EXTREMELY important. Where do I go to see gov Palin´s views or sen mc Cain´s views 8-10 years back? in this detail? Point me please to these resources online if you are able to.

    It is also very important that you report sen Obama’s views accurately, especially when your candidate is distorting facts that are so easily verifiable.

    to date I have seen only (!) THREE instances where Obama has outright lied about senator McCain’s intentions in his ads and campaign: (1) sen mc cain wants to privatize social security. He has not said that! (2) sen mccain is NOT in favor of an automaker bailout. He is! (3) sen Mc Cain is against stem cell research. He is not!.

    I deplore these outright lies from the sen Obama camp.

    I deplore this lie/distortion from the sen McCain camp.

  • FW

    i hope my request for retraction/condemnation of these recent Mc Cain tactics are seen as a respectful request, based on facts now fully available to you.

    You have been deceived it does appear and are an innocent victim of a nasty attempt at spin.

    I think it is unconscionable to misuse and mislead honorable republicans like you Dr Vieth and the rest of the conservatives here in this way.

    senator mc cain can do much better.

    I think the good senator is being influenced now by his advisors against his own true better judgement.

    The senator McCain I knew in 2000 would never have gone this route or participated in the robocall campaign that was launched for that matter.

  • FW


    relax. have a beer or xanax and read my posts and follow the links. there is no news here. if anything obama is much more conservative than republicans are painting him. that should be good news to all of you shouldn´t it be?

    #5 Jim:

    No Jim. You are reading Obama wrong because the Youtube audio clip are missing important parts of the interview. read my posts, follow the provided links and see. it is very clear that McCain/Drudge are pushing a talking point very deceptively.

    here is an expansive interview on sen Obamas judicial and many other policy positions (as a bonus!).


    sen Obama, so far, has not been proven to have secret neo-marxist sympathies. sen obama is well vetted. contrary to republican insinuations to the contrary. where are gov palin and sen mc cain´s views on all this in this amount of detail going back 8-10 years?

    I hope now that the republicans lose this election for the simple reason that they are being very stupid. they are painting obama as a very radical neo-marxist. the more they do this the more obama has to do is simply be who he his. He is liberal. this is so true. I am not sure he is more liberal (except on the vital abortion issue) than bush has proven himself to be in practice. Senator Obama is at the center-left end of the democratic party spectrum. no new news here.

    this will be apparent to independent voters. all he needed to do at the debates to win them was to merely show up and not be the wild eyed radical mc cain was priming everyone to expect to see.

  • Rob

    Fw, you’re still stuck on his view of judicial interpretation. Of course, having read the full text of the interview a couple of times, he takes an empirical stance that redistributive change is not possible through the courts (I am not able to infer from his words whether he thinks this should be the case). However, if you keep reading, he speaks of the necessity of executive and legislative coalitions that can bring about such change, and indeed should. He does think the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Constitution as-written are inadequate, believing that the government should play a more active and positive role in the lives and betterment of its citizens.

    If you believe that is a legitimate end of the United States government, so be it, and you are entitled to argue that opinion. But my point all along is that it’s silly and fallacious to argue that Obama is somehow conservative or that he means the words “redistributive change” in a way other than their actual definition. It’s just inaccurate. And, FW, I would request that you stop narrowing your argumentative focus to Obama’s stance on judicial activism, because that is clearly not the only important element of Obama’s own argument.

  • David

    Words combined with actions can say a lot. In the case of Obama, his words regarding the constitution can be interpreted by his lack of support for judicial conservatives John Roberts and Samuel Alito (McCain suppported both men). If FW’s understanding of Obama’s consitutional view is correct, he would have favored both those appointments. Dr. Veith, no retraction is necessary or appropriate.

  • FW, there is no spin here. Obama clearly says here that the goal of the radicals he associated with ought to have been breaking free of the constraints of the Constitution.

    I find that repulsive, and hopefully a lot of people figure this out before next Tuesday. The Bible specifically prohibits lawless judges who decide their cases on the status of the litigants.

  • Bruce

    Cranach: the blog of Veith and FW

  • FW

    #9, 10 11

    the case mc cain is trying to make is that obama is secretly a wild-eyed socialist marxist. That he has a radical agenda that is a hidden agenda.

    THIS is simply not supported here. McCain is engaging in a serious lie/distortion exactly here.

    this interview all , at worst, as some here correctly express, marks obama as clearly being at the center/left of the conventional mainstream democratic spectrum. which is liberal of course, but not all that much more so than republicanism has been.

    mc cain is trying to use this as “evidence” to further the joe plumber/socialist narrative. really dumb both as a closing strategy and as a parsing of what obama said here and many other places.

  • FW

    “And “redistributive change” is not just talking about a progressive income tax!”


    (1) in the general political context you are right:

    “It’s true that most Americans, when asked by pollsters, think that it’s emphatically not the government’s job to redistribute wealth. But are people so stupid as to not recognize that when politicians talk about a “right to health care,” or “equalizing educational opportunities,” or “making the rich pay a fair share of taxes,” or “ensuring that all Americans have the means to go to college,” and so forth and so on, that they are advocating the redistribution of wealth? Is it okay for a politician to talk about the redistribution of wealth only so long as you don’t actually use phrases such as “redistribution” or “spreading the wealth,” in which case he suddenly becomes “socialist”?

    (2) in the specific context here of sen obamas use of that phrase you are also correct!

    Obama: “A classic example would be something like public education, where after Brown v. Board, a major issue ends up being REDISTRIBUTION — how do we get more money into the schools, and how do we actually create equal schools and equal educational opportunity?”

    This, while NOT being a conservative view, is also not radical in the sense of being an outlier in the general public discourse as the Mc Cain camp are distorting this interview to make the case that Obama is much more liberal than he is presenting himself as.

  • FW

    #12 bruce.

    Ok brother bruce. i will back off on this all now. thanks 😉

  • FW

    There is a “loop” here that i find strange it looks like this here:

    (1) sen mc cain camp assertion: sen Obama has a RADICAL agenda that is way left of any mainstream ideas. It is a hidden agenda signaled by secret “code words”. be afraid.

    (2) fw response: sen obama IS a liberal, but not any more radical than McCain, arguably more liberal, and not outside of what most americans would consider mainstream. He is well within the FDR/LBJ democratic position. in addition, obama is hiding nothing about his views and has no hidden agenda. nothing that is new news here. not conservative! ok! = republican spin.

    (3) response here by Dr Veith et all: but frank, obama IS a liberal. don´t try to paint him as a conservative! why are you always attacking Mc Cain and being so partisan??

    (4) frank: Yes obama IS a liberal. but THAT is not the twin case mc cain is trying to make here. (twin case: a)RADICAL marxist/socialist WELL outside of anything that would be considered even liberal democratic party mainstream… b) HIDDEN agenda.)

    (5) return to beginning of loop. repeat.

    what I see here is a failure to communicate (i will accept full blame for this as a poor communicator) and an ignoring of the central premise that McCain is trying to push which is this:

    Senator McCain’s point is NOT that obama is a garden variety tax-and-spend liberal, ala walter mondale, geo mcgovern, et all. doh. of course he is.

    This would not be a hot news flash.

    the premise and case they are trying to make is this one:

    Sen Obama is an extremely RADICAL marxist/socialist liberal. a (SECRET!) fellow traveller and philosophical twin of people like william ayers. and his agenda is a hidden one. be afraid. he is not like us. he is not one of us. he is not a true patriotic american.

    tell me exactly what part of this is not what McCain´s camp is trying to assert.

    this interview is simply not proof of McCain´s premise. Mc Cain´s premise is not merely that obama is a a liberal. everyone knows that as true.
    it is dishonorable to selectively tape an interview, omitting important context, to make it sound beyond merely liberal, which it most certainly is, and actually radical. If obama is as I say he is, and as he in fact presents himself. this is slander.

    here is McCain´s assertion based on this interview that is a gross exageration and charactarization:

    “Now we know that the slogans ‘change you can believe in’ and ‘change we need’ are code words for Barack Obama’s ultimate goal: ‘redistributive change,'” said McCain advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin. “No wonder he wants to appoint judges that legislate from the bench – as insurance in case a unified Democratic government under his control fails to meet his basic goal: taking money away from people who work for it and giving it to people who Barack Obama believes deserve it. Europeans call it socialism, Americans call it welfare, and Barack Obama calls it change.”

    if oback is a socialist in this sense, so are most republicans to a not-so-different degree. ok. I do accept that and believe that. and the point is then?

    but he is accusing obama of lying and disseminating (code words…). this is wrong.

  • FW

    all: that was my last shot. really. :))

  • FW

    #16 fw

    end of post should read ‘dissembling’ and nt “disseminating”. my portugues is ruining my (already sub par) english!

  • Anon

    If this is Obama’s position, and it appears to be, he cannot honestly take the oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic.

    In fact, it might well be the duty of the other Constitutional Officers – including law enforcement and the military, to uphold their oaths were he to be elected (particularly if by voter fraud, which a 2-4% majority would be due to if I understand the enormity of what Obama’s old organization ACORN is doing)

    The Dems are being very foolish and ignorant of history by trying once again to deny the military of the right to vote. Never anger the legions.

    Very true, S. D. Smith. If he keeps his campaign promises, along with the leaders of the House and Senate, it won’t be legal to speak out for many more months longer.

    fw, the point is that the Warren Court -was- activist by normal standards.

  • Don S

    At the very least, Obama is receptive to Marxist ideas. This is a fact, documented by himself in his 1995 book “Dreams of My Fathers”. The article by Bill Sammons at http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/10/28/obama-affinity-marxists-dates-college-days/ excerpts passages from his book evidencing this. A portion of the article is reproduced below:

    “Barack Obama laughs off charges of socialism. Joe Biden scoffs at references to Marxism. Both men shrug off accusations of liberalism. But Obama himself acknowledges that he was drawn to socialists and even Marxists as a college student. He continued to associate with Marxists later in life, even choosing to launch his political career in the living room of a self-described Marxist, William Ayers, in 1995, when Obama was 34. Obama’s affinity for Marxists began when he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles. ‘To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully,’ the Democratic presidential candidate wrote in his memoir, ‘Dreams From My Father.’ ‘The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists.’ Obama’s interest in leftist politics continued after he transferred to Columbia University in New York. He lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, venturing to the East Village for what he called ‘the socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union.’ After graduating from Columbia in 1983, Obama spent a year working for a consulting firm and then went to work for what he described as ‘a Ralph Nader offshoot’ in Harlem. ‘In search of some inspiration, I went to hear Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael of Black Panther fame, speak at Columbia,’ Obama wrote in ‘Dreams,’ which he published in 1995. ‘At the entrance to the auditorium, two women, one black, one Asian, were selling Marxist literature.’
    Obama supporters point out that plenty of Americans flirt with radical ideologies in college, only to join the political mainstream later in life. But Obama, who made a point of noting how ‘carefully’ he chose his friends in college, also chose to launch his political career in the Chicago living room of Ayers, a domestic terrorist who in 2002 proclaimed: ‘I am a Marxist.’ Also present at that meeting was Ayers’ wife, fellow terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, who once gave a speech extolling socialism, communism and ‘Marxism-Leninism.’ Obama has been widely criticized for choosing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, an anti-American firebrand, as his pastor. Wright is a purveyor of black liberation theology, which analysts say is based in part on Marxist ideas.”

    Read the whole article. Then realize how ridiculous is FW’s protestation that Obama is actually a “conservative”, or even “center-left”. Obama is hard left, no doubt about it, and has been masquerading as a relative moderate to win the election. Occasionally, the veil has accidentally dropped, and we have seen the real Obama. When he gets called on it, the accusers are labeled as racists or liars, and media outlets daring to challenge the Great Obama are ostracized, and no doubt placed on a list for attention after the election, when we are likely to see an attack on free speech such as we have never seen in this country.

    For all of McCain’s faults, for all of the faults of the Republican party, we must do everything we can in the week remaining to prevent the most radical president in U.S. history, by far, from taking office, and gaining power in conjunction with what could be one of the most radical Congresses in U.S. history, run with an iron hand by the likes of Pelosi and Reid. This is not the time for navel gazing and hand wringing. Save that for next week. This week, get out and be an influencer in your church, neighborhood, community, etc. And pray without ceasing.

  • Anon

    Soetoro -is- a Marxist with Chavesista-Maoist inclinations, through the filter of Cone’s adaptation of the ideology of the Nation of Islam to quasi-Christian jargon. He ran as a New party candidate in 1996. That is a socialist party, just like the CPUSA.

    William Ayers appears to have ghost-written _Dreams of My Father_, not Barry Soetoro. (word usage analysis).

    Soetoro was a member of a young socialists group and apparently also Students for Democratic Action, which was related to the SDA and the Weather Underground.

    He has refused to release any of his college and grad school records.

    I don’t believe that Barry Soetoro is another Jimmy Carter. He is another Huey Long, but with delusions of godhood, thus just as dangerous as Adolf Hitler or Kim Jung Il.

  • Anon

    The GOP operates on the belief that if they act like honorable gentlemen, the Democrats will learn and follow suit. They never do. The GOP fights with Marquis of Queensbury Rules, and the Democrats street-fight.

  • Cincinnatus

    1) Anon, why do you insist on calling Barack Obama by something other than his preferred name? Seems a bit rude and uncharitable.

    2) Comparisons with Hitler are not only unwarranted in this case, but blatantly offensive.

    3) Don@20, I’ve heard several people bring up the issue of the appalling lack of free speech an Obama administration will surely herald. I’m of the opinion that this is highly alarmist and is based upon pure speculation. On the other hand, bills outlawing certain verbal “hate crimes” could very well be the next major issue presented to American legislatures, be Democrats even (as it has been recently in Canada), but it’s a bit immoderate to go around claiming that an Obama administration = loss of the entire Bill of Rights.

    /not an Obama fan by any means.

  • Don S

    Cincinnatus @ 23: I respectfully disagree with your conclusion that the threat to free speech is “highly alarmist and based upon pure speculation”. Rather, it is logically based on observation. Even before Obama assumes the presidency, his campaign has been very active in tamping down disagreeable speech. On at least two occasions, Stanley Kurtz was interviewed on a Chicago area radio talk show concerning his research into Obama’s Chicago past, and on those occasions the campaign instructed adherents to flood the phone lines with crank calls and thereby spike the flow of information. Biden faced two disagreeable interviews with two local TV stations (FL and PA) and the campaign has declared that those stations will be barred from further interviews for the balance of the campaign (can you imagine McCain/Palin making such a declaration? There would be no one left to interview them!). Every indication is that the Fairness Doctrine will be an early agenda item in Congress next year. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (NM) specifically stated so last week on the record. Purpose — to get rid of talk radio, the last bastion of free conservative speech. So, do you trust Obama to veto such a measure?

    Have you looked northward to Canada’s example of an HRC (Human Rights Commission), which is specifically tasked with policing “hate speech”? Apparently you have, since you mention it in your post. Do you have a problem with this?

    Baseless? I think not.

  • Change. Obama wants to change us. To what?

    To something that we never were. He and his ilk hate what we are, they hate what we were.

    Change? We’re gonna get change like we, and the world are never going to forget.

    Over two hundred years of liberty and freedom, gone. Thanks to a sleeping, ignorant, unconcerned electorate to busy to see what was happening right beneath their noses to their own children in a public education system that wanted all along (since the sixties) to change this country.

    Now, we have it. Enjoy.

  • FW

    Obama on Supreme Court justices:

    Q: You voted against confirming both Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts (for the U.S. Supreme Court). You said you want justices who are passionate. … You taught constitutional law for 10 years, so I’m wondering if you can tell us, outside the context of the current court, what justices would you use as models for your pick?

    A: Well, it depends on how far you go back. I mean, Justice (John) Marshall was pretty good … but those were some different times. There were a lot of justices on the Warren Court who were heroes of mine … Warren himself, Brennan, (Thurgood) Marshall. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think their judicial philosophy is appropriate for today.

    Generally, the court is institutionally conservative. And what I mean by that is, it’s not that often that the court gets out way ahead of public opinion. The Warren Court was one of those moments when, because of the particular challenge of segregation, they needed to break out of conventional wisdom because the political process didn’t give an avenue for minorities and African Americans to exercise their political power to solve their problems. So the court had to step in and break that logjam.

    I’m not sure that you need that.

    IN FACT, I WOULD BE TROUBLED IF YOU HAD THAT SAME KIND OF ACTIVISM IN CIRCUMSTANCES TODAY (EMPHASIS ADDED) … So when I think about the kinds of judges who are needed today, it goes back to the point I was making about common sense and pragmatism as opposed to ideology.

    I think that Justice Souter, who was a Republican appointee, Justice Breyer, a Democratic appointee, are very sensible judges. They take a look at the facts and they try to figure out: How does the Constitution apply to these facts? They believe in fidelity to the text of the Constitution, but they also think you have to look at what is going on around you and not just ignore real life.

    That, I think is the kind of justice that I’m looking for — somebody who respects the law, doesn’t think that they should be making law … but also has a sense of what’s happening in the real world and recognizes that one of the roles of the courts is to protect people who don’t have a voice.

    That’s the special role of that institution. The vulnerable, the minority, the outcast, the person with the unpopular idea, the journalist who is shaking things up. That’s inherently the role of the court. And if somebody doesn’t appreciate that role, then I don’t think they are going to make a very good justice.

    Interview with the Lansing Free Press editorial board October 3, 2008.


    Conclusion: Obama IS a liberal, but he is not a radical. at least not on the topic of the judiciary, the constitution, and the Rule of Law. He in fact, would be probably best labeled as right/moderate on this particular issue I could argue.

  • Ken

    That would be the Detroit Free Press. The newspaper in Lansing is the State Journal.

  • Anon

    Pseudo-Cincinnatus, calling a man by his legal name rather than his alias is not rude. Do you have proof that he legally changed his name at some point upon or after returning to the United States? Do you have proof that he became an American citizen at that time or after that time?

    I don’t care what you want to shut up by whining “offensive” If the shoe fits, wear it. I think it does. The similarities in many ways on many levels to Germany in 1932 and the years immediately afterwards are creepy. From the artwork to the salute, to the cult of personality, to the proposed programs and undermining of the democratic process. But most particularly the cult of personality, including the messianism, and the megalomania.

    Actually regarding your #3, it is not speculation to observe what the Obama campaign has *already* done against free speech when he is just a candidate and does not have the sword of the federal government and the “Patriot” Act to use.

    In addition to the situations Don cites, the Obama campaign has also sued people who donated to the McCain campaign, used law enforcement personnel under the color of law to intimidate dissent. As to voter fraud, it is all over the place – just ask the PUMA Democrats.

  • Anon

    A scholar who was a Hitler Youth sees chilling parallels.


  • ELB

    FW at 26

    Frank, there are two ways to take your excerpt:

    1. The man is speaking in good faith, and therefore the startling difference between this and the 2001 interview reflects an honest change in his legal principles.

    2. The man is acting in bad faith and saying what is palatable to the main stream, providing quotes that will make him look centrist for the sake of winning votes. He says what he says not because it is true, but because of what he can accomplish by saying it.

    I am convinced it is the latter.
    A. His more radical views have been held longer and expressed more consistently over time, dating back to his youth in Hawaii.

    B. His track record, though scanty, is more robust than is reported in the national press. Those of us who have had access to the local press have seen his radical votes and radical activities, only lately to be tempered by voting “present” and making centrist noises.

    Obama is radical to his core, and your naive defense of him mystifies me. You really have to reach to make a conservative of him, as at #4. All his blather about restraining the court by sociological consensus STILL means that sociological consensus rather than the constitution is what governs the court. That is radical.

    His approach to the second amendment is typical. He acknowledges that the constitution confers an individual right to keep and bear arms, but would deny that right whenever he wants to, because “Wyoming is different from Maryland.” The word of the law means nothing.

  • kerner

    There are only two ways to reconcile Barack Obama’s past political statements, behavior and associations with his present campaign.

    1.) The McCain Campaign is correct. Obama IS a closet radical leftist who is lying about his true beliefs to gain the votes of Americans who would never vote for him if they knew what he really wants to accomplish.


    2) Obama associated with all those radical leftists and America haters as a matter of political expediency. He was a complete hypocrite when he sat in Jeremiah Wright’s Church, and worked with William Ayers and associated himself with the other extremists (not to mention corrupt Chicago politicos) who got him elected to the Illinois State Senate in an extremely liberal district. Now that he no longer needs his extreme leftist former associates, he can kick them to the curb and tell the broader American electorate what THEY want to hear (while perhaps winking at his old friends hoping they will still believe in him enough to vote for him instead of an open leftist like Nader).

    Either way, Obama is a dishonest and unprincipled candidate that no person who values honesty should vote for.

  • kerner

    I suppose there is, in theory, a third possibility. It is theoretically possible that Obama sincerely believed all the extreme leftist dogma that he and his associates espoused in the past, but that he has very recently (and without acknowledging it) fundamentally changed his mind.

    But I simply don’t believe that human nature allows for that fundamental a change of mind just “happens” at the same time as the opportunity to run for president arises. That would be just too much of a coincidence (sp?) for me to swallow.

  • FW

    #30, 31,32, 33

    I see the 2001 interview as being pretty much consistent with the recent inteview.

    make SURE you check out my post that provides parts of the 2001 interview that were (i assume deliberately) edited out of the youtube recording to see this.

    so. are their OTHER places you can point me to where Obama has actually gone on record as being a radical commie pinko or are we talking guilt merely by association here?

    I think we are bound to take him at his word in the absence of clear evidence that he IS a commie/socialist/terrorist sympathizer.

    incredible. you have more information, and your radical judgements persist. a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

    give me something to convince me that obama has gone on record as a radical commie/socialist/terrorist sympathizer . I am willing to be convinced. Guilt by association does not count. at least not to convince me.

  • FW

    of course there is nothing that is direct evidence of obama being a radical commie/socialist/terrorist sympathizer in hiding.

    we all know that don´t we?

    and there IS recent evidence from his own lips that he is not radical after all.

    So what you are all really saying is that there is NO evidence that could possibly convince you that Obama is NOT a radical commie pinko. He could swear on a whole stack of bibles and…..


    I get that loud and clear now!

    there is lots to prove he is a liberal along the lines of ed kennedy or geo mcgovern, fdr, lbj. a traditional liberal democrat. no new news there and I repeat (!): that is NOT what mc cain´s accusations are trying to establish at all.

  • Jim

    I enjoy watching people defend Senator Obama as being smeared by “guilt by association” alone.
    Imagine there are a slew of gas station robberies in your community. Upon checking the surveillance tapes, one man shows up in every video 10 minutes before the robbery. The same man, every time. Now, you never see him with a gun, a mask, or a bag, but he’s at every gas station that has been robbed. Do you think the police might see this as a man of interest and worth questioning, at the least? Or do you think they would say, “Gee, we can’t judge him based on coincidence.”?
    Seriously? After a while, enough associations really start to make you wonder.
    If your child’s boy/girl friend was often seen hanging around drug dealers, felons, and hookers, but you never actually saw them doing drugs, packing a weapon, or turning tricks, would you be perfectly comfortable with the relationship? Or do you think you might be just the least bit unnerved by it?

  • Anon

    The view from across the Pond:

    “The Sacrifice of Truth to Power”


  • Obama is a cypher. His whole public career has been one of being coy. Of holding back and speaking in equivocal or empty language.

    My problem with Obama is that he seems inclined to go along with political pressure from the left. In a Congress that has 60+ Democrat Senators and 260+ Democrat Congressmen, we’ll probably see policies so far out of left field that they divide and polarize our nation.

    Obama has never indicated an ability or desire to moderate the divisive agenda liberal Democrats can pass in a Congress where Republicans have too few seats to filibuster any legislation.

    Beyond that Democrats will take power on statewide and local levels of government.

    That takes away a lot of the motivation for Republicans to accepting the results of political action.

    I think the militia movement and other radical right-wing movements will grow as legitimate democratic action cannot prevent Democrats from ruling in heavy handed and unaccountable way.

    If we only have civil disobedience due to the Democrat’s government in Washington, we’ll be lucky. I think it’s likely we’ll have many viewing the government as illegitimate. Many will prepare to defend themselves if the government attempts to enforce the leftist policies that come out of Washington.

    Unlike 2000-2006 the minority in Washington will be too small and weak to leave conservatives any hope of holding back the more risky elements of the Democrat agenda.

  • Don S

    FW @ 34: I quoted an article which directly quotes, at length, from Obama’s own 1995 book, concerning his inclination to seek out counsel from Marxists and the like. IN HIS OWN WORDS. You ignore the evidence and keep rambling about how Obama is a conservative. You say “give me something to convince me that obama has gone on record as a radical commie/socialist/terrorist sympathizer . I am willing to be convinced.” I don’t think you are.

  • Reckoner

    Who is this FW, and when will he get his own blog?

  • FW

    #38 don s

    you say…”You ignore the evidence and keep rambling about how Obama is a conservative. ”

    I keep repeating…”there is lots to prove he is a liberal along the lines of ed kennedy or geo mcgovern, fdr, lbj. a traditional liberal democrat. no new news there and I repeat (!): that is NOT what mc cain´s accusations are trying to establish at all.”

    what we have is a failure to communicate don.

    I have read Obama´s books. He is also on record as seeking out counsel and understanding of conservative positions and public figures as well as more liberal folk. agreed. This is not proof that he accepts their ideas as his own.

    I am voting for Obama precisely because he displays this curiosity to understand the ideas of people that he does not necessarily agree with. I do not see this same intellectual curiosity in Palin or MC Cain.

    I come to this site because I see that exact same intellectial curiosity in our host Dr Veith.

  • Anon

    And that, Doug, will provide the Triumvirs with exactly the excuse they need to officially suspend the Constitution. And if unthinking people not counting the cost don’t provide it for them, I wouldn’t put it at all past them to generate their own Waco or Oklahome City for just that purpose.

    Obama is openly against our very form of government.

  • FW

    #37 doug

    “Obama is a cypher. His whole public career has been one of being coy. Of holding back and speaking in equivocal or empty language.”

    or he speaks judiciously as we would want a president to do. he looks for common ground rather than opportunities for conflict.

    I pray for this same quality daily when I pray “guard the door of my lips”

    when I disagree with someone, I try to immediately look for common ground and points of agreement. I try to acquire an ability to argue persuasively for the other side in a form that they would accept. only then do i feel I fully understand their views and have earned the right to argue for my viewpoint.

    often I am forced to change my views as a result of this process.

    I see obama as being similar to my perspective, along with our dear host Dr Veith. I think this is all a good thing.

  • Anon

    A perspective described in sequence in Romans 1. . .

  • FW

    #35 jim

    “If your child’s boy/girl friend was often seen hanging around drug dealers, felons, and hookers, but you never actually saw them doing drugs, packing a weapon, or turning tricks, would you be perfectly comfortable with the relationship? Or do you think you might be just the least bit unnerved by it?”

    Excellent question Jim! now we are getting to something way, way more important than who is elected as president!

    yes i am very very unnerved when I see my pastor doing exactly this. associating with unsavory individuals on a daily basis.

    the pharisees were also unnerved when they saw Jesus dining with the friends of his new disciple the tax collector in that disciples home. as were the disciples unnerved by jesus strong tendency to associate himself and be bothered with infants, gentiles, women, tax collectors, prostitutes. He seemed to have problems with good, church going people like us.

    I get this idea often from his parables. the “prodical son” was not really the one who blew his inheritance. the real prodigal was the older son who had always been a good son. the story ended with the question of whether the “good” son would come to the party in honor of the son who had returned….

    sometimes being troubled is a good sign. I often need my moral assumptions shaken up a bit. perhaps i need to identify, as our Lord did even to the cross, with those others. “we” rather than “us” vs “them”.

    what do you share in common with people who are gay, prostitutes, democrats, communists, drug addicts, where you can truly say “i am no different. I am sincerely no better than any of them or even worse.” “lord have mercy!”

  • FW

    #39 reckoner

    might i ask who you are? and do you have a blog? my direct email is fwsonnek@gmail.com feel most free to ask me questions directly.

  • FW

    From an anti-T.R. letter to the editor of the New York Times in 1908:

    Moreover, most of the Rooseveltian policies – the arid land reclamation schemes, the National forests, the leasing of coal and mineral rights, the renting of grazing lands, the construction of the Panama Canal by direct employment, the development of water powers under public ownership and control – are in strict harmony with Socialist principles….The faith of our forefathers in the sacred principle of competition as the self-acting force which yielded ideal justice and rendered to every man according to his deserts, has departed as surely as the belief in witchcraft. [Socialists] can’t threaten me worse than Theodore Roosevelt does with his inheritance and income tax schemes and the social workers of New York with their ever-increasing demands on the city budget.

    Teddy Roosevelt is McCain’s favorite president.

    link to full article and adam-smith praising blog here:


  • ELB

    The 2001 interview, in toto, reveals that his view of the constitution is that it currently is negative law, prohibitory toward the federal government, but that this does not prevent the courts or the legislature, in view of a living constitution, from treating it as positive law, mandating involvement by the federal government.

    That is radical. It is an overthrow of the constitution. To you it may seem a minor point, but it is at the heart of the constitution’s design. It is revolutionary.

    His treatment of the Second Amendment is one window into this view, for while acknowledging what the constitution says, he nevertheless feels uninhibited in absolute prohibition of private ownership and bearing of arms – and those are his votes.

    I don’t care what McCain says, nor am I trying to prove it.

    On this basis alone, by his own words, Obama is shown to be a radical. The other extreme liberals you mention are as well, FW, but since FDR they have never had a radical president, a radical filibuster-proof senate, and a radical house, together with a fourth estate so partisan. FDR broke the constitution, giving us powers never enumerated. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi would burn it.

  • ELB


    On the news, FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights” has been referenced by some of Obama’s team. These are mandates, rather than prohibitions, such as “Right to a job,” “Right to an Education,” and “Right to Healthcare.” That changes the form, purpose, and power of government at the most radical level.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    FW @44:
    Stay out of the pulpit, man!
    What a travesty of an interpretation of Christ’s sitting with sinners.
    When our teenagers consort with less than savory peers, parents’ thoughts don’t run in the way of ‘How nice! Our baptized, catechized children can influence them and show them God’s love.’
    We think, ‘Get your grubby paws off-a my kid, pervert’, then we tell our kids, ‘Get a new batch of friends, pal, for your own good.’
    Good grief. That was just horrible: horrible theology, horrible analogy, not tom mention horrible parenting.

  • Don S

    FW @ 40: I’m sorry, but where is the evidence that Obama ever sought the counsel of conservatives, at least in any substantive way? There is plenty of evidence of his desire for the counsel of radicals, but I don’t see it for your proposition.

  • subcutaneous


    what flavor is the kool-aid that you’ve been drinking??????????????

    Let’s try the Joe the Plumber redistribution plan on BHO. The last time I checked, BHO had raised lots more cash than McCain. Lets take 1/2 the difference from BHO and give to McCain/Palin. Now who’s squealing?


  • FW

    #49 susan aka

    the context was comparing obamas associations to those of ones children. i felt free to compare obamas associations with jesus and my pastor.

    not sure you need to get a bee in ur bonnet over all that maam.

  • FW

    #50 don

    sen obama was a professor of law at that liberal bastion known as the university of chigago. his peers there give him very high marks for being open to their ideas and for having a keen and curious and honest legal mind.

    he was president of the harvard law review. that conservative bastion. there the few unpopular conservatives report that he gave them a very fair shake as editor.

  • FW

    #48 elb

    if you are right we would start to look like that communist gulag to our north know as canada. nice to know.

  • FW

    it IS possible to be FAR to the left of most liberal democrat and still have a large degree of freedom and be a democracy. how is that possible…

    let´s see, canada, france, spain, germany, england, italy, israel, australia, japan… almost all other western democracies are far far far to the left of our government. and the world has not come to an end there.

    I would like to see us be more libertarian in our approach here, but some of the comments here seem just a little overly alarmist…

    worthwhile points can be made against obama´s obvious liberalism without going to extremes.

  • Subcutaneous (@51), did you really think that comparison through all the way?

    McCain is the candidate who’s receiving public funding. Think about that for a second. He’s taking your tax money — and Obama’s — to pay for his campaign.

    Meanwhile, Obama worked hard to get all the money he raised for his campaign. His campaign’s not a leech on American society like McCain’s is.

    Just goes to show how silly you can get with this whole socialism foofaraw.

  • kerner


    You know, this is not the first time I have heard someone try to compare Obama’s associations with radical leftists and politcally connected felons to Christ eating with the publicans and sinners. And it is REALLY offensive.

    News flash, FW: Barack Obama is not Jesus Christ.

    When Jesus ate with the more overt sinners in His day, He was showing them that forgiveness was available to them. None of them got Jesus a sweet heart real estate deal on His first home (like Tony Rezko) right before being convicted of a felony. Jesus didn’t sit under the teaching of a crazy hate filled Pharisee for 20 years before running for president. Jesus did let a zealot become one of His disciples, but He taught him that His kingdom was not of this world. So, don’t try to fly that Obama was imitating Jesus by hanging out with his old radical associates line past me, FW. Nobody is THAT naive.

  • Anon

    Soetoro didn’t just eat with them. They raised him, trained him, funded him, gave him a start in his career, may have funded him through higher education (he has still refused to release his college records and transcripts or those from law school), and support him to this day. He also worked for them.

    Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Qadaffi, and the PLO all support Soetoro alias Obama. The PLO is even doing cold calls to Americans to get them to vote for this false messiah. The NYT reported that he has raised some 200 million dollars in campaign contributions from wealthy sources in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Muslim mid-east. (i.e. not Israel).

    He has feted and spoken for Palestinian terrorists.

    That isn’t ‘guilt by association’ that is deep immersion and involvement.

  • Don S

    FW @ 53: So, because Obama took a job at the University of Chicago (which at one time had a few conservatives on its faculty, which is a lot for a university, but by no means was it monolithically conservative), and because he assumed the position of editor of Harvard Law Review, that shows that he was seeking “conservative” counsel? And that balances all of the many times he devoted to seeking the counsel of radicals? And I am the one not supplying evidence?

  • kerner

    “They raised him.”

    Anon @58:

    Exactly! Barack Obama did not associate with the likes of William Ayers, Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, and Rashid Khalidi to extend forgiveness to them as obvious sinners. When did he ever call on one of them to repent (i.e. “change”)? Obama’s association with them could only have been because he believed in their radical/dishonest politics, or to cynically advance his political career, or both.

    To compare the Obama’s ambition to Christ reaching out to sinners is just blasphemy. I’ve never said any thing like that about any comment on this blog before. But it also demonstrates another point.

    I used to think that Hillary Clinton would be the most divisive candidate the democrats could nominate, but I was wrong. The election of Barack Obama would divide this country is a way that will make George Bush look like Gandhi. Obama can never create a “we”. If Obama is elected, it will be today’s “us” and “them”, to the 4th power.

  • subcutaneous

    #56 todd

    Did YOU think it through all the way?

    “Obama worked hard to get all the money he raised for his campaign”

    The guy who makes $250,000 probably worked/works hard to get his money, too. Why is it ok for BHO to want to “redistribute” “Joe’s” money, but not his own ????

  • Subcutaneous (@56), again, Obama’s money is being taken to support, in part, McCain’s campaign. And that “redistributionist” funding system has been around for almost 30 years.

    The fact of redistribution would be true no matter which candidate gets elected next Tuesday, as it has been true for close to a century now, if not much longer. All taxes spread the wealth around — it’s just a question of how much and to whom. If we’re going to talk honestly about socialism, we should acknowledge that America as a country started down that road a long time ago, and many Republican Presidents presided over it in that time.

  • Hmm. Shows what I know. I thought presidential campaign financing was paid for some other way. But best I can find, it’s entirely voluntary, based solely on that checkbox on tax forms. If anyone knows any better, let me know.

    Still, the anti-socialism cries do seem a bit silly.

  • Anon

    tODD, you find the cries against socialism to be silly, considering the over 100 million murdered by socialism in the 20th century?

  • Anon (@64), why are you responding to me? Don’t you know I’m a troll? Sent here by my Alinskyan/Obaman employers? Hadn’t you heard?

    And your comment is itself part of this silliness. Socialism is not equal to national socialism. Nor is it equal to Communism. I know that you’re smart enough to work that out.

    America has implemented various socialist ideas for over a century now, up until the recent present, and I know you could come up with a list as well as I. As far as I am aware, no mass number of deaths could be attributed to those programs.

  • FW

    #57 kerner

    wow. you took it there.

    i would NEVER compare obama to christ my lord. wow.

    my simple point was that association does not establish guilt. period. association with someone or even collaboration with someone on a project does not mean you accept all or some of their view.

    take a chill pill kerner and please feel free to unassume all of what you assumed about my correlation of obama to God.

  • FW

    whoa. I am outta here for awhile. …..politics , along with one other topic, seem to stir negative passions more than ANY other topic here…. it shouldn´t be so.

  • Anon

    fw, I pointed out that it isn’t association. It is being raised by, mentored by, funded by, launched by and supported by. It is deep involvement with Alinsky and Doerhn, Khaliddi, his being funded in school by the Black Panthers, his membership in and running as a candidate of the Marxist-Lenninist New Party. ‘

    That isn’t mere association, that is discovering who he is, what he believes, and what he intends to do.