Obama's Experience. A Message For Supporters And Doubters


cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics

Update (7pm): Senator Watson has written up a pretty good "My Bad" over on his site.

Much has been made of Texas Senator Kirk Watson's poor performance on CNN last night. He needs to seriously train up on media appearances and know his candidate before speaking on his behalf. But Stephanie Tubbs Jones didn't do Hillary any favors herself. All of us need to know the substance of our candidates. Take a lesson from my man Derrick Ashong (who was referenced in this week's Economist BTW). Hell, if you're not prepared to come correct, don't come at all.

Just look at this.



Pathetic. People are mad at Chris Matthews. I am not. This thing is all over the web and especially conservative blogosphere that when asked by Chris Matthews to name "some of his legislative accomplishments" Watson failed. He not only failed, he looked like a deer in headlights, frozen and dumbfounded. His failure was highly damaging, not only because it looked bad, not just because it feeds the fire of those hungry to paint Obama as nothing but words, but because it was wrong.

I have a small amount of sympathy for Watson. I'm happy he supports Obama, and I know different people support the man for different reasons. But when the primary line of attack against your chosen candidate is that he has no substance, it is your duty to combat that
by a) demonstrating the he does have substance and b) flipping the question. Watch this.

Part A - Demonstrate His Substance

OBAMA HAS SIGNIFICANT LEGISLATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS both in the Illinois and US Senate.

You should be able to discuss his groundbreaking work to reform the Illinois death penalty by getting confessions videotaped against the objections of a Republican governor plus police and prosecutors.

You should be able to discuss his groundbreaking work to create an easily searchable database of federal spending, the Google for Government, bill.

You should be able to discuss his nuclear non-proliferation law co-sponsored with Republican Dick Lugar.

That's all Watson had to know. But wait, there's more. So. Much. More.

Whether you support Obama or not, you need to visit barackobama.com NOW. Seriously. It is your duty as a citizen to be informed and no one is preventing you. Go to the issues page. Click on any issue (e.g. Civil Rights). This may sound hard, but I want you to read it. Jump to the bottom where it says "Barack Obama's Record" and you'll see
Record of Advocacy: Obama has worked to promote civil rights and fairness in the criminal justice system throughout his career. As a community organizer, Obama helped 150,000 African Americans register to vote. As a civil rights lawyer, Obama litigated employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and voting rights cases. As a State Senator, Obama passed one of the country's first racial profiling laws and helped reform a broken death penalty system. And in the U.S. Senate, Obama has been a leading advocate for protecting the right to vote, helping to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and leading the opposition against discriminatory barriers to voting.

Now go to the Ethics page. And READ IT NOW. You'll find more on his record saying:


  • Federal Ethics Reform: Obama and Senator Feingold (D-WI) took on both parties and proposed ethics legislation that was described as the "gold standard" for reform. It was because of their leadership that ending subsidized corporate jet travel, mandating disclosure of lobbyists' bundling of contributions, and enacting strong new restrictions of lobbyist-sponsored trips became part of the final ethics bill that was signed into law. The Washington Post wrote in an editorial, "The final package is the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet."

  • Google for Government: Americans have the right to know how their tax dollars are spent, but that information has been hidden from public view for too long. That's why Barack Obama and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) passed a law to create a Google-like search engine to allow regular people to approximately track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and loans online. The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "It would enable the public to see where federal money goes and how it is spent. It's a brilliant idea."

  • Illinois Reform: In 1998, Obama joined forces with former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D-IL) to pass the toughest campaign finance law in Illinois history. The legislation banned the personal use of campaign money by Illinois legislators and banned most gifts from lobbyists. Before the law was passed, one organization ranked Illinois worst among 50 states for its campaign finance regulations.



Now go to the Veteran's page. READ THAT JOINT. You'll find this.
Record of Advocacy: As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Obama passed legislation to improve care and slash red tape for our wounded warriors recovering at places like Walter Reed. He passed laws to help homeless veterans and offered an innovative solution to prevent at-risk veterans from falling into homelessness. Obama led a bipartisan effort in the Senate to try to halt the military's unfair practice of discharging service members for having a service-connected psychological injury. He fought for fair treatment of Illinois veterans' claims and forced the VA to conduct an unprecedented outreach campaign to disabled veterans with lower than-average benefits. Obama passed legislation to stop a VA review of closed PTSD cases that could have led to a reduction in veterans' benefits. He passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for traumatic brain injuries. He introduced legislation to direct the VA and Pentagon to fix disjointed records systems and improve outreach to members of the National Guard and Reserves.

Not enough? Check out the following stories documenting Obama's substantive achievements:

  • Media Matters offers a rebuttal to the Politico's argument claiming Obama's done nothing to affect people's daily lives. It as links to actual bills passed.

  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote in 2005 about Obama "shuns limelight, builds record" putting to rest this notion that he's been distracted by his presidential bid since arriving in the Senate

  • In "Judge Him By His Laws," The Washington Post's Charles Pierce wrote "People who complain that Barack Obama lacks experience must be unaware of his legislative achievements. One reason these accomplishments are unfamiliar is that the media have not devoted enough attention to Obama's bills and the effort required to pass them, ignoring impressive, hard evidence of his character and ability."

  • Finally, I implore you to check out this dailykos diary, "Yes, Obama has a lot of Substance (now with a graph!)"


Do you see the pattern? Can you please send this blog post to anyone who wants to speak on behalf of Senator Obama? Seriously. Really. Do that ish.

Part B - Flipping the Question

Now that we've answered this question, we should ask, what are Sen. Clinton's significant legislative accomplishments? Stephanie Tubbs Jones could not answer that question herself (no surprise there. let me know when someone runs against her. i'll give them $25), and she's
in Congress with Hillary!! She spoke in lame ass generalities about Hillary's achievements "around the world."

Again, just click on over to HillaryClinton.com and go to her US Senator page. You'll find some solid examples including:

  • After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Hillary worked with her colleagues to secure the funds New York needed to recover and rebuild

  • Hillary passed legislation to track the health status of our troops so that conditions like Gulf War Syndrome would no longer be misdiagnosed.

  • She has introduced legislation to tie Congressional salary increases to an increase in the minimum wage

  • She helped pass legislation that encouraged investment to create jobs in struggling communities through the Renewal Communities program

  • She sponsored legislation to increase America's commitment to fighting the global HIV/AIDS crisis


You can compare Senator Obama and Senator Clinton on govtrack to get an overview of their success rate in the Senate. But both of them have done a solid amount of work. Most of their efforts never made it out of committee (to be expected in a GOP-controlled Congress).

Let's continue flipping it. Obama has more elected experience than Hillary Clinton. He's been accountable to voters for longer. All Obama supporters need to repeat this. It's true, she's been around a long time and has her hands on some great achievements, but her job was rarely at risk. While in the IL legislature, Obama sponsored over 800 bills, with most in healthcare, poverty and crime. Check this NY Times story and graphic.

One more stop: let's check all this against John McCain. Mr 25 years in the Senate and 100 years in Iraq has surprisingly little to claim in the way of significant achievements. Big up to Matt Yglesias and Carpetbagger.

Finally. You can argue that the presidency is about far more than legislative achievements. If we picked presidents based just on that, then Robert Byrd probably would be a shoo-in.

The lesson. Know you ish. Before you go on television. Before you try to make the case to someone on behalf of your candidate. Before you vote!