Saturday, February 2, 2008

Executive Power and Organic Change

I wanted to discuss another important suggestion from this article I just linked to from Corgi Guy: as a matter of policy, the person we choose as President matters relatively little. While I disagree with this assertion to the extent it ignores the expansion of Executive Power that has occured over the last 7 years, it is otherwise historically quite accurate. Assuming that the Bush expansions of Executive Power are rolled back, the historical American system of separation of powers will take effect yet again, and the President will be prevented from making radical changes of policy except with the assistance of the other branches of government and/or the overwhelming support of the American people. Indeed, the Presidents who have ushered through the most radical top-down policy changes over the years have primarily done so through the misuse of Executive Power or novel Constitutional theories: FDR (think court-packing scheme here), LBJ (famous for using all sorts of shady tricks to get his way legislatively), Nixon (duh!), and now Bush.

We tend to forget that our system is set up to create gridlock (this is a good thing). For major changes to occur at the policy level in this country without implicating Constitutional violations, it is usually necessary for there to first be major organic changes. Top-down policy change is exceedingly difficult in this country without violating the Constitution (and I would argue that the dramatic changes we have seen in the Bush years have in fact come at the expense of the Constitution). When top-down change is attempted in a manner that is compliant with the Constitution, the political repercussions are swift and dramatic - see, e.g., the fall out from Hillary Clinton's first attempt at health care "reform" and the resulting 1994 Republican Revolution. Or look at the fact that policy-wise Reagan was largely unsuccessful at reducing the size of government; but also look at the fact that his rhetoric was transformational and created an organic change in attitudes that led to the shrinking of the federal government under Bill Clinton.

This fact of American political life means that the single most important issue in this upcoming election is the President's view of Executive Power. A President that will roll back the Bush-era expansions in that area is a President that will be unable to force through dramatic changes in policy without first obtaining a clear and overwhelming mandate for each change from the American people.

This is why I am so fearful of Hillary Clinton - her history strongly suggests a penchant for Bush/Nixon-level secrecy, and I have little faith that she would actually roll back many, if any of the Bush-era expansions of power. She may well put an end to specific abuses like torture, but her record suggests that she will build upon the unitary executive theory (for example) to implement her agenda, whether or not it is well-considered and supported by a super-majority of Americans.

But if we elect a President who has a healthy respect for the President's proper role, then we will get an America that once again hums along quite nicely on its own. We always forget that we are electing a President, not a dictator, and that the powers of the President, properly construed, are nowhere near as strong as we like to think. This is why I am so willing to support Obama, and why I could even live with John McCain (although I am beginning to see a disconnect between his stated positions on Executive Power and his actions - he may be more sympathetic to Bush-era expansions of power than he admits, which gives me great pause).

Obama and International Perceptions

Corgi Guy has a fascinating, must-read article from a Spanish paper about the international view of Obama, American politics, and how they fit together. The point of the article is that the international view of Obama says much about the state of affairs in individual countries, more so than it says much about whether the international community thinks Obama would be a good President.

This is not to say that Obama's successes are insignificant - quite the contrary, in fact. Should he be elected, he will have an impact that no other President can have - not by what he does, but by who he is and what that fact says about America. The anti-American stereotypes of the European and Latin American Left about the USA will be crushed, while the political Right in those countries (which would fit more closely with American Democrats than Republicans) would finally have some ammunition with which to promote better relations with the USA. As the article states:

"The moment he appears on televisions around the world, victorious and smiling, the United States’ image and the soft power will experience something akin to a Copernican Revolution. "

Thinking back on this, it actually comports well with my limited experiences talking politics in Europe. The individuals with whom I have spoken (one a center-right politician from Austria, the other a center-right professor from Slovakia) were both extremely excited about Obama...and both were on the European center-right.

Best Super Tuesday Prediction Around

Divided We Stand United We Fall has put together an epic tale of what shall come to pass in the ongoing battle between Queen Hillary and the Hero Obama. Possibly the most entertaining take yet on the battle for control of the Democratic Party. A must-read.

For the record, my more wonky predictions are here.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Blogroll Amnesty Day

Per Jon Swift, I learned that this weekend is the Second Annual Blogroll Amnesty Day. The first such day occured prior to my foray into the blogosphere, so it's not my place to explain the circumstances behind this event, other than to say that it is a day/weekend for left-of-center blogs to open their blogrolls up to all comers and give some blog-love to their smaller counterparts.

In any event, the modest success I've had on this blog the last few months has been far more than I ever thought I'd have. Much of that success has been due to the liberal policies of other blogs, and to the surprising amount of blog-love they send my way by linking to my posts on a semi-frequent basis. Without their assistance, I doubt this blog would have ever gotten more than a few dozen hits a day.

In particular, the guys at Comments from Left Field (especially Kyle) and at the Liberty Papers (especially Doug and Brad) have helped me along with encouragement, tips, and links galore. I am thankful for the help each of them has provided me. I'm also of course thankful for the increasingly large number of other bloggers who have added me to their blogrolls over the last few months or linked to me for various other reasons.

I don't know that I qualify as a left-of-center blogger, since I'm pretty strongly libertarian, and so I don't know where I fit in Blogroll Amnesty Day. But my priorities these days are on civil and social liberties more than on economic liberties, which means that I find myself sympathizing with the Left as often as not. Regardless, Blogroll Amnesty Day is a terrific idea, and I will be celebrating it no matter whether this blog qualifies.

With that in mind and as a way of passing along the support I've gotten from CFLF and the Liberty Papers, I'm going to do what I can to link to blogs that are even smaller than me, or about my size, this weekend. There are a few such blogs already on my blogroll, and a couple others that I'll be adding who I should have already put up. I also invite any other bloggers who may stop by to put their blog address in the comments to this post, and I'll make sure to add you as well.

(H/T Cernig)

Today's Iraq Bombing

...Nothing short of appalling and disgusting. I have no comment on how this affects evaluation of the relative success or failure of the surge - it is one incident, and should not be used as a basis for broader conclusions on that front.

But AQI's use of women with Down's Syndrome as apparently unwitting murderers is animal in every degree. Whatever else may be said about the Bush Administration, the Iraq War more generally, or our current foreign policy, this much is clear: there is no moral equivalence.

More reactions at memeorandum.

***UPDATE*** Via a commenter at Obsidian Wings - there is some question as to whether the "bomber" in fact had Down's Syndrome. If that is not the case, however, then it appears at least one was the mother of a small child, which is not much less appalling. Again - no moral equivalence.

Predicting Super Tuesday

Despite all the hype, I think it's unlikely that Super Tuesday will result in a clear winner on the Dems side, particularly given the way in which the Democrats distribute delegates. Obviously, I expect Super Tuesday to put an end to Romney's hopes on the Republican side.

Unless Hillary manages to get about 60% of the overall vote on Tuesday or Obama wins a majority of the total vote plus a significant majority of the states, I think both sides will be able to spin just about any result as a victory for them and still pass the laugh test. I do expect that Hillary will come out clearly on top in both delegates and vote percentage, though by nowhere near enough to knock Obama out of the race or to plausibly argue that she is the presumptive nominee.

With that in mind, below is my best guess of the results in each of the Super Tuesday states based on the recent polling data I could find from Pollster, and intuition where recent polling is unavailable.

Solid Obama: Illinois, Georgia, Democrats Abroad
Lean Obama: Alabama, Idaho, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, North Dakota
Toss-Up: Connecticut, New Mexico, Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri
Lean Clinton: New Jersey, Massachussetts, Utah, California, New Mexico, Tennessee
Solid Clinton: New York, Arkansas, Oklahoma

Looking at this, I noticed that my independently arrived at conclusions are pretty close to Marc Ambinder's predictions the other day. To be honest, I am quite surprised that I found Obama as the favorite in just as many states as Hillary, although Hillary does better in the most delegate-rich states, which is why I think she's likely to come out of the day with a higher delegate count and higher vote total. Still, if things shake out as I have it above, with the toss-up states being split evenly, it will be impossible for Hillary to breathe any kind of sigh of relief. It's just about impossible to see how this race gets decided without the Super Delegates- unless Obama takes all of the toss up states and steals at least two of the "Lean Clinton" states. Were that to happen, I could see him gaining enough momentum to take sizable majorities in the remaining primaries.

If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have said that a convention that comes down to Super Delegates would be bad news for Obama; but with the recent spate of endorsements he's received, I'm not so sure now. Hillary does have a 2:1 advantage currently in pledged Super Delegates, but the vast majority of Super Delegates have stayed out of the fray so far. Obama's endorsements will help him considerably with the hundreds of remaining Super Delegates.

One important caveat to all of this which has been under-covered: now that McCain's nomination seems almost inevitable, independent voters may turn out for Obama in somewhat heavier numbers in states with open primaries. I don't think it will make that much of a difference, but it could put him over the top in some of the toss-up states.

**UPDATE** A few explanations of some of the less intuitively obvious predictions:

California- Obama has narrowed the gap substantially here, and according to one recent poll has closed to within three points of Hillary, which would suggest the state is a toss-up. But that poll looks like it might be an outlier, as most polls have it scored as about a 10-15 point lead for Hillary. I'm guessing Hillary will win the state by about 5 points after Obama's momentum is factored in.

Delaware- there is no polling data here, but demographically the state is extremely favorable to Obama.

Kansas- again, no recent polling, but Obama has ties to the state, and it is the type of state in which Obama seems to be polling very strong (compare with Idaho, for example, where Obama had a lead in a July poll - well before he had any momentum, or with Iowa, which is where Obama started his surge).

Connecticut- one recent poll has Obama with a slight lead here and another has it tied, which would suggest that Obama should be the favorite. However, Connecticut is smack in the middle of Hillary country, and I would expect her to have a big advantage in the ground game here, which puts the state back in the toss-up category.

Massachussetts- despite the Kennedy endorsements, this is machine Democrat central, and Obama's initial deficit is far too much for him to overcome. The Kennedy endorsement will, however, make it much closer than it would have been.

New Jersey - recent polling has Obama closing fast here, and the state's high level of education allows Obama to be competitive. New Jersey's more urban black population is not going to be as pro-Obama as the rural black population in South Carolina, as New Jersey's cities are completely dominated by political machines that are Hillary's bread-and-butter. Obama will be helped in those areas by the support of highly-regarded Newark mayor Corey Booker, but New Jersey is just too much of a machine state for Hillary to lose.

Minnesota- polling still has Hillary with a lead of several points in the state, but demographically it is almost an ideal state for Obama. The history of Minnesota's politics lends itself even more heavily to Obama's favor.

North Dakota- this state is just an educated guess based more on Obama's win in Iowa than anything else.

New Mexico- there is no reliable polling in New Mexico right now, but the heavy Latino population in the state strongly favors Clinton, as do other demographic features like income level.

UPDATE #2: Today's Gallup Poll places Obama within the margin of error nationally against Hillary. This doesn't change the above analysis in any way, though.

More at memeorandum.

A Strange Consensus

Usually after a debate you will find that there is very little consensus about who won or lost. There may be a slight majority opinion one way or another, but there's usually a good number who disagree. Last night does not fit that mold, though.

Nearly every centrist or Progressive source I've read so far has called the debate either a tie or a slight win for Obama. I've yet to find one such source that called it for Hillary or said that it was a knockout blow for Obama. A few examples: Josh Marshall, Chuck Todd, Marc Ambinder, Noam Scheiber, Ron Chusid, and of course libertarian me.

Despite this, there seems to be a consensus among conservative commentators and bloggers that Hillary won the debate by a good margin, as discussed in this post at Newsday's Spin Cycle. See also: Lisa Schiffren.

I suspect there's a very clear reason for this unanimity of opinion: Obama won or tied the debate thanks largely to the section on Iraq and foreign policy. These of course are the two areas where Republicans are most blind to Obama's appeal - they still don't seem to grasp that most Americans and nearly all Democrats oppose the Iraq war and are strongly opposed to Bush's unilateralism and pre-emption doctrine. To the extent Obama won or pulled even with Hillary in the debate, he did so on this issue, which is a blind spot for the Republican commentariat.

Another reason for the strange unanimity of opinion on the Right is probably that they thought this debate was a chance for Obama to deliver a knockout blow by going hard after Hillary. In their Hillary Hate Rage (which I often share), they seem to forget that most Democrats really, really like Hillary, and that Obama probably cost himself New Hampshire by going hard after her.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Debate Thoughts

When I've blogged about the Democratic debates, I've generally tried to avert a lot of the domestic policy issues. I do that primarily because I've spent most of my life as a Republican, and I have very little idea how specific differences on domestic policy play within various Democratic Party groups. For a better idea on those issues, I strongly recommend Kyle's live-blogging of the debate. Still, I feel plenty comfortable discussing foreign policy since many Dems are more libertarian-friendly on this issue than Republicans are; ditto with immigration policy. And of course I feel comfortable discussing the unsubstantive things about the debates that still wind up being critically important.

Given those limitations, here are my thoughts on tonight's debate:

1. Despite his momentum, Obama is still trying to come from behind, and has only a few days to do that in over 20 states. To voters in those states who are just starting to pay attention and are not generally obsessed with politics, Obama is probably still something of an enigma. Hillary, on the other hand, is a completely known quantity within the party rank and file. This meant that tonight was much more important to Obama than it was to Hillary. It was his chance to sell himself to people currently supporting Hillary on name recognition alone. With that in mind, the primary question coming into this debate was not so much whether Hillary or Obama would win, but whether Obama would be able to cut into Hillary's support by enough of a margin to catch her.

2. The generally civil, policy-focused tone favored Hillary substantially on domestic policy. I say this because the discussion of domestic policy generally amounted to incredibly specific, detailed discussion of numbers whose actual significance to the average voter is nil. In getting into those details, Obama's ability to inspire is dramatically neutralized.

3. Foreign policy, however, has become extremely easy to understand these days, at least from the perspective of the average dove (which fairly well sums up most Democrats, I think): are you for the Iraq War or against it? Are you for an aggressive foreign policy or a more humble one. On these questions, Obama wiped Hillary across the floor. In fact, Hillary wiped herself all over the floor, managing to sound like a neo-con with her approving use of the phrase "coercive diplomacy." If I were Obama, I would take her sentence on that and play it on loop in as many Progressive media outlets as possible.

4. It would seem that Hillary's response to the dynasty question was approvingly received by the Dem grassroots. Certainly her catch phrase of "It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush..." hit home beautifully with the base. It's unfortunate that they largely ignored the part of the response where she increduosly claimed that she and Obama had to start the campaigns on an even footing, as if her fundraising ability and initial name recognition advantage had nothing to do with her famous last name.

5. If there were concerns about how Obama would respond to Republican tried-and-true arguments, I think you'd have to say he passed with flying colors: humorous, disarming, and devastatingly accurate. How anyone can think that Hillary would stand up better to such arguments than Obama is officially beyond me at this point.

6. Both of them have clearly learned from their past mistakes that the first person to go onto the offensive winds up the loser in the long run. As a result, they both spent the debate trying to bait each other into going on the attack - neither ever really did it, though Obama through some beautiful soft jabs that no one could take offense to, but which did paint some differences between the two.

7. After Obama started landing some of those soft jabs, Hillary's demeanor did seem to change a bit, at least when he was speaking. She did a good job composing herself for her answers, but the look on her face while he was responding was all too similar to McCain's "too-cool-for-the-room" smirk last night. I thought that demeanor hurt McCain significantly last night, and I think it hurt Hillary again tonight.

Final verdict: Despite all of the above, I'd say it was a draw or only a slight advantage to Obama (Hillary just had too much of a built-in advantage on domestic policy questions in this format). Still, given the familiarity of so many voters with Hillary built up over the last 16 years, I think Obama probably picks up a couple of points on her, making the national poll numbers close to a dead heat. How that plays out in the individual Super Tuesday states I have no idea, though.

More thoughts on memeorandum.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Quick Word on Tonight's Debate

I've been too ill to blog anything today about the Florida results, the Giuliani endorsement, or the Edwards news.

But the debate tonight, especially the exchange between Romney and McCain over McCain's accusation about Romney supporting timetables, struck me as noteworthy.

First, in the aforementioned exchange, McCain may have done himself some serious damage, both short and long-term. He came across as a bully who was just out for blood, trying to kick Romney when he was down. It was the first time....ever....that I've felt any sympathy for Romney. The exchange also seriously damaged McCain's claim to being the "Straight Talk" candidate.

I say this as someone who would vastly prefer McCain to Romney (which isn't to say I necessarily prefer McCain overall), but in trying to go for an unnecessary knockout blow of Romney, I think McCain might have given Romney an opening by looking like a complete douche in what may have been a critical debate. Frankly, to out-douche Romney takes a lot of work, but I think McCain managed to do that tonight.

The entire exchange struck me as similar to bickering between an older, favored son, and his younger brother unsuccessfully trying to point out that, in fact, the older brother wrecked the car.

Thankfully, Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee came in and played the parents in the exchange, with Paul taking the role of the disciplinarian father taking them both to task for being babies, and Huckabee being the soft-hearted mother just trying to cool the situation down.

On the whole, Huckabee and Paul were both ignored far too much in a debate that is now down to a manageable number of candidates. While I can understand giving McCain and Romney more facetime overall, the extent to which Huckabee and Paul got the shaft was truly excessive.

Paul, to his credit, did what he could to expand his quixotic attempt to explain the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle. This is not an issue that works well in a debate - especially one where you're not getting much speaking time - but I give Paul credit for trying to explain what is clearly his favorite topic of discussion, and what he has apparently chosen to make the basis of his campaign now that he knows he is just a protest candidate at best. Unfortunately, explaining Austrian Theory in such short spurts is more likely to just confuse people than do any good. He would have been well-served to focus on less heady issues, though the connection he drew between Reagan and the gold standard probably helped his cause a little. Still, I was happy to see him get to play (along with Huckabee) the role of "adult" at one or two junctures.

In his short periods of camera time, though, Huckabee actually managed to sound the most like a Reagan Republican of anyone on the stage. He managed to pay more than mere lip service to traditional Republican concepts like federalism, taxes, and deficits. There were even times when he sounded almost as libertarian as Ron Paul, particularly because he spoke only fleetingly about "values" issues. This isn't to say that his overall agenda is libertarian in any way (quite the opposite of course), that I could ever support him, or that his performance tonight is remotely indicative of his overall policy preferences...but if anyone sounded like Ronald Reagan tonight, it was the Huckster.

After tonight, I suspect that Huckabee will do slightly better than expected on Tuesday, McCain noticeably worse, Paul slightly better, and Romney slightly better. This would make (gulp) Romney the effective winner of the debate since Huckabee and Paul are so clearly also-rans. However, I doubt that McCain hurt himself enough to cost him the nomination.

More debate reactions (I'm sure) at memeorandum.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Another Libertarian Blogger for Obama?

I've been taking some mild flak the last few days for my quasi-endorsement of Obama, by which I mean that I currently support him, and would support him over any other potential major party nominee. However, I may yet decide to go with the LP nominee in the general election, depending on how things play out between now and November. To reiterate, though - I have no illusion that Obama is himself a libertarian in any way; however, I believe he is more genuinely open to libertarian solutions than any candidate of recent vintage, particularly on social and civil liberties; on economic liberties, he appears far better than any Democrat in many years (though I hasten to add that in effect, the Clinton presidency wound up being quite pro-market).

In any event, my sentiments appear to be seconded by Cosmo's Brain, who has gone even more whole-hog for Obama than I have. Cosmo also hits on a theme that I've been striking with increasing frequency of late: the Republicans are no longer a good home for libertarians.

Money quote:

I have come to learn something very important about the Republican Party and libertarians: the big tent welcomes libertarians only when it suits their convenience to do so (which is about every even numbered year). When those same libertarian principles Republicans champion are applied to issues like drugs or morality, then Republicans do not want to hear what libertarians have to say. Rudy Giuliani believes in expansive executive power; Mitt Romney is more pro-business than pro-free market (somebody should tell Mitt that being a businessman and being an economist are not the same thing); John McCain would gladly sacrifice civil liberties in the name of “clean government;” and Mike Huckabee, well, he is a statist who calls himself a conservative.

Later tonight, I think I will try to start a compilation of libertarian, libertarian-ish, and small government bloggers currently supporting Obama.

Libertarians on Warrantless Wiretapping

Kos asks where the libertarians are on fighting against the current FISA bill.

This is largely an important and fair question. Little is ever heard publicly from libertarian organizations on this issue, yet it is something going on - right now - that implicates libertarian values as much as anything else.

Libertarians have not been silent on this issue. Ron Paul - to the extent he is a legitimate representative of libertarianism (debatable) - is quite clearly opposed to warrantless wiretapping, and has been fairly vocal about it to my knowledge. Reason has also come out quite clearly against the wiretapping bill, including this article by Julian Sanchez. And of course Radley Balko has made a career of documenting abuses by law enforcement in general in a way that perhaps no one on the Progressive Left can really match. Unfortunately, Cato seems somewhat divided on the issue and has been far too silent.

A number of libertarian bloggers (myself included) have in fact been quite vocal in their opposition to the warrantless wiretapping.

Despite this, our primary institutions have not been vocal enough in trying to influence the debate. Thankfully, David Weigel at Reason is trying to take some steps to rectify this problem. But it's probably too little, too late.

More reactions at memeorandum.

Monday, January 28, 2008

2008 SOTU Drinking Game Rules

For the last several years, I've enjoyed playing my own State of the Union Drinking Game. The rules change from year to year based on current events (though some rules are constant as long as Bush is in office). This year's rules are below:

1 Drink:
Any mention of a new government program
Anything that will involve an increase in deficit spending
Any ovation in which the Republicans stand and applaud - but not the Democrats
Every syllable of the word "Ahmadinejad"- if any is mispronounced, finish your beer
Any reference to the telecoms as "good patriotic corporate citizens" or some derivation thereof
"The State of the Union is Strong"
Every mention of a gratuitously invited guest

Finish Your Beer:
Any mispronounced word other than "nucular."
Any attempt to (falsely) blame the Democrats for allowing the end of the warrantless wiretapping program
Any mention that one of his invited guests is not even supposed to be allowed in the country because she is HIV positive.

Feel free to add more rules in the comments.

When Will They Learn?

In 2004, John Kerry hurt his chances (though not fatally) in Pennsylvania when he went to one of Philly's legendary cheesesteak places and ordered it "California-style" with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. To this day, this blasphemy is the first thing my wife remembers when she hears the words "John Kerry."

The other day, Mitt Romney committed a similarly unforgivable food faux pas when he picked the skin off his fried chicken. In Pensacola, Florida - a town not that far from Alabama. Afterwards, he claimed that he was just looking for a healthy food option. But sir, when you are running for President, healthy eating must take a backseat to following cultural food conventions. This also doesn't answer the important question of why he thought a KFC would be a politically appropriate place to get lunch when I am quite certain there are better fried chicken options in Pensacola. For shame, sir, for shame!

New rule: If you wish to be my President, then you have to show you are willing to make modest personal sacrifices to your health by showing that you actually appreciate local food culture. Otherwise you're just transparent that you are pandering to make the locals think you like their food.

H/T: memeorandum.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Does Sully Have a Libertarian Version of the Malkin Award?

Andrew Sullivan has an always interesting feature called the Malkin Award for "for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric." (His Moore Award is for similarly insane left-wing rhetoric). But I'm not sure if such rhetoric qualifies when it comes from a self-described libertarian. If so, this post by Michael Rebmann should take the cake:

While listening to the news on WBEN this morning, I heard the worst reason yet for voting for Barack Obama. A mother in South Carolina voted for Barack for her children. She said, she’s always told her children that “you can be anything you want to be” and that Barack Obama shows that the statement is true.
I’m sure that Idi Amin and Adolf Hitler also believed that they could be anything they wanted to be. Presidents need to be elected based on ideas and qualifications, not race or gender.

This is not only an absurdly hyperbolic comparison, it also manages to qualify for Godwin's Law.

More on Why I Can Support Obama

I wrote last night that I have an odd enthusiasm for Obama even though I disagree with perhaps the majority of his policy positions. The reason for this enthusiasm was, I said, that Obama appears to have classically liberal ends even though he does not wish to pursue libertarian means.

Doug Mataconis at the Liberty Papers picked up on my post, and has some disagreements with it, to wit:

The question is whether there’s anything there that libertarians and classical liberals can admire, or even support.
Politically, the answer has got to be no. Rhetoric aside, Barack Obama is as much of statist as Hillary Clinton. While he seems like he’d be more open to free market ideas, it’s clear from his positions and his rhetoric that he views governments as a force for good, rather than the cause of problems. Yes, he’d be better on civil liberties than George W. Bush, but you can forget about reducing the size of government if Barack Obama is President.

My response is posted in the comments section to Doug's post, and reprinted in revised form below:

Politically, [Obama is] definitely a statist. But the big thing for me is that I view libertarianism as the best means to achieve classically liberal ends (ie, socio-economic mobility, individualism, and legal equality). My point with Obama is that he seems serious about achieving those same ends, even though he prefers different means.

What it comes down to is that Obama's history (which is often overlooked) and rhetoric point to him being willing to consider alternative means to achieving his liberal ends. Similarly, I am a libertarian only because I think it is the best way to achieve liberal ends; if better means for doing so exist, then I will no longer be a libertarian. While I obviously disagree profusely with him on a couple of issues, Brink Lindsey actually expressed this exact sentiment in his response to the Ron Paul newsletter story (available here):

"I’m a libertarian because I’m a liberal. In other words, I support small-government, free-market policies because I believe they provide the institutional framework best suited to advancing the liberal values of individual autonomy, tolerance, and open-mindedness. Liberalism is my bottom line; libertarianism is a means to promoting that end."

I see the divide in this country as being primarily between those with liberal ends, and those who at best pay lip service to liberal ends but ultimately care only about implementing their chosen means (ie, their ends and their means are the same thing). It is identical to the divide between principle and "pu-pu platter partisanship," something I have been hitting on for quite awhile.

Doug acknowledges that Obama is slightly more open to free market principles than Hillary. I don't think it's only a slight difference, though. He is also quite clearly committed to liberal values in the arena of foreign relations and - at least more so than the vast majority of politicians - social and civil liberties. That makes Obama relatively close to libertarianism on two of the three main issue areas, and closer to libertarianism than most Democrats (as well as, these days, many Republicans) on economic liberties and property rights, though by no means close enough.