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Obama Secretly Backing Warren Over Clinton, Declares Lying Hack

elizabeth-warren-hillary-clinton

I’ve believed for a while that Hillary Clinton’s best chance at living in the White House again came in 2008 and that she blew it. She’s too polarizing, and quite possibly too old, to be the shoo-in that many believe her to be. And progressives in the Democratic Party are ready for one of their own. Elizabeth Warren fits that bill and it’s not at all inconceivable to me that, if she chose to run, that she could do what Barack Obama did two cycles earlier: knock off the inevitable, anointed frontrunner.

Also advancing a version of that thesis is Edward Klein, who had a New York Post EXCLUSIVE yesterday titled “This means Warren: Obama backs challenger to Hillary.” The report, alas, is an embarrassment to journalism—or even whatever it is that the New York Post is supposed to be.

President Obama has quietly promised Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren complete support if she runs for president — a stinging rebuke to his nemesis Hillary Clinton, sources tell me.

Publicly, Obama has remained noncommittal on the 2016 race, but privately he worries that Clinton would undo and undermine many of his policies. There’s also a personal animosity, especially with Bill Clinton, that dates from their tough race six years ago.

A former Harvard law professor and administration aide, Warren would energize the left wing of the Democrat Party just as Obama did against Clinton in 2008.

Now, aside from the fact that I think Obama is too shrewd to make that promise, that’s all somewhat plausible. To be sure, Hillary Clinton did her duty in healing the rift in their party after their bruising 2008 fight and Bill Clinton helped tremendously with his 2012 convention speech, but there may well still be lingering animosity beneath the surface. And I agree that Warren would more energize the base than HR Clinton.

But Klein couldn’t resist throwing in the tired “Democrat Party” nonsense. It’s a strong signal that honest analysis is not to be forthcoming. And he doesn’t disappoint.

Thanks to her outspoken stand against big banks and the top 1 percent, Warren is the darling of progressives. She won her Senate seat thanks to millions of dollars in donations from outside Massachusetts, including from rich environmentalists and Hollywood celebrities.

These things are all true. But it’s noteworthy that one Democrat who didn’t take a big stand against big banks was . . . Barack Obama. While Clinton would likely advocate a more interventionist, muscular foreign policy than Obama has overseen (not that Obama, who radically escalated the drone campaign, has been a shrinking violet) she was a key member of the administration and would be tied to it. Warren would essentially be running against Obama in addition to the Republicans.

Obama has authorized his chief political adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to conduct a full-court press to convince Warren to throw her hat into the ring.

In the past several weeks, Jarrett has held a series of secret meetings with Warren. During these meetings, Jarrett has explained to Warren that Obama is worried that if Hillary succeeds him in the White House, she will undo many of his policies.

He believes that the populist Warren is the best person to convince the party faithful that Hillary is out of touch with poor Americans and the middle class. Warren, in his view, would carry on the Obama legacy after he leaves the White House.

But, again, Warren would seek to govern well to the left of Obama. Clinton is a relative centrist, like Obama. Which policies would she seek to undo? We never learn.

“Barack, Michelle, and Valerie have been talking about Elizabeth Warren for quite some time,” says an Obama administration source. “Valerie has told Warren that Obama is prepared to throw a great deal of money and organizational support behind her.

“The Obamas believe that Warren sees things from the same ideological point of view as they do. She is a committed progressive who, like Obama, wants to transform America into a European-style democratic-socialist state.”

I laughed out loud after reading that paragraph. There is not a single person who can accurately be described as “an Obama administration source” who would say that Obama “wants to transform America into a European-style democratic-socialist state.” Even if one believes that Obama is secretly a European-style social democrat—or, hell, that his actual policies are reflective of a European-style democratic-socialist state—it’s just absurd to think that a Democratic political appointee would use that language. A random Occupy Wall Street protester wouldn’t use that language. Indeed, the only people who use phrases like “European-style democratic-socialist state” are Republican hacks. 

To be sure, you’ll find plenty of progressive commentators who’ll argue that European-style social democracy is working out pretty well for the Europeans and that the United States should adopt it. But the only Americans of any prominent who use variants of “socialist” in describing American politics are the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Charles Krauthammer, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum. Indeed, when things get tough, even more serious Republicans will trot it out in desperation.  (Then again, Republicans will sometimes use it against one another, as when Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of being a European socialist during the 2012 primaries.)

I stopped reading there to start this post but, in a service to OTB readers, I went ahead and finished the column. It did not improve. The best part:

When I ran this information before a well-informed Democratic Party operative, he pooh-poohed the scenario.

“It’s all bulls-t,” he said. “The media is creating a Hillary Clinton-Elizabeth Warren rivalry to hype the storyline. If Warren dared to challenge Hillary, women all over America would never forgive her. She’d lose all her credibility.”

That, however, is not the way Valerie Jarrett sees things.

“Both Valerie and Michelle Obama have convinced the president that Elizabeth Warren is his Mini-Me,” said a person who has discussed the issue with Jarrett.

Again, this just doesn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t vote for Obama either time. I find Warren quite likable, which I can’t say about Hillary Clinton. But it seems rather obvious to me that, as evidenced by the way he’s actually governed for six-plus years, Obama and Clinton are much more ideologically similar than Obama and Warren. I happen to believe that, unshackled from the realities of American politics and those pesky checks and balances, Obama would govern further to the left than he has. But there’s little evidence that he’s a die-hard leftist in the way that Warren is.

Furthermore, as Steve M. notes at Crooks and Liars, it was just six yeas ago that Klein himself was selling a book touting Hillary Clinton as a radical.

[T]he same Ed Klein told us back in 2005, when he was promoting a book called The Truth About Hillary, that Hillary is (as the book puts it) “notoriously left-wing.” Klein told FrontPage Magazine back then that Hillary has “a very far-left political agenda,” and told Human Events that “Hillary is a true, bred to the bone, ideologue”; asked by Human Events to rank the threat she posed to conservatives on a scale of 1 to 10, Klein ranked her a 10, with Bill Clinton as just a 7. (“Bill is a much more pragmatic person than she is. He’s ready to compromise much more quickly than she is.”) Klein airily dismissed any centrist moves by Hillary as pure fraud:

HE: You believe that Hillary, since she has entered the US Senate, has been trying to re-position herself as a moderate and show that she’s not so far to the left. Is that who she has become? Has she had a change of heart?

Klein: ”I don’t believe so. I believe she made an accurate calculation that a liberal cannot get elected President of the United States – an out and out liberal. That’s not where the American public is today. We are becoming a more conservative country all the time. And Hillary, with her ambition to win the White House, acknowledges that by, in effect, turning her back on some of her former positions, some of her former supporters and re-positioning herself as a moderate on such issues as God, prayer, abortion without parental consent, immigration; she’s adopted many of the Republican positions or at least has moved toward those positions in recent years, doing what Bill Clinton did – triangulating by adopting his opponent’s positions on things. I don’t believe this is a sincere change of heart. I think this is a pure political calculation on her part.”

So what Ed Klein 2005 was telling us was that she was a Manchurian Candidate just biding her time until she could become president and unabashedly be the bred-to-the-bone, notoriously left-wing ideologue that she’s been since college. Is Ed Klein 2014 saying that Ed Klein 2005 was lying to us? After all, if Hillary is so secretly radical, why doesn’t that radical Marxist Barack Obama consider her the one who will continue his life’s work of “transform[ing] America into a European-style democratic-socialist state”?

Klein has an impressive résumé. A graduate of the nation’s most prestigious journalism school, he went on to become the foreign editor of Newsweek and spend over a decade as editor-in-chief of the New York Times Magazine. He has published at least ten books going back to 1969. Yet, quite clearly, he’s become a world class hack.

How hackish?  Klein’s 2005 The Truth About Hillary was so outlandish that even conservative pundits were trashing it. Nine years ago—in The New York Post, no less—John Podhoretz wrote,

This is one of the most sordid volumes I’ve ever waded through. Thirty pages into it, I wanted to take a shower. Sixty pages into it, I wanted to be decontaminated. And 200 pages into it, I wanted someone to drive stakes through my eyes so I wouldn’t have to suffer through another word.

Though Klein suggests in his subtitle that he has written a study of a power-hungry politician — “What She Knew, When She Knew It, And How Far She’ll Go to Become President” — he’s produced something quite different. An unduly celebratory biography is called a “hagiography.” Klein’s book is a “hate-eography.”

Despite a distinguished journalistic pedigree including stints as the editor of both Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine, Klein has chosen to emulate the works of the highly dubious bio-defamer Charles Higham, who with the slimmest of evidence wrote books claiming that Errol Flynn was a gay Nazi spy and Howard Hughes was a bisexual.

Klein may offer a few words here or there about Whitewater or Travelgate, but what really floats his boat is the Higham-like notion that Sen. Clinton is secretly a lesbian.

He has no proof whatever for this claim save that she has had some lesbian friends. (So do I. Does that make me a lesbian?) Indeed, Klein even offers the quaint theory that it doesn’t really matter whether Hillary ever acted on her supposed lesbian tendencies. “To be a lesbian,” he lectures on page 63, “it was not necessary for a woman to have a physical relationship with another woman. Such a relationship could be romantic and asexual.”

He quotes someone he says is an unnamed college classmate of Hillary’s, who claims that “the notion of a woman being a lesbian was fascinating to Hillary . . . But she was much more interested in lesbianism as a political statement than a sexual practice . . . Hillary talked about it a lot, read lesbian literature, and embraced it as a revolutionary concept.”

Oh, really. Let’s see. It’s June 2005. Hillary Clinton has been a major public figure in the United States for nearly 15 years. Somehow I imagine that if, indeed, she had “embraced” lesbianism “as a revolutionary concept” during her college years — years that have been written about exhaustively — we would have heard about it before now.

We also probably would have heard by now that Bill Clinton learned Hillary was pregnant with Chelsea by reading about it in an Arkansas newspaper. This detail is offered up by a single source — an “investment banker from New York” — in the course of a story about how Bill “raped” Hillary while on vacation in Bermuda in 1979.

Everything in this book that matters has been written before, and better. Everything else in it shouldn’t have been published.

The original page is gone now but NRO’s Jim Geraghty wrote, “Folks, there are plenty of arguments against Hillary Clinton, her policies, her views, her proposals, and her philosophies. This stuff ain’t it. Nobody on the right, left, or center ought to stoop to this level.”

_______________
[*]A couple of commenters have taken issue with this label. I’m not intending a slur there, merely a description. Warren isn’t a leftist in the European sense; but she’s very far left by the standards of American national politics. I’m not sure there’s a politician to her left anyone would seriously talk about as a viable presidential nominee.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I tend to disagree about Warren as a 2016 candidate — because of the fact that she has said repeatedly that she would not run and that she has called on Clinton to run, and because of some of the observations I made here. Nonetheless, I could see a viable scenario where Clinton stumbles again and someone, whether its Warren or somebody else, turns the Democratic race into a fight like Obama did in 2008.

    The one observation I’ll make in that regard is that I think Clinton can make an argument about experience at an executive level that Warren clearly cannot, and I’m not sure that even committed progressives who prefer Warren to Clinton will want to take a chance on another untested Senator again.

    That being said, yea, the Klein piece is pure hackery and strikes me, largely, as some of the wishful thinking I see from people on the right who are clearly trying to undermine Clinton’s campaign, to the extent its actually a campaign at this point.

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  2. Moosebreath says:

    James,

    Thanks for this piece — it’s good to see “journalists” being called on their BS, especially by people on the same side as them.

    That said, I laughed when I read this sentence, “But there’s little evidence that he’s a die-hard leftist in the way that Warren is.”, as Warren is not a die-hard leftist, either (unless you are on the bithead scale where anyone not to the right of Ted Cruz is a leftist). Calling her a liberal or a progressive or a left-winger is accurate; calling her a leftist is not.

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  3. Rafer Janders says:

    I’ve believed for a while that Hillary Clinton’s best chance at living in the White House again came in 2008 and that she blew it. She’s too polarizing,

    “She’s too polarizing” is just another way to say “Republicans hate her.” But Republicans also hated Barack Obama, and that didn’t stop him from trouncing them in two straight elections. Think Obama isn’t “polarizing”?

    ANY Democratic candidate will, ipso facto, be “polarizing” because Republicans have become the party of crazy people and of haters. But their hatred doesn’t matter, because when it comes to presidential races, there aren’t enough of them to matter. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will become the next president.

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  4. Rafer Janders says:

    But there’s little evidence that he’s a die-hard leftist in the way that Warren is

    And just as Hillary Clinton isn’t “polarizing”, Warren isn’t “die-hard leftist.” She’s a fairly doctrinaire, commonplace, common-sense liberal.

    But then again, I should remember that this is coming from someone who once spent an afternoon asserting to me that Walter Mondale and Mike Dukakis were “hard left” politicians.

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  5. edmondo says:

    Somebody better stand up and run against her or the federal government’s Oreo budget is going to go through the roof! Hillary’s secret plan to end the gridlock is to compromise more with the GOP. How any Democrat can vote for this woman is beyond me.

    “My husband had some really serious problems with the Congress when he was in office,” she said. “They shut down the government twice. They impeached him once. So it was not the most pleasant of atmospheres. But I will say this: Bill never stopped reaching out to them.”

    Building those relationships on Capitol Hill “is something there is no rest from,” she added.

    Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Obama has “worked so hard and reached out so often, and it gets discouraging because you don’t feel like you’re getting much back.” She added: “I don’t think you can ever stop. And I think that’s part of whoever the next president is just has to be ready to do.”

    While at the State Department, she found money in the budget to offer visiting diplomats tea, cookies and coffee in hopes of forging personal ties, she added in her remarks in Colorado.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath and @Rafer Janders: I’m not intending a slur there, merely a description. Warren isn’t a leftist in the European sense; but she’s very far left by the standards of American national politics. I’m not sure there’s a politician to her left anyone would seriously talk about as a viable presidential nominee. Similarly, neither Dukakis nor Mondale are exactly socialists. But they each lost landslides.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Similarly, neither Dukakis nor Mondale are exactly socialists. But they each lost landslides.

    Which still doesn’t make them, as you asserted, “hard left” candidates. You seem to have some bizarre assumption that the more you lose an election, the further to the left you were, ipso facto, as if there weren’t many other factors in play. Mondale and Dukakis were hardly running “hard left” campaigns — they were both running as, again, fairly doctrinaire, common-sense Democrats.

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  8. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “Warren isn’t a leftist in the European sense; but she’s very far left by the standards of American national politics.”

    The second part of that sentence is close enough, as she’s about a liberal as one can be and still be able to be elected to state-wide office.

    The first part is what we are objecting to. The word “leftist” has a meaning, not merely in Europe, and it’s not one which applies to Warren, unless you believe she is seeking radical change to eliminate class differences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    Warren isn’t a leftist in the European sense; but she’s very far left by the standards of American national politics.

    She’s really not. If you take her views one by one, they’re pretty much in the mainstream of what most American voters believe. What positions does she hold, exactly, that make her “very far left”?? Make your case. Convince me.

    She’s only “far left” if you’ve mentally shifted your Overton Window so far to the right that you use, say, John Boehner as the median point.

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  10. Moosebreath says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    “Mondale and Dukakis were hardly running “hard left” campaigns — they were both running as, again, fairly doctrinaire, common-sense Democrats.”

    Right — Dukakis especially ran as a competent manager, not as a ideologue.

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  11. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: By definition, candidates who lose almost every state are out of the mainstream as it exits at that time. Those two losses sparked the Democratic Leadership Council, which moved the party to the center to be more competitive. Bill Clinton, one of its founders, was subsequently elected. The party has continued on the DNC path since with Al Gore, John Kerry, and even Barack Obama. I think Obama is probably personally to the left of the DNC guys. But he’s running on their platform and, even now that he’ll never need to run again, stayed on that course.

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  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Similarly, neither Dukakis nor Mondale are exactly socialists.

    If they weren’t exactly socialists, why did you claim that they were “hard left” candidates? Words have meanings, you know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  13. beth says:

    @James Joyner: I’m about as liberal as they come but I didn’t even vote for Dukakis. He was a horrible candidate and it had nothing to do with how left he was (which he really wasn’t). Saying he lost almost every state because of his idealogy may be stretching it a bit.

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  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    By definition, candidates who lose almost every state are out of the mainstream as it exits at that time.

    No, no, no. You’re trying to switch the terms of the debate. What you said, quite simply, was that Walter Mondale and Mike Dukakis were “hard left” candidates. That’s a definitive statement, independent of the later results of the elections. The phrase “hard left” has a specific meaning, implying that those men were far left wingers, on the far left, radical wing of the Democratic party, basically socialists.

    And that’s just wrong. It’s dishonest. It’s hackish. It’s not at all an accurate or fair assessment of Walter Mondale’s or Michael Dukakis’s political career or beliefs.

    And since you can’t defend that position, you’re trying to switch to another one, saying oh, if you lose an election badly enough, it proves you were out of the mainstream. But even that’s not accurate, because to accept that, you’ve have to believe that in 1984, 41% of Americans voted for a “hard left” candidate, and in 1988, 47% of Americans voted for a “hard left” candidate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @beth:

    Saying he lost almost every state because of his idealogy may be stretching it a bit.

    And states aren’t people. Dukakis won 47% of the popular vote. I’d say if 47% of Americans are willing to make you president, you’re pretty fairly in the mainstream.

    So either 47% of Americans in 1988 were “hard left” voters, or Mike Dukakis was in the mainstream. You can’t have it both ways.

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  16. beth says:

    But she was much more interested in lesbianism as a political statement than a sexual practice . . . Hillary talked about it a lot, read lesbian literature, and embraced it as a revolutionary concept.”

    I can easily see this as being true since lesbians were a large part of the early feminist movement. If you were reading a lot about feminism, you couldn’t help but read lesbian literature. Someone like Hillary, who by all accounts was an intelligent, politically focused individual even back then would have been very interested in all of that. But Klein of course manages to roll it all together and pretend it confirms the whisper campaign that Hillary is a closet lesbian.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    If winning only 47% of the popular vote in 1988 means that “by definition,” Mike Dukakis was “out of the mainstream” and a “hard left” candidate….

    then does winning only 48% of the popular vote in 2012 mean that, by definition, Mitt Romney was out of the mainstream and a “hard right” candidate?

    Or is that one percentage point difference somehow key?

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  18. Rafer Janders says:

    Hillary talked about it a lot, read lesbian literature, and embraced it as a revolutionary concept.

    By this standard, half the guys in America are lesbians.

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  19. Jeremy says:

    @Moosebreath: If she’s not a leftist, then, then what is a leftist? What does the word leftist mean? What does the word progressive mean?

    You’re right that she’s not a liberal, because she would never be caught dead with the likes of Adam Smith, Frederich Hayek, Milton Friedman, or Robert Nozick. Hell she probably wouldn’t be caught dead with Matt Zwolinski and he might actually be amenable to meeting her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  20. Moosebreath says:

    @Jeremy:

    Please re-read, for comprehension this time. For example, “Calling her a liberal or a progressive or a left-winger is accurate; calling her a leftist is not.”. Or, “The word “leftist” has a meaning, not merely in Europe, and it’s not one which applies to Warren, unless you believe she is seeking radical change to eliminate class differences.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  21. george says:

    @Moosebreath:

    The first part is what we are objecting to. The word “leftist” has a meaning, not merely in Europe, and it’s not one which applies to Warren, unless you believe she is seeking radical change to eliminate class differences.

    As much as I agree that in much of the world ‘leftist’ means something quite different than in America (for instance, in an absolute sense conservatives such as Canada’s Harper and Germany’s Merkel are left of Obama), I’m not so sure that its useful to define left and right outside of each nation.

    Not only is the range of political views across the world too large for that (and the European standard is no more global than the American standard), but since governments tend to be nation based its more useful to use national references rather than international ones.

    I don’t care if say Harper is to the left of Obama or to the right of Merkel; he’s not running against them. I’m interested how he stands compared to other Canadian politicians. Same is true for Warren, Clinton, Cruz etc.

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  22. Moosebreath says:

    @george:

    “I’m not so sure that its useful to define left and right outside of each nation.”

    I agree with you that “left” and “right” should be applied to each country’s politics, and that Warren is on the left side. The problem is that “leftist” has an actual meaning, separate from each country’s politics. Indeed, leftists are not generally interested in countries as such, and instead are seeking radical world-wide social and political changes to eliminate class differences. That does not apply to Warren.

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  23. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jeremy:

    If she’s not a leftist, then, then what is a leftist? What does the word leftist mean?

    Generally, someone who believes in the radical redistribution of wealth to eliminate class differences and return the means of production to the people.

    What does the word progressive mean?

    Progressive means liberal, basically. But progressive and liberal aren’t synonyms for leftist. The closest synonym for leftist would be radical, socialist, etc.

    As one example, I’d call myself a liberal, someone on the left, a progressive, etc. I wouldn’t call myself a leftist, as I think that’s inconsistent with my capitalist views.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:

    but she’s very far left by the standards of American national politics

    Really? So, exactly how is Warren “far left” by the standards of today’s national politics? She’s pro-choice, believes (in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse) in more regulation of financial institutions, believes in fair trade, believes in green technology, on immigration she supports the Dream Act, and so forth. These are mainstream Democratic positions, and the Democratic Party is hardly far left these days.

    From the perspective of the “far left” I would say that Warren is far closer to the middle than, say, Ted Cruz is from the perspective of the “far right.”

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  25. Rafer Janders says:

    Warren isn’t a leftist in the European sense; but she’s very far left by the standards of American national politics.

    Let’s go through this one by one, and see how Warren supposedly comes out “far left”:

    1. Afghanistan — Warren wants to end the war, same as most Americans.

    2. Iran — Warren supports sanctions against Iran, same as most Americans.

    3. Israel — Warren supports Israel, same as most Americans.

    4. Abortion — Warren is pro-choice, same as most Americans.

    5. Gun control — Warren is for gun control, same as most Americans.

    6. Obamacare — Warren supports comprehensive health care for all, same as most Americans.

    7. Defense — Warren supports a strong defense, same as most Americans, but believes there’s room to cut the bloated defense budget, same as most Americans.

    8. Immigration — Warren is for comprehensive immigration reform, same as most Americans.

    9. Marriage equality — Warren supports gay marriage, same as most Americans.

    10. Taxes — Warren supports raising taxes on the rich, same as most Americans, and believes we can lower the tax burden on the poor and working class, same as most Americans.

    11. Wall Street — Warren believes the financial industry is too lightly-regulated and got off scot-free during the 2008 crisis, same as most Americans.

    12. Terrorism — Warren says the “number one responsibility” of the government is to protect Americans from attack, same as most Americans.

    Where exactly is the radical ideologue whose positions are very far to the left of most Americans? Because so far I’m not seeing it…..

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  26. gVOR08 says:

    One has to be careful in these discussions to define terms and assumptions. If one defines left/right in historical context., in the 30s there were active socialists and communists in the US with some influence, even a chance of winning an odd election here and there. These people were far to the left of Warren, far to the left of anyone currently active in US national politics. This is also currently the situation in Europe.

    If one looks only at the current moment; some of the radio talkers, Ted Cruz, and some of the real whack job Representatives define the right; and Warren is about as far left as it gets anymore. In this sense it makes sense to call Warren “leftist”, but one shouldn’t say this without clarifying that one is dropping the conventional meaning of the terms as well as all historical and international context.

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  27. al-Ameda says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    By this standard, half the guys in America are lesbians.

    Oh what the hell, “Ich bin ein lesbian.” Today, we are all lesbians.

    I’d say that you just made a few heads on the Right … EXPLODE.

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  28. anjin-san says:

    “Leftist” in tea speak is sort of a cowardly way of implying “communist.” It’s one Florack is very fond of, which should tell you all you need to know.

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  29. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    If one looks only at the current moment; some of the radio talkers, Ted Cruz, and some of the real whack job Representatives define the right; and Warren is about as far left as it gets anymore.

    Yes, in the sense that as far left as it gets anymore is firmly within the mainstream of the Democratic Party platform.

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  30. grumpy realist says:

    Heck, I think I’m going to run for POTUS on the Wobblies’ platform…..if people are going to call me a “leftist”, then I’m bloody well going to be a TRUE leftist.

    The problem is that the critters on the right are now slinging around the term “far-left” at anyone who wants consumer protection and pollution control.

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  31. Scott says:

    I’ve been a Republican since 1972. It was your basic Rockefeller Republican. My views have not changed all that much. I guess by the relativistic definitions that are being casually thrown around that makes me hard left.

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  32. @Rafer Janders:

    Where exactly is the radical ideologue whose positions are very far to the left of most Americans?

    If you make the terms vague enough, anyone qualifies as a moderate. Take for example, “Warren is for gun control, same as most Americans.” This lumps everyone who isn’t a second amendment absolutist into one category that contains everyone from “I want to ban all weapons” to “I’m okay with everything but private ownership of nuclear bombs” and wants to pretend that’s a useful distinction for understanding US politics.

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  33. Nikki says:

    By definition, candidates who lose almost every state are out of the mainstream as it exits at that time.

    So, Mitt Romney is now a fascist?

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  34. Rafer Janders says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Is Warren’s position on gun control “die-hard leftist” and “very far to the left” of most Americans, as James asserted? Plainly, no. She’s for such “radical” (read: common sense) measures as a federal assault weapons ban, criminal background checks for gun sales, and making interstate gun trafficking a federal crime, but hasn’t proposed or advocated for any overall ban on handguns or rifles.

    Basically, she’s got the same position as that of out-of-the-mainstream die-hard very-far-leftist Mike Bloomberg.

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  35. Rafer Janders says:

    The main difference between Elizabeth Warren and many other leading Democrats is that Warren is a fighter. She hasn’t adopted a cringing, “if I don’t speak up maybe they won’t be mean to me” posture as so many other Democratic politicians have trained themselves to have, and it’s that, her outspokenness, her willingness to speak plainly and honestly — and not her actual positions themselves — that makes her appear so “die-hard leftist” to guys like James.

    It’s a fascinating insight into his worldview, actually, and of the deference he still expects is his sides’ due from our side.

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  36. James Joyner says:

    @Nikki: Mitt Romney won 24/50 states and 206 Electors. By contrast, Mondale won 1/50 states (plus DC) and 13 Electors. Dukakis won 9/50 states and 111 Electors.

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  37. @Rafer Janders:

    Most Americans support assault weapons bans, magazine limits, and background checks. To that extent most republican politicians are to the right of the public.

    On the other hand, most Americans believe the second amendment protects an individual right to possess firearms, that people should generally be allowed to own handguns for self defense, and support concealed carry. To that extent most democratic politicians are to the left of the public.

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  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    You realize states aren’t people, right, James, and don’t actually have political opinions? When you’re discussing whether someone is “out of the mainstream” of the American public, the metric you have to use is the American public, i.e. the popular vote. And as I noted above, Dukakis got 47% of the popular vote to Romney’s 48%. If that makes Dukakis “hard left”, then it also makes Romney “hard right.”

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  39. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Simple question, James: which of these two men were further out of the American mainstream: Mike Dukakis (48% of the popular vote in 1988) or John McCain (46% of the popular vote in 2008)?

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  40. Lyle says:

    [*]A couple of commenters have taken issue with this label. I’m not intending a slur there, merely a description.

    So its come to this now on the site? The author is now worried about offending the liberal commentators who make up 80% of the audience on here.

    In any event, I don’t think any candidate especially Hillary will want Obama’s help. Unpopular 2 term presidents do not usually garner too much love on the campaign trail by their own party.

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  41. Rafer Janders says:

    @Lyle:

    Unpopular 2 term presidents do not usually garner too much love on the campaign trail by their own party.

    I can guarantee you two things: Barack Obama will give a primetime speech at the 2016 Democratic convention and be greeted with thunderous acclaim.

    George W. Bush will be nowhere to be seen or heard at the 2016 Republican convention.

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  42. James Joyner says:

    @Lyle: I’m just clarifying that I’m characterizing Warren as hard left only by the standards of mainstream American politics, not the entire political spectrum.

    I agree that Obama’s popularity is rather low but I’m sure any Democratic contender would be pleased to have his endorsement, much less access to his campaign apparatus. To the extent that the primary is heavily contested, though, I presume he’ll follow the standard tack and remain above the fray until the nomination is settled.

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  43. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: I don’t think there’s much question at all that Dukakis was further left of center than McCain is right of center. Both ran lousy campaigns, although Dukakis faced a weaker challenger. In both cases, they were fighting upstream battles in that the public was in the mood to keep the Reagan momentum going in 1988 and in the mood for anything but Bush 43 in 2008.

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  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think there’s much question at all that Dukakis was further left of center than McCain is right of center.

    I think that’s very, very much in question. Dukakis ran on his background as a competent technocrat and one of the authors of the pro-business “Massachusetts Miracle”. McCain ran as the crazy person who would bomb Iran and thought Sarah Palin should be one heartbeat away from the presidency.

    By your own metric of “the more you lose, the further from the center you are”, in fact, McCain is further right of center than Dukakis was left of center.

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  45. Lyle says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    You sure have a high opinion of yourself making guarantees. Hillary will run far away from just about everything Obama has done. His approval rating should be about 30% in 2016.

    btw, its also obvious you know more than the authors of this blog and wonder where I can find more of your wisdom outside this blog.

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  46. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m just clarifying that I’m characterizing Warren as hard left only by the standards of mainstream American politics, not the entire political spectrum.

    ‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

    ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  47. Rafer Janders says:

    @Lyle:

    btw, its also obvious you know more than the authors of this blog and wonder where I can find more of your wisdom outside this blog.

    I have a newsletter if you want to subscribe….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  48. Rafer Janders says:

    @Lyle:

    You sure have a high opinion of yourself making guarantees.

    Yes, I do. Points for noticing!

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  49. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    I’m just clarifying that I’m characterizing Warren as hard left only by the standards of mainstream American politics, not the entire political spectrum.

    Clear. You are wrong, but at least you are clear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  50. Rafer Janders says:

    @anjin-san:

    You are wrong, but at least you are clear.

    James just knows it in his gut, and that’s more important than backing it up with any facts or cogent arguments. It’s argument Dothraki style: it is known.

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  51. Stan says:

    @James Joyner: The Democrats won a plurality in the 2012 House of Representatives election. It was narrow, 1.2%, but it existed. By contrast, the Republicans have a solid 30+ majority in the House due to the way seats are distributed. To you, this shows that the country is well to the right of Senator Warren. To me, it shows that we have a poorly functioning electoral system.

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  52. James Joyner says:

    @Stan: I think both are true, actually!

    I actually like Elizabeth Warren a lot. She’s highly intelligent, has good humor, and is a really good spokesperson for her cause. I just think she’s well to the left of the country on many issues.

    I’ve come around in recent years to supporting a national popular vote for president because, in modern times, the president represents the people, not the several states. But I actually think the Electoral College is a good barometer for where the country stands. Romney and Dukakis got essentially the same percentage of the vote but the former carried nearly half the states whereas the latter carried very few. I think that’s meaningful. I also think that, on balance, I’d prefer the majority popular vote winner be elected over the state winner in a tight contest.

    The House is a different matter, in that it’s very purpose is to represent local interests. I do, however, oppose gerrymandering and would prefer a process where detached professionals drew the lines as closely as possible to “natural” community boundaries to one where naked politics was the chief criterion.

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  53. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I just think she’s well to the left of the country on many issues.

    WHICH ONES???? Name some, instead of just baldly making assertions without backup.

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  54. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Romney and Dukakis got essentially the same percentage of the vote but the former carried nearly half the states whereas the latter carried very few. I think that’s meaningful.

    It’s meaningful, just in the exact opposite way you think it is.

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  55. Tillman says:

    What do we consider as “left of the country”? Single payer? She supports that. Pro-choice? She supports that. Cutting defense spending? She supports that.

    Do we say Democrats are “left of the country” while Republicans are to its right? Do we define “the country” as all the independents, that finicky, disengaged-from-politics bunch?

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  56. ringhals says:

    Maybe slightly off topic, but it’s worth noting that Warren was a registered Republican in the 90s and only left the party when it became too corporatist:

    “I was an independent. I was with the GOP for a while because I really thought that it was a party that was principled in its conservative approach to economics and to markets. And I feel like the GOP party just left that. They moved to a party that said, “No, it’s not about a level playing field. It’s now about a field that’s gotten tilted.” And they really stood up for the big financial institutions when the big financial institutions are just hammering middle class American families. I just feel like that’s a party that moved way, way away.”

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  57. bill says:

    @Rafer Janders: you could throw obama’s name in there- same lip service but his actions differed.
    was she against ” obamacare”- same as most Americans?

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  58. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Another very simple question, James: do you think that John McCain and Mitt Romney were well to the right of the country on very many issues?

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  59. socraticsilence says:

    @James Joyner:

    By this standard could one consider John McCain a far-right extremist, after all he was so far out of the mainstream that he lost in a landslide in both the popular vote and the electoral college?

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  60. Yolo Contendere says:

    I don’t think there’s much question at all that Dukakis was further left of center than McCain is right of center.

    That’s because you have been lied to, and believed those lies. And you continue to believe them, perhaps because you are hesitant to question your beliefs and what it might mean that you of all people could believe them, and you wonder what else that you believe might be false.

    The party has continued on the DNC path since with Al Gore, John Kerry, and even Barack Obama.

    Every single Democratic Presidential candidate in my memory who had been a member of the Senate has been portrayed at some point as “the most Liberal member of the Senate” by the right, including those you list here. I have no doubt Warren would also be so portrayed, should she seek and obtain the nomination.

    I actually like Elizabeth Warren a lot. She’s highly intelligent, has good humor, and is a really good spokesperson for her cause. I just think she’s well to the left of the country on many issues.

    And you will believe them.

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  61. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I actually think the Electoral College is a good barometer for where the country stands. Romney and Dukakis got essentially the same percentage of the vote but the former carried nearly half the states whereas the latter carried very few. I think that’s meaningful.

    Let’s make this simple: there are ten voters in a building and four apartments. The building votes by apartment, not by individual voters.

    In Election #1, the overall voter distribution is four Democrats to six Republicans. However, all four Democrats live together in Apartment A, while Apartments B, C and D are lived in by two Republicans each, so the building vote is 1-3 in favor of Republicans, even though the voter count is only a 2-3 split in favor of Republicans.

    In Election #2 a few years later, some people have moved around, and some have changed their mind. Now Apartments A and B are lived in by two Republicans each, while Apartments C and D are lived in by three Democrats each, so the building vote is 2-2, even though the actual voter count is a 3-2 split in favor of Democrats.

    In Election #3, even later, the six Democrats are now concentrated all together in Apartment A, while Apartments B-D are lived in by four Republicans, split one/one/two. Again we vote, and now the building result is 3-1 in favor of Republicans, even though the actual voter count is a 3-2 in favor of Democrats.

    And you think this shows something about the mood of the building — RATHER THAN JUST BEING A RANDOM STATISTICAL RESULT OF GROUP SORTING WITHIN A LIMITED SPACE??? In terms of actual voter preference, it’s the same 40% -60% split between parties in each case, but the fact that voters move around within apartments, can can change their mind over time, produces very different results if you vote by apartment — which would disappear entirely if you voted only by individual voter.

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