Is Obama a conservative or a progressive realist?
Eric Alterman argues that Obama is a political realist, a consensus politician who understands that he must compromise in order to be electable.
ERIC ALTERMAN, AUTHOR, JOURNALIST: You know, Barack Obama is an interesting place, because he has proven himself be a friend of Israel, but he’s not conservative. So he’s not—He’s a friend of*
PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: *Barack Obama is a very conservative politician. That’s why Americans still haven’t got Barack Obama. If you analyze his policies, he’s extremely conservative.
ALTERMAN: Compared to what? Compared to what?
ESCOBAR: Of course he’s not Dick Cheney. But he’s not Genghis Khan either. You know, but he’s basically conservative.
ALTERMAN: Compared to what? Compared to what? Compared to Ralph Nader?
ESCOBAR: No. No.
ALTERMAN: What I’m saying is politics is the art of the possible. Politics is the art of compromise and cooperation in getting things done. So if you want to be effective in this country, you have to operate within the consensus.
ESCOBAR: So Barack Obama’s speech at AIPAC last week was compromise?
ALTERMAN: Yeah. Well, I don’t know what he really believes in heart.
ESCOBAR: That’s my point, Eric. Nobody does, as far as Obama’s concerned.
ALTERMAN: I understand, politically speaking, where the band of acceptable opinion is on any issue. We’re talking about Israel now, but I can do it for you on any issue. And I’m saying, in order to be effective, you have to speak from within that consensus. So Barack Obama went as far as he felt he could—I mean, I’m guessing.
ESCOBAR: He didn’t even dare to discuss any foreign policy issues.
ALTERMAN: They don’t do that at AIPAC. It’s just stupid. It’s just stupid. Paul Wolfowitz was booed at a rally of Americans—Paul Wolfowitz—because he said the Palestinians were suffering and we have to keep that into account.
ESCOBAR: That’s what Obama was saying last year, you remember?
ALTERMAN: Well, he’ll say it again, but not at AIPAC. Why say it at AIPAC? If you eat bad food at someone’s house and say, "Your food stinks—."
ESCOBAR: If you have balls as a politician, you’ll say—.
ALTERMAN: If you want to lose. I have so little patience for the romanticism of left-wing romanticism with defeat. I want to win. I want to do the world some good. Let the other side blame themselves for being impure. Politics is about compromise. If you don’t want to compromise, you don’t want to do what’s necessary to get power, do something else.
ESCOBAR: So what you’re saying is that Barack at the moment is holding his cards very close to his chest. Is it?
ESCOBAR: Yeah. That’s it.
ALTERMAN: Well, yeah. I mean, you know, if Barack Obama is saying, "I’m a person of good values and good judgment who is broadly progressive, and I can win." That’s a pretty good deal. Look what this country’s been doing for eight years. Look at what this country’s been doing since the election of Jimmy Carter, who didn’t work out very well. He’s the most progressive—he’s certainly running the most progressive campaign since Jimmy Carter, you know, as a Democrat nominee. And I think he’ll be the most effective president, if he wins, since Franklyn Roosevelt. So if he’s got to say a few things that I wish he didn’t feel he had to say, first of all he’s smarter than I am. He knows what he has to do and what [inaudible] better than I can figure it out. But I’m just so sick of saying, you know, "We’re pure and they won." You know?
ESCOBAR: Yeah, sure.
ALTERMAN: Enough of that.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.