Who is the real Obama?
Talk show hosts from across the United States met in New York last weekend to attend the “New Media
Seminar.” The event is ripe with informed opinion from political commentators, pundits and experts on
American politics. The Real News Network’s Senior Editor Paul Jay met with New Jersey talk show host
Sam Greenfield to discuss his take on recent developments in the Democratic primaries.
VOICEOVER: Talk show hosts from across the United States met in New York last weekend to attend the New Media Seminar. The event is a major gathering of pundits and political commentators. The Real News Network’s senior editor, Paul Jay, met with Sam Greenfield to discuss his take on the outcome of the Democratic primaries.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Hi. We’re joined now with Sam Greenfield, who hosts a radio show on WBNJ in the New York area. Sam, Hillary Clinton has thrown in the towel.
SAM GREENFIELD, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, WVNJ AM: What?
JAY: It’s a rather shredded towel by now. She’s endorsed Barack Obama. What’s your take? And what have your listeners been saying about all this?
GREENFIELD: My listeners are very pragmatic about this. Most of my listeners will—and I was in the same boat. I would vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is. It could have been her; it could have been him. I preferred him as time went on ’cause of the campaign she ran.
JAY: And will it be whatever the candidate, whoever the candidate? Or with this particular group?
GREENFIELD: No, no, no, no. No. It couldn’t be anyone. But of those two, yes, I would vote for either of them over John McCain.
JAY: Now, this is in theory Clinton territory, New York. But were your listeners rooting for Clinton or not?
GREENFIELD: Not really. You know, that’s an interesting dynamic. She won a Senate seat here twice, and she’s popular here, but she’s not a New Yorker. And one of the reasons she won, in my opinion, is because she won upstate, in Buffalo. And part of the reason for that is she’s from Chicago, and Chicago is much more like Buffalo than, let’s say, Lazio—who ran against her the first time, who’s from Long Island—is like Buffalo. You know, it’s almost a midwestern city, so that resonated with people.
JAY: In terms of policy issues, it started to come down to this dynamic of experience versus change, which is really a battle of two advertising campaigns—you know, it was a Pepsi-Coke election. But on a policy level, how did you assess the two of them? Was this just a battle of ad campaigns? Or were there any real differences?
GREENFIELD: I don’t think there were many differences. I think there were two differences, one in how they ran their campaign. That was a huge difference. Barack Obama ran a campaign, whether real or not, on hope and change. We need change, we can’t keep doing things the same way. People are getting discouraged about life because of the way things are being run in Washington. And he voted against the war from the beginning, and that was huge with Democrats. She didn’t. I understand why she didn’t at the time. I don’t agree with her, but I understand why. But that hung over her.
JAY: And in the New York area, being against the war from the beginning counted.
GREENFIELD: Huge. Huge. Absolutely.
JAY: But when you look at his speech at the AIPAC meetings a few days ago, that speech was a very hawkish speech. And I’m talking to Obama supporters, who are saying, well, it was just for that meeting. But when you put that speech together with his refutation of Reverend Wright, which was really a refutation of Wright’s foreign policy statements—chickens coming home to roost and all that—you know, who is the real Obama, I guess, is what I’m saying.
GREENFIELD: I’ll tell you why. It was an unfortunately pragmatic decision. There’s tremendous resistance to him in the Jewish community. He spoke in Florida, and a Jewish woman said, "I think he was very bright and very, you know, well-spoken, but I’m voting for McCain." And I think part of the reason is his name, which is ignorance, but his name. And his father’s from Ghana. And they believe the Republican line, where some of these idiots called him B. Hussein Obama, and they fall for that. I think he felt he needed to make that speech in order to convince American Jews, and AIPAC’s a right-wing Jewish organization.
JAY: Now, every time Obama takes a position which the progressive wing of the Democratic Party doesn’t like, so far they have found a way to explain it as a tactical necessity.
GREENFIELD: "They" meaning Obama.
JAY: No, "they," meaning the progressives, are finding ways to excuse this as a tactical necessity. So most progressives would have agreed with Reverend Wright when he says the chickens came home to roost, you know, the blowback theory of 9/11 and all of that. I mean, not even progressives—everybody believes that’s the case now. Even Bush not that long ago had a talk about the roots of the problem in the policy in the region. But everyone’s making excuses for Barack. But is there a point where people want to stop making excuses?
GREENFIELD: No, no, because they are so desperate not to have a Republican nominated. You know, I was told as a kid that the Jews who lived in the Ukraine were so badly treated that when the Nazis invaded, they were welcomed as liberators. Okay? And although that’s an extreme comparison to what I’m saying, Bush has been so horrible for progressives, for Liberals, for the country, that they’ll swallow a lot. They will swallow a lot, as long as it’s not McCain. They really will. They’ll say what you just said in quote, "Well, he had to say that." I really think they don’t care. I think he would have to say something or do something really out of line, really out of line, to make them take pause.
JAY: Perhaps the central issue facing US foreign policy right now is Iran—not perhaps; it is.
GREENFIELD: It is.
JAY: And the drumbeats for war have been there, and there’s all this speculation of whether there might be an attack before the administration leaves office. In Obama’s speech at AIPAC he went a step further than he’s ever gone before, which essentially was to endorse the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which he said at the time, if he’d been in the Senate—and very conveniently he wasn’t—but he said that he wouldn’t have voted for it.
GREENFIELD: Hindsight is beautiful, isn’t it?
JAY: Yeah, isn’t it? And now he’s saying it was correct to label the Revolutionary Guard terrorist. So he’s actually going back on his own position, which I haven’t heard anybody else talk about. Does this not disturb you?
GREENFIELD: It disturbs me as a person who reads the newspaper, and it disturbs me as a person who—dare I dream?—likes to see a consistency and honesty from a candidate. But I’m never going to see that. And so I have to—and I’m not happy about this, but I have to decide: would I ever vote for McCain? I won’t, because compared to McCain, Obama is Gandhi, I mean, in terms of peace. I mean, it’s just a different thing. Also, Obama, to his credit, said, "Of course I would negotiate with Iran. Of course I would sit down," where now you have this swaggering, inept cowboy saying you don’t negotiate with your enemies. Well, you don’t have to negotiate with your friends. This is a man who negotiated with Libya, whose vice president shook hands with Saddam Hussein, whose former secretary of defense, you know, 25, 27 years ago we helped Osama bin Laden. So, you know, different bedfellows for different times. But I’m more encouraged by the fact that he would sit down.
JAY: Well, let me put it this way, ’cause the issue isn’t whether who you would vote for. I can understand as a progressive Democrat you couldn’t imagine voting for McCain. But are progressive Democrats muting their critique of Obama, and by doing so, creating more space for Obama to be campaigning from the right? And what does that mean for an Obama presidency?
GREENFIELD: I’ll tell you what I think. That’s a great question.
JAY: And for the progressive movement?
GREENFIELD: I think there is such a deep-seated dissatisfaction with government: not progressive government, not conservative government; government. I think that as the United States, in my opinion, is becoming a second-class power because we have an anti-intellectual president who’s practically taken a broom and swept brain trusts out of here, we have a country now that is very unforgiving. And when people say Hillary Clinton is hoping and praying that Obama, you know, loses so she can run in ’12, and I think there’s a significant number of progressives who are saying if he doesn’t deliver in some way, we’re not expecting down the line—’cause we know he has Republicans to deal with in Congress and we’re not naive—but if he doesn’t deliver upon what he said, if he’s just another politician, we’ll put up someone. But it won’t be her, because putting her up as a progressive is like putting up me as a tall guy.
JAY: Thank you for this. And in part 2 we’re going to discuss patriotism. And thank you for joining us. And please join us for part 2 of my interview with Sam Greenfield.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.