Monday, December 24, 2007

Krugman: Obama Attacks Edwards & Labor Unions


The S.E.I.U. is a special interest bogeyman? Paul Krugman reports on yet more troubling talk from 'nonpartisan' Barack Obama. Instead of merely using Republican frames, Obama may well be authoring some new ones. In 'State of the Unions,' the progressive columnist offers explanations for Obama's failure to capture the support of organized labor in spite of the fact that he has "a solid pro-labor voting record."

. . . Mr. Obama has lashed out at Mr. Edwards because two 527s — independent groups that are allowed to support candidates, but are legally forbidden from coordinating directly with their campaigns — are running ads on his rival’s behalf. They are, Mr. Obama says, representative of the kind of “special interests” that “have too much influence in Washington.”

The thing, though, is that both of these 527s represent union groups — in the case of the larger group, local branches of the S.E.I.U. who consider Mr. Edwards the strongest candidate on health reform. So Mr. Obama’s attack raises a couple of questions.

First, does it make sense, in the current political and economic environment, for Democrats to lump unions in with corporate groups as examples of the special interests we need to stand up to?

Second, is Mr. Obama saying that if nominated, he’d be willing to run without support from labor 527s, which might be crucial to the Democrats? If not, how does he avoid having his own current words used against him by the Republican nominee?

Part of what happened here, I think, is that Mr. Obama, looking for a stick with which to beat an opponent who has lately acquired some momentum, either carelessly or cynically failed to think about how his rhetoric would affect the eventual ability of the Democratic nominee, whoever he or she is, to campaign effectively. In this sense, his latest gambit resembles his previous echoing of G.O.P. talking points on Social Security. . .

It may be partisan to say that a 527 run by labor unions supporting health care reform isn’t the same thing as a 527 run by insurance companies opposing it. But it’s also the simple truth.

Read the whole thing. . State of the Unions

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