On the political front, what do you think of this argument?:
For Obama, winning is everything, by Michael Tomasky: So we've now plunged into the turbid waters of the age-old expediency versus principle debate. Three times now in the space of a week, Barack Obama has departed from what would seem to be liberal principle: his refusal to accept public financing for the general election, his decision to vote for a bill that gives American telecoms retroactive immunity from prosecution for cooperating with the Bush administration's surveillance initiatives and his statement siding with the supreme court's conservative minority that on Wednesday voted to permit the death penalty for child rapists. Denunciations are ringing across the blogosphere.
We'll go through the issues individually. But the larger question here is about how far a candidate for president can go to inoculate himself against likely attacks – attacks that have a proven track record of working – before he's no longer the candidate you believed in a year ago. ...
Liberals don't have to be happy about these decisions, and those who want to attack Obama and hold his feet to the fire and so forth should do so to their heart's content. But it's worth remembering that a presidential campaign is one of the worst contexts in which to expect or demand ideological consistency.
Obama has, in fact, taken a number of strong stands that might hurt him. He did back the supreme court on habeas corpus rights for non-citizen detainees – not a popular position. He's against offshore oil drilling while polls are showing that majorities support it. His is a position that could harm him in the crucial state of Florida, but he's taken it. He'll presumably continue to stand his ground on opposing the federal gas-tax repeal, a position John McCain might choose to revive at some point. And he will have to defend ... his support for increasing the capital gains tax by up to 10%, as he will assuredly be attacked for that. He supports a large cap-and-trade scheme on carbon emissions that will surely be attacked as a tax on business. And so on.
I've always objected to setting up principle as a value that's oppositional to winning. To me, winning is a principle. It's the highest principle there is. If you win the election, you can do at least some of the good things that will improve people's lives in the country and around the world. If you lose it, you can't do any of them.
People will naturally disagree on which compromises are necessary and which ones aren't. What people shouldn't disagree on is that some are. ...
Are we sure these are positions of convenience rather than what he actually believes?