The Presence Of Absence

The British painter David Hockney, now a California resident, was known for the Non-presence of People in his paintings. Slate called Hockney’s work Shallow Lyricism.

Hockney’s painting A Bigger Splash reminds us of Obama – big splash and emptiness. “Shallow Lyricism” also reminds us of Obama and his vapid adjective laden hagiography about himself.

A Bigger Splash

Yesterday was Presence of Absence Day for Obama. It was not only the senate vote he missed. You know, the only thing Big Blogs talk about because it is about their demographic. Obama missed the Laborers Union meeting the day before too.

What about the Jena 6? Why is Obama AWOL on this issue? Reverend Jesse Jackson, frustrated with Obama, did an impolitic thing and told the truth as if to wake Obama:

“If I were a candidate, I’d be all over Jena,” the prominent civil rights activist said Tuesday in Columbia, South Carolina, the The State newspaper reports. “Jena is a defining moment, just like Selma was a defining moment.”

Hillary understood. On the high profile Al Sharpton radio show she said:

“People need to understand that we cannot let this kind of inequality and injustice happen anywhere in America,” the Democratic presidential hopeful told Rev. Al Sharpton when she called into his nationally syndicated radio program Tuesday afternoon. [snip]

The New York senator said she has put a request into the Bush administration to ask the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to investigate the case because, “we have a responsibility to confront racial injustice and intolerance anywhere.” She said she did so because she was troubled by reports that the youths were charged and sentenced in a manner that may have been inconsistent with what was called for.

Hillary was also at the NAACP convention in South Carolina with a civil rights plan and to talk about the Jena 6 on September 16, 2007:

Clinton addressed almost 1,000 people during the Charleston NAACP’s 91st annual banquet, and she chose the occasion to unveil her plans for bolstering civil rights. [snip]

“This case reminds us that the scales of justice are seriously out of balance when it comes to charging, prosecuting and sentencing African-Americans,” Clinton said. “The case in Jena cries out for a full investigation by the Civil Rights Division” of the U.S. Justice Department.

Obama was absent at the AARP debate last night. Obama was also absent at the Jena 6 rally sponsored by his supporter Reverend Jesse Jackson. Jackson was upset and made that unhappiness public. Reverend Jackson is not the only Obama supporter upset with Obama on the Jena 6 issue:

Lisa from Saint Charles, MO – I am appalled that Obama (who I have intented to vote for until recently because of this issue) has not responded more publicly about the Jena 6 situation. I can’t imagine what is preventing him from addressing this matter. I shudder to think that he feels it may negatively effect his Presidential campaign. Even President Bush – who ordinarily shows no heart or soul whatsoever – has condemmed the actions of the individuals involved and the legal system’s fallibilities. I sincerely hope that Obama changes his tune, and quickly. He needs to be a voice of moral authority on this issue. Leaving such things in the hands of Rev. Jesse Jackson & Al Sharpton is simply irresponsible. If he chooses not to speak up on this issue soon and LOUDLY, I will be forced to choose another candidate to support in the Presidential primary. GO TO JENA, BARACK. GO TO JENA, NOW!

Absence is an old Obama trait as we know. It is how Obama best loves to “vote” and “legislate”. The familiar trait came to the fore again in the U.S. Senate yesterday. But we should not be surprised.

When it comes to Obama we have the Presence of Absence and his words are the Sounds of Silence. Neon god indeed.


39 thoughts on “The Presence Of Absence

  1. Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times reports on other’s unhappy with Obama and … Oprah.,CST-NWS-mitch21.article

    “The criminal justice system has crashed on us. The energy here could help in the 2008 election because I think what Montgomery was in the public accommodation struggle, what Little Rock was to the desegregation struggle, Jena may be that to the criminal justice system struggle.”
    The day before, Jackson was under fire for deeming Barack Obama’s cautiously worded response to the “Jena 6” controversy as “acting white.” Jackson has said he doesn’t recall uttering those words, and he reaffirmed his support of Obama’s campaign Thursday.

    ‘He needs to be here’
    Still, Jackson maintains that Obama and other Democratic presidential candidates missed a good opportunity to attract black voters — a sentiment that was echoed by some of the protesters.
    “I think Barack Obama should have been here because it represents equality for everybody. It is a missed opportunity for him and for the others, but for him especially because he needs to be here,” said Barbara Banks, a Dallas elementary school teacher.

    Many who descended on Jena were college students like Jinnely Davidson, a Temple University senior who represents the “new voter” Obama has been courting.

    “We came all the way down here — 24 hours on a bus,” Davidson said. “There are about 80 of us, two buses full. I hope this march will show that black people are united and show you can’t just walk all over us — not in 2007.”


    Last December when the “Jena 6” were jailed, B.L. Moran, the 25-year-old pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, was the only clergyman who agreed to let the teens’ families meet in his church to strategize a plan of action.
    “There was a lot of fear. Pastors were afraid they would get dismissed from their churches and that their churches would be vandalized,” Moran said in an interview. “My stand was [the relatives] needed a place to meet in a Christian atmosphere.”

    Moran also expressed concerns over Obama’s absence from the protest, since Obama is struggling to lock up the black vote.

    “I feel as though it would help his race [for president]. Look at all of these people who have come here from all over the United States,” Moran said. “We have not seen anyone of his stature.”

    Obama did release a statement Thursday:

    “Today I stand with those who stand for justice in Jena,” he said. “When a noose hangs from a schoolyard tree in the 21st century and young men are treated in a way that is not equal or just, it is not just an offense to the people of Jena or to the African-American community, it is an offense to the ideals we hold as Americans.”

    But that statement isn’t likely to satisfy people like Banks.

    “So many times we are looking across the water to help people, but right here at home needs to be taken care of first,” she said.

    “To tell you the truth, I was also looking for Oprah.”

  2. The question begs to be asked. If you have to be told to exercise your moral authority are you ready to be President? If you have to be told to speak with a large constituency are you ready to be present? If you skip town and issue a rationalization about why you didn’t vote, are you ready? I think not and I feel sorry for folks who are disappointed in somebody who had made them feel better. But to me, Hillary really is the candidate of hope. As she said, change is just a word unless you have the experience and strength to make it happen.

  3. MollyJR, that is the point. It’s not a question of whether you are “for” or “against” the Jena 6 even. This is more basic than even that question. Jesse Jackson is an Obama supporter who organized the Jena 6 rally. Yet Obama does not even appear at the rally or make a big deal out of it. Same thing on Iraq. Before Obama decided to run for president he pretty much ignored Iraq too. And that is his signature issue supposedly.

    As to the move-on business, Politico asked “Do Democrats want somebody who will be above partisan fighting (Obama), or do they want a partisan fighter (Clinton)?”

    And First Read had this:

    Questions for Obama: The Democratic front-runner who didn’t show at yesterday’s AARP, Barack Obama, holds a “senior” town hall meeting in Ames, IA — that, per the campaign, brings together senior citizens and high school seniors. But if Obama is talking to seniors in Iowa today, the question becomes: Why he didn’t talk to them at last night’s forum? It might have saved him from being dubbed the forum’s “big loser” by chief Iowa pundit David Yepsen. The other question hovering over Obama’s campaign is why he chose not to vote on yesterday’s Senate GOP resolution denouncing MoveOn. Clinton voted no on it, but Obama didn’t vote at all. Obama issued a statement saying that by not casting a vote, “I registered my protest against this empty politics.” But that statement came two and a half hours after First Read asked for a response. It was a strong statement, but why not say it in a more public way (i.e. verbalize it)?”

  4. A strong statemen? I didn’t think it was a strong statement. Further, it was unbelievable. If he didn’t want to vote on a highly politicized, partisan amendment, he would not have voted on either.

  5. Hey, art, I’m trying to respond to your email but they keep being kicked back to me. Try me from another address if you have one.

  6. admin: Obama’s failure to vote yesterday was a lot more serious than you suggest. If he had stood in the well of the Senate and read a speech about the politics of emptiness and said, “Present,” when they called his name, I would believe his story. But he was a coward. He didn’t have the guts to stand in the well of the Senate when an uncomfortable vote was afoot. Already, Chris Bowers is writing that Hillary Clinton is the person who has the strength to stand up to the Republicans. Obama is simply an empty suit.

    Let’s coin a new expression: The Politics of Absence.

  7. Staff to DCDemocrat, please don’t misunderstand anything written as in any way not recognizing the seriousness of what has happened. In the last comment First Read of NBC was quoted and also highlighted that Obama made a statement hours after First Read requested reaction.

    The point is taken that Obama is pretending something after the fact. You are exactly right that Obama would have been more believable if he had denounced the entire premise of the vote before the vote, then done a dramatic walk-out. That is not what he did.

    Obama went missing (again) then the Missing Persons Report was issued. After hours of Where’s Waldo? and inquiries by the press, Obama’s crack staff got on the job and issued a statement. Obama cut his throat with seniors, African-Americans, and move-on supporting bloggers – a trifecta of disaster.

    Politics of Absence is good. Presence of Absence is good. Absence of Presence is good. How about a reprise of our old article “The Case Of The Missing State Senator” except now we can replace “State” with “U.S.”.

    If our tone suggests we do not take this seriously it is because mockery is all we have left to accurately describe the Obama “campaign”.

    We also think that Politico’s question as to whether Democrats want someone above the battle or a fighter is a good question. We posted an article a while back compariing Hillary to U.S. Grant – She Fights.

    We are betting that almost all Democrats (not PINOs), especially after this week in the Senate, want a fighter. The Big Blog apologists for Obama, if there are any left, need to be confronted with the question – If you are angry about what happened in the Senate this week and genuinely want Democrats with spine and who fight – then why aren’t you supporting Hillary? She Fights.

  8. Hi, admin: We had a rough day battling this issue over at dKos. The diary wound up with well over 300 comments. It was arm to arm combat. I am still recovering from the mud fight.

    You are an eloquent and fearless defender of Hillary, and I salute your efforts!

  9. DCDem, what happened? Do they still think BO has a chance or that there is a decent explanation for BO’s behavior these past few days.

    btw, Obama gave a major speech on taxes this week, appeared in Iowa at a seniors forum, wrote an op-ed piece in an Iowa paper – and no one noticed. The media yawned. Some coverage but compare this to any time Hillary now speaks. She is receiving all the scrutiny, all the poll matchups.

    The BO supporters are faith based so reason and rationality and other enlightenment principles are useless against them. Hopefully you will recover from the contact with the irrational. You are to be saluted for bringing light to the heathen.

  10. Obama needs to be lashed to the mainsail of the Pequod, as was Captain Ahab, and kept there until he answers, why does your ‘present’ vote actually mean, you’re “not present” at all for important issues. Where is Obama coming from? His present vote is the best he can do in support of 1st Amendment Rights, especially the Constitutional Right to dissent? One of the main duties of the Presidency is protecting the Constitution. The Constitution was left unprotected by this presidential wannabe, who didn’t have the courage to take a stand one way or the other. Would he have voted NO on the IRW Vote….NO! He would have voted PRESENT!

    Who is he, as a Jr. Senator to decide what is important or not, when the rest of the (seasoned) Senate is taking a vote. Then in a lame attempt of justifying his vote after voting present, he claims to have decided he’s not going to get involved with the “emptiness of politics”.

    A link here illustrating his history of “empty” political votes, voting “present”:


    Mrs. S,

  11. Just to add a bit of info into the operational support received by BO supporters. Daily, the supporters who have signed up to a website receive a theme, an “anti-hillary” theme for the day. Which may comprise itself of hillary slam quotes, links to negative articles, polling questions for insight into fixing whats wrong with BO’s campaign. If nothing else, they are organized as far as putting out a like message against Hillary and simultaneusly gleaning polling info for improving BO’s image.

    I have never seen the communications. I’ve just picked up on the ‘slips’ included in their posts when speaking to each other on message boards…

    Mrs. S.

  12. hey, admin: The Obama supporters came like robots to the fray and defended their guy, but there does seem to be an underlying awareness that he doesn’t have a chance anymore. Folks have started to come over here to monitor our conversations at Hillary is 44 and bring them back to the Homeworld as “damning” evidence of some nefarious plot to undermine the good, the true, and the right. I had one mix-up with a particular Kossack that turned into quite a whirlwind, but he and I have exchanged e-mails, and everything turned out alright. All the same, it was an epic flame war.

  13. DC, it is interesting I notice a certain amount of lethargy over the past couple of days, as well. And, now we have lurkers. Hello there non-Hillary people…you will assimilate. LOL

  14. BO’s behaviour is IRRESPONSIBLE. What in the world does he think his “job” requirements are in the Senate anyway? Marking himself….PRESENT? Didn’t he take an OATH of Office as a US Senator?

    The Constitution is very specific about the seriousness of the position held by Congress:

    The Constitution specifies in Article VI, clause 3:

    “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

    For other officials, including members of Congress, it specifies they “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.” At the start of each new U.S. Congress, in January of every odd-numbered year, those newly elected or re-elected Congressmen – the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate – must recite an oath:

    ” I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion[/u]; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.[2]

    Where does Obama think he is? In the State Legislature where he gets away with BS Tactics that are considered acceptable by marking himself “PRESENT” on a Freedom of Speech issue in the US Senate?

  15. DC – I witnessed some of that arm to arm combat with the guy who posted your email ect…what a bunch of loons! Hell lurkers! I agree on the lethargy over there too, the wind is going out of their sails, and do you ever hear anything about what the faithful think BO stands for ? I never get any substance if I ask for it, just that somehow because he was an organizer in Chicago he is supposed to know how to change and lead. It’s sad, but when you hear that experience repeated as much as Edwards’ son of a mill worker theme, you think…”Is that all you got”?

  16. From staff:

    DCDemocrat, that is a week’s worth of laughs. They will be assimilated.

    We will check out the fight at some time but the infighting at DailyKooks is so counterproductive it is a miracle these people have not figured out it is time to help their particular candidate and not engage in endless word battles over a war that is already over (think Japanese soldiers found still fighting the war in obscure islands in the Pacific not aware the war ended decades earlier). You are a teacher bringing Pink Light to those in need of seeing.

    It is admirable that they are loyal to their guy in times of trouble. Hillary must, by simple mathematical probabilities, at some point, for some short period of time, make a mistake or a blunder of some sort (but with such a good campaign team such a theoretical mishap will be quickly corrected). We will be loyal to her at that hypothetical horrible time too. So there is a place for loyalty and setting aside momentary troubles because you know that the ultimate goal of the candidate is good.

    However with Obama, and even to a very large extent Edwards, very little is really known about them to have such unswerving loyalty. Hillary has over 30 years of public living with which we can honestly assess her. With Obama in particular the evidence is scant that he is what his supporters think. Quite simply, using the scientific method, there is not much to assess him by and to the contrary a fair and open analysis has to send up some red flags.

    As to lurkers and others we generally do not discuss: All the campaigns monitor this site on a daily basis. Media too. We suspect that is why a lot of published articles are increasingly beginning to pick up themes from here. We have been surprised that the dolts (they monitor the site too) have not tried to bring disharmony to Big Pink earlier by all the tried and true ‘divide and conquer’ methods, which is all they have left to try to help their rigor mortis candidates.

    We’ve been very careful in what we write (loose lips sink ships and of course we all communicate telepathically when we receive instructions from the mother ship). And we have given all the campaigns some very good advice (See the article Let’s Help Richardson, Edwards, Obama, Day ).

    The Edwards team adjusted their campaign shortly after that article appeared but Trippi and Elizabeth et. al. are not very bright in these matters and have bungled the advice. They adopted the form but not the substance. Edwards is still running left, not populist as we advised (that is changing a bit and he is constrained by little money and having to keep the focus on the early primary states) and Edwards still does not get that he must get rid of Obama before he gets to Hillary. The AARP debate was a massively big misjudgment on Edwards’ part. We try to be helpful to all.

    Obama supporters must be dispirited at the very best. Think about it: in 1 day, in 1 day (emphasis, exclamation point) – Obama managed to alienate seniors, African-Americans, bloggers, and even his own collegues in the senate. Obama has only led in 1 poll ever (by 1 wittle-bitty point), and even that poll was retracted by the polling company. Now Obama is behind by 20 points and sinking to Edwards’ poll level. But at least, to paraphrase the words from the immortal Brando film On The Waterfront – he was a contender. Now Obama is just a palooka – sinking in the polls and alienating Democratic allies and groups left and right.

    The Jesse Jackson flareup this week is a portent of what is to come. In the latest news reports Jesse makes clear that he has not been asked to campaign by/for Obama. That is the backstory as to why Jesse made those controversial remarks about race, that he now denies ever making and which we take him at his word that he never said, but that nevertheless wound up in the biggest paper in the Obama critical state of South Carolina.

    Keep in mind: Jesse Jackson is from South Carolina and won the primary in South Carolina when he ran for president. So Jesse Jackson knew where his remarks would have most impact. When Jesse Jackson reprimanded Obama over not being vocal and campaigning on the Jena 6 situation, nor attending his Jena 6 rally, Jesse Jackson was sending a very clear signal to Obama. Jesse Jackson does not like to be ignored and clearly he is feeling ignored. Candidates for the Democratic nomination ignore the Reverend Jesse Jackson at their own peril.

    As to lurkers. Let them lurk, we won’t block IP addresses from access. As it becomes clearer and clearer that Hillary has the nomination (and let’s face it, a sightless dog in the deepest coal mine can see this nomination fight is over) more and more will come into the Pink Light.

    Must go now. Instructions from the mother ship coming in. Resistance is Futile.

  17. “Jesse Jackson does not like to be ignored and clearly he is feeling ignored. Candidates for the Democratic nomination ignore the Reverend Jesse Jackson at their own peril.


    I’m rereading George Stephanopolous’ book about the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign. He tells the story of Clinton going to Chicago for an introductory audience with Jackson. Jackson hosted him for a dinner in a private upstairs room at a South Side restaurant, “on his turf” as Stephanopolous put it. George described the evening as something out of a gangster movie with these two beefy, larger than life “dons” sized each other up. Great story.

    The other line in the book that made me spit coffee out of my nose was Stephanopolis describing Rahm Emmanuel coming on board in the fundraising operation. “The only thing I knew about Rahm Emmanuel is that he had once mailed a dead fish to a rival Chicago political operative.”

  18. i emailed admin on today’s ny times story on obama’s camp finnally admitting hillary great caimpaign. linking on here is not my strong suit. hopefully admin will post it here. hi hwc, you are on mydd from time to time right?

  19. Terrondt, thanks for the link. Staff is using it for today’s post apparently.

    HWC, not to be too controversial – controversy is something we avoid 🙂 but the stories about Jesse Jackson you posted are fun. In previous presidential campaigns years ago, Jesse Jackson has been given a plane and money to register votes and work for the campaign just to stop Jesse from sniping AT the campaign.

    Obama seems not to understand that Jesse wants a prominent role in the campaign and Jesse won’t take “no” for an answer. Dissing Jesse Jackson by not helping or appearing at the Jena 6 rally did not help Obama. Of course, Obama is above all these petty political considerations – he’s “transformational”.

  20. admin, i followed presidential politics from 1984 on(14 at the time) and i remember jackson allways threatning top candidates for attention(mondale in ’84.dukakis in ’88, clinton in ’92, and gore in 2000. he does this time and time again. i think 2004 he was was ok with kerry. let him be obama’s problem.

  21. jackson is a interesting fellow. in my african-american household growing up in the 1980’s watching his runs for the white house i was just about the few who did not support his run. i guess i that’s why today i just don’t go buy this “let’s support a brotha for the white house” theme from my fellow blacks. i always formed my own opinions on candidates at the age of 14 onto today. experience and whom i trust trumps race for me. even before i was old enough to vote at age 14 i supported MONDALE not jackson in 1984. my 1st primary vote in 1988 was DUKAKIS not jackson. so supporting hillary is not a surprize to my family or friends to this day becuase they know my thinking.

  22. “Obama seems not to understand that Jesse wants a prominent role in the campaign and Jesse won’t take “no” for an answer. ”

    There are lots of things about the Democratic constituent groups that Obama doesn’t seem to understand. People talk about “experience” as if it’s some abstract concept. Experience is, in many ways, the years required to build and nurture relationships. Calling in these “chits” is the currency of a Presidential campaign. Obama tried to build a house without first digging a hole and pouring a foundations.

  23. hwc, you are correct. look the way obama is skipping forums and debates from aarp. he thinks he can ride to the white house whithout seniors, poor blacks, poor whites, bluecollar working class, and union members. he thinks young voters and upscale white college grad voters will get him there. i don’t get the guy.

  24. hey, admin: Apropos of your post to me, we have received comments complementing us for our steadfast and single-minded devotion to Hillary, but the growing narrative at dKos is that we are somehow robotic. Another narrative is that we are a legion of paid staff. They do find my low User ID number troubling to reconcile with the paid staff story. I like to tell them I’ve been planning Hillary’s run for the last three years.

  25. terrondt:

    The thing that has struck me about Obama’s campaign: he’s not as charismatic as he thinks he is. I watch him work the crowds on these C-SPAN rallies and he’s just not that “warm”. Certainly not in the way Bill Clinton is. Or, in the way that Hillary Clinton is. He just doesn’t seem to enjoy politics that much. There’s no “twinkle in the eye” and voters can sense that.

    Frankly, I think adoration over his 2004 convention speech went to his head.

  26. To riff on a Hillary phrase, hwc and terrondt, experience is not just a word. It’s the school of hard knocks. It’s what is tried and true. As children we all have ideas, then we test those ideas – some ideas are solid some melt away – because as we experience life we learn lessons.

    Some people don’t learn from their experience. They do the same thing over and over and over. As HWC writes, experience is not an abstract concept. We put our hands as children on a flame we get burned – we learn (most of us) not to do that. We learn. It’s experience. It’s knowing who is loyal, who is smart, weaknesses our friends have and how to forgive our friends and strengths our enemies have and how to deal with that.

    Experience is not just a 10 letter word.

  27. DCDemocrat, what they call robotic we call message control. We basically know the ugly facts about campaigns not the fantasy they think of as a campaign.

    It is simple Obama and Edwards supporters (if you have a qualified candidate):

    (1) develop a reasonable (not delusional) campaign strategy detailing how the campaign will get enough votes to win the election; (2) then develop a message and communication strategy aimed at the voters whose votes you need; (3) repeat that message to those targeted voters over and over and over and over and over – till your tongue swells from reptition.

    It’s that simple, the rest is details.

    BTW, DCDemocrat, have you received all your checks? The accountants also need the expense reports from last month handed in. You have not told the DailyKooks your initials are MJP have you? Keep that quiet. If they find out we have planted Sleeper agents on the blogs years ago it could expose the entire master plan of our interplanetary lords – the lizard people.

  28. hwc,

    “I’m rereading George Stephanopolous’ book about the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign.”

    Just as a heads-up, I wouldn’t take everything in the Stephanopoulos book as gospel.

  29. hwc, that’s it. that speech then people started drooling over this guy like he is the second coming of jesus christ. it was ok. mario cuomo’s 1984 democratic convention keynote speech was among the best i have ever heard. everyone here remember in 2005 obma told russert on mtp he will not run. but people were pumping up his head and ears that he was the black jfk. he can’t hold jfk’s jock.

  30. DCDem, your posts at dKos are good, and always on message. They make me nuts with how stupid they are. It’s like the lowest common denominator of our party (and more than a few DINO’s) show up there to engage in a giant bitchfest. Maybe they ought to look at how their candidates act just like them and maybe correlate that into poll results (i.e. Handsome Johnny and Stinky’s polls are low bc they are always emphasizing the negative just like their supports on dKos and Mydd). That’s a problem that the voting public that is just tuning in post-Labor day are immediately noticing.

    As for Stinky, he’s run out of steam. His non-action in the polls and on the campaign trail is catching up with him. Edwards is capitalizing on it. When B.O. overshot and overestimated what Oprah’s support would translate into in voter support (he got cash, sure, but he got no voter love), His Usher fundraising/no show gaffe this week underlines my previous comments about him being entirely ego driven and preferring the company of sycophants to hard work. He shouldn’t be running for POTUS but instead president of his own mutual admiration society.

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