Early yesterday, shadowy Internet ruler Matt Drudge hyped a 2001 audio interview of Barack Obama talking about the Supreme Court’s role in “redistributing” the wealth (namely, that it shouldn’t have one). If taken out of context and spun to sound frightening, it’s a useful addition to John McCain and Sarah Palin’s ongoing campaign to paint Obama as a closet socialist. And so there was McCain in Pennsylvania saying Obama the “Redistributionist in Chief” was “more interested in controlling wealth than in creating it.” And, just this morning, Sarah Palin explaining that the difference between Obama and McCain’s tax plans is that Obama wants to take your money and give it someone else (must have been a lot of people making $250,000-plus in that Hershey crowd), and McCain wants to give you more money. Easy choice, right? Of course, there are some logical flaws to the socialist-redistributor argument as it applies to Obama.
• Matthew Yglesias contends that “the text is clear — Obama thinks you could come up with a rationale for affirmative economic rights if you wanted to, but that it would be a bad idea to do so.” [Think Progress]
• Michael Scherer points out that this argument is “problematic for McCain,” who “opposed the Bush Tax cuts because a ‘disproportional amount went to the wealthiest Americans.’” [Swampland/Time]
• Michael Dobbs fact-checks the McCain campaign’s claims about the “bombshell” 2001 audio tape, giving them two Pinocchios. Obama’s statements were taken out of context, and, in fact, “Obama says pretty much the opposite of what the McCain camp says he said.” Besides, pretty much “all American politicians, including both presidential candidates, are in favor of a progressive income tax system and welfare policies (such as Medicare and Social Security) that ‘redistribute wealth.’” [Fact Checker/WP]
• Steven Calabresi wonders if “Obama can in good faith take the presidential oath to ‘preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution’” if he supports the right to “amendments to guarantee welfare, health care, Social Security, vacation time and the redistribution of wealth.” Obama wants “to tear the blindfold off” the traditionally unbiased judge so he can “rule for the party he empathizes with most.” [WSJ]
• Jennifer Rubin writes that voters “can’t say they weren’t warned” if they elect Obama despite a “mound of evidence,” including “his primacy on ‘fairness’ over revenue collection to his ‘spreading the wealth’ remarks,” that belie his “vision of the country.” [Political Punch/ABC News]
• Wesley Pruden calls the tape a “game-changer” that McCain must use to “spell out, clearly, often and in detail, the implications of what Barack Obama actually means when he talks about how to redistribute the wealth.” [Washington Times]
• Joe Klein says the McCain campaign’s “scrofulous mudslinging” of the past day “involves a wildly inaccurate reading of remarks that Barack Obama made in a 2001 radio interview.” What Obama said is “a wildly radical notion — or, at least it was, before the American Revolution.” Obama seeks to redress the imbalance of the Reagan era, a redistribution of the wealth upwards. Calling him a socialist for supporting this “is as accurate as calling McCain an oligarch because he doesn’t.” [Swampland/Time]
• Cass Sunstein writes that, in terms of policy, “redistribution” includes things like the progressive income tax, Social Security, Head Start, educational reform, and more. “Almost all candidates for public office (including Senator McCain) favor significant forms of redistribution,” which makes hysteria over Obama’s radio interview “ridiculous.” [Plank/New Republic]
• Steve Benen doesn’t really think most voters “will necessarily be outraged by the idea of a president offering more economic opportunities to those who’ve been left behind.” What’s ironic, though, is that “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which takes money from oil companies and redistributes it to every citizen, “is about as close to socialism as America gets.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]
• Andrew Romano understands “the appeal of this line of attack,” wherein Obama is labeled a “redistributor,” but “characterizing Obama’s plan to tax the nation’s top earners at 39 percent instead of 36 percent as socialist is absurd.” Eisenhower, Nixon, and even Reagan taxed top earners more than that. It’s “disappointing” that McCain is “treating us as if we’re too dumb to understand the difference between socialism and a competing vision of the top marginal tax rate.” [Stumper/Newsweek]
• Jonathan Chait points out “that literally having … any government at all involves taking somebody’s money and giving it to somebody else.” [Plank/New Republic]
• Ezra Klein concurs, agreeing that redistribution “is what government does. It collects taxes and uses them to buy things, or give people money.” Which is why it’s “odd” to watch “the McCain campaign warn darkly against redistribution.” [American Prospect]
• Greg Sargent also points out that “[unless] McCain’s plan upon taking office is to disband the entire Federal government and fire himself, McCain is a redistributionist, too.” What this episode demonstrates is “how out of touch with the public mood McCain the Redistributor is,” relying on “a series of gimmicks that have revealed him to be fundamentally [unserious].” [Talking Points Memo]
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.