Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obamamania

Comes now a young man from Illinois, with little experience in office, untested, yet with a message of change and hope, addressing the major issues of the day in an articulate and inspiring manner. Not wishing to be wed to the existing political stances, he claims his own ground. Put on a beard and a frock coat and he could be Lincoln – well, a darker version, of course.
Make no mistake, Obama represents something new, yet something very old – the search for someone fresh, getting away from a generation which seems locked in intransigent ideological battles and to a generation which just wants to fix the problems. This echoes back to JFK in 1960, yet also applied to Bill Clinton in 1992. It is ironic that Hillary Clinton would represent the old generation. As a member of that generation, it leaves me feeling older than dirt.
And how exactly do Hillary and John Edwards take him on? Hillary’s non-white-male appeal is certainly no help, and Obama goes to the heart of the Clinton base. Edwards can’t attack Obama’s lack of experience, nor emphasize his caring about the poor as a difference-maker. And of course, in any campaign against Obama, the other Dems have to be very careful not to offend his base. The tougher they are, the more dangerous it becomes. There is just no air for the rest of the candidates, not for publicity, and not for money. Speaking of money, liberals will race to give Obama money, Hollywood types will give early and often. And he was against the war from the very beginning – the magic position.
Sounds like a tough nut to crack, doesn’t it?
And yet...

Look, let’s dispense with the elephant in the room. Can a black man with an odd name be elected President? I have no idea. Can a white woman who is a polarizing figure be elected? Can a former war hero with two decades of political experience be elected? I threw the last one in there just so we can dispense with the electability concept here – John Kerry was the perfect candidate for that reason, and it ended up being worthless.
To me, the real question is should this man be elected, whatever his color? I find Obama frightening. There, I said it. He has said nothing I haven’t heard before and the people I heard it from don’t encourage me. Listen to his speech on his website and you will hear Jimmy Carter’s “a government as good as its people”, read his book or just listen to his railing against the partisanship stopping Washington from getting things done and you hear Bill Clinton’s “third way, neither liberal nor conservative”. Why is it that Democrats feel the need for these empty phrases which deny the birthright of their party? Bill Clinton’s attempt to avoid being a Democrat caused untold damage to the party, damage we’re still digging out from. Carter may be the better example here – a decent man with nowhere near the depth to handle the office. In Obama’s book, he rails against the old generation, still fighting the battles of 1960’s – big government vs. small government, and war vs. peace. Yes, he referred to those specifically. One of which, big vs. small, no one is fighting, and the other of which has never been more relevant.
When Obama was on Meet The Press, Tim Russert, in discussing his book, asked him about balancing the budget, which Obama declared was important. Russert asked him how he would do it. Obama said we have to look at every program with fresh eyes, not be wedded to the past and get rid of those that don’t work. Russert asked him which program he would get rid of. Obama ducked the question and said we should modernize the submission of forms and use e-filing, rather than paper and that could save millions. Russert pointed out that was trivial and asked again about what he would cut. He didn’t want to get into the specifics. This bold new concept is direct from the Ronald Reagan “waste, fraud, and abuse” hymnal.
This man is an empty suit. He is an empty suit full of empty words. What frightens me is that this crap works. It’s nothing new. Here’s a story for you: there is a terrific political movie from 1972, The Candidate, written by Jeremy Larner, directed by Michael Ritchie, starring Robert Redford. It’s the story of a political neophyte, a good-looking young community activist who is picked by a bunch of political activists to run for the Senate. They water down any real message to catch-phrases and slogans and give him empty, yet inspirational, speeches to deliver. In the filming of the movie, the director was a little nervous that when Redford gave a speech to an audience which was basically empty words, they wouldn’t react as he needed. He didn’t have to worry, when Redford gave the empty speech there was euphoria in the room – Ritchie described it as frightening. I am tired of empty words and calming phrases from political lightweights without real accomplishments. I want to see Obama lead on something, take some issue to have a real stand on with a real program. Vague talk about health care and jobs and a general opposition to the war in Iraq doesn’t cut it for me and it shouldn’t for you.

2 Comments:

Blogger samG said...

I have two thoughts on your posting.

1. Concepts, theology and the ideals of political parties or social movements should evolve. They/we should not be wedded to a specific doctrine but, rather, should be willing and able to adjust and refine the doctrine based upon new information.

One of the great struggles of the 20th century was between the conceptual extremes of Adam Smith and Karl Marx. The pendulum swung from one direction to the other and back again in search of the right balance to accomodate a specific society. In that context, there is nothing wrong with evaluating the efficacy of social programs which may either have fallen short of their positive intentions or been counter productive. It is a matter of degrees and not absolutes.

2. One of the standard political axioms is that the first job of a politician is to get elected. As such, we are subjected to inexact, diplomatic and non-responsive replies to direct questions. Ultimately, we are forced to vote not on specific votes or proposals offered by a candidate but on our sense of the candidates' core values and belief in the responsibility of government and it's relationship to the people it is required to serve. Does a candidate, for instance, agree with Lincoln that the responsibility of government is to provide for electorate that which they are unable to provide for themselves. Specificty would be nice but it tends to lead to candidates being unelectable.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Barry Rubinowitz said...

1. I think it is mandatory to reexamine programs and change or even eliminate them if they have failed. I would advocate a complete re-examination of our welfare system, our system of farm subsidies, etc. The point I was making is that Obama has stated that principle, but has refused to even start the discussion on any specific program. It is more fo the same nonsense we have heard from candidate after candidate, which rarely results in anything happening because they never get any kind of mandate to make major changes.
2. It is the job of leaders to lead. It is the job of those who wish to be our leaders to either have a history of leading something (Governor of a state is traditional) or taking the lead on key issues, which is what Senators can do. His fight with McCain over the attempt to put together a bi-partisan ethics bill last year was a particularly unpleasant display of an unwillingness to take the lead when it was offered to him. I see Obama's ambition, I see his charisma, I don't see his leadership skills, just his well-researched and carefully phrased feel-good positions.

1:57 PM  

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