Wednesday, March 19, 2008

From Wright to Left

Obama wants us to ignore the Wright controversy to stop the divisive racial discussions going on (not to sweep an extremely embarrassing association under the rug, of course) and to move on to the important issues facing America!

No problem, I say! While remaining so closely associated with Wright is probably the most baffling political move Obama could have made, it's mostly an appearance problem than a substantive one unless someone finds evidence he actually agrees as opposed to doing a lot of mind boggling things that might give the appearance that he does.


Experience:

Usually presidential candidates note their relevant experience for the job of President. Obama emphasizes that change is what is needed, not experience. A nice campaign strategy for someone sorely lacking any relevant experience, but not very convincing to a great many voters.

Now some Obama supporters may feel that it is a perfectly legitimate argument. As one poster on my blog noted: "Obama could punch a baby in the face and admit he has a heroin problem & I'd still vote for him." That kind of devotion is fairly impressive for a political candidate, whom people tend to generally distrust. Perhaps they'd only believe that Obama lacks the necessary experience if Obama himself said so?

Well here's Obama to tell you:

"So look, I can unequivocally say I will not be running for national office in four years, and my entire focus is making sure that I'm the best possible senator on behalf of the people of Illinois."

One day after the state senator from Hyde Park rewrote history by winning the most lopsided U.S. Senate contest ever in Illinois, Obama was doing his best to lower expectations -- about his roles as the nation's only black U.S. senator and a rising Democratic star.

"Look, I'm a state senator who hasn't even been sworn in yet," Obama said." My understanding is that I will be ranked 99th in seniority. ... I'm going to be spending the first several months of my career in the U.S. Senate looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work."

Perhaps he had a change of heart after he figured out the phones and find the washroom and perhaps after figuring out the hand dryer thought to himself, "Now I'm ready to lead the free world!"

Or perhaps his ambition just got the best of his judgment.

I understand the appeal of his idealism and his profound ability to present it in a very powerful way, but that'd be a good qualification for a party chairman if that's all he's got. A qualified presidential candidate who can also sell the message well is a good combination. Someone who can build a cult of personality regardless of their qualifications can be pretty dangerous.

Obama has less relevant experience for the job than George Bush did in 2000. Bush was thoroughly lampooned for his lack of experience dealing with foreign policy matters and his general ignorance of foreign policy matters... not to mention the criticisms of his military service being either lackluster or so minor as to be totally irrelevant. But we weren't worrying about war in 2000 or foreign policy crises. The primary issue of nearly every voter at that time involved domestic issues... world affairs garnered 12% of the vote and only roughly half of those voters felt that either candidate was the best on those matters.

Obama is running eight years later while we're still engaged in two conflicts and staving off others from flaring up. Idealistic domestic reform may be a popular idea among voters still longing for the economic bliss of the tech bubble before it burst, but the battle for influence in the world doesn't have a pause button and we don't need someone with even less experience than Bush dealing with those battles.


Change:

As has been pointed out numerous times by the media, non-partisan fact checking groups like factcheck.org, and pundits left and right (pun intended): Obama and Hillary are essentially the same candidate on the issues with a different presentation. Overall neither is significantly different than the status quo of the Democratic Party generally. For all their complaining and namedropping of Bush as some sort of instant applause gathering technique, neither even seems substantially different than Bush on foreign policy. Even Barack's big claim to change on foreign policy is that if he had a time machine, he'd have made a better choice on Iraq using information he gathered from the future to defend it. Is that "change we can believe in?"

As much as both talk about "bringing the troops home" they both note the details of their plans merely involve moving troops around overseas. Retreating to the borders of Iraq but still running military incursions into it when things inevitably flair up and even leaving the door open to re-establish our presence if the terrorists show up (I know, I know, "if?"). Those who aren't "out of Iraq" intermittently are to be "redeployed" to the Afghan/Pakistan border where their saber rattling against a nuclear armed country has been a bit more than unsettling to folks across the political spectrum.

Heck even with Iran, as much as they've criticized Bush for beating the war drums there, neither one of them seems firmly committed to the idea of taking the military option off the table either... to do so would reduce our diplomatic efforts to asking nicely. As much as Iran may worry about the consequences of the UN capitalizing the word sanction... I doubt any foreign policy expert feels that's the "pressure" that got them to dump their weapons development.

Perhaps there will be some change depending on how much of their various domestic policies actually pass, especially considering that all depend on tax increases during a period of time when they're predicting economic downturn... going from needing economic stimulus to economic stymieing? Will the change be to worsen the economic situation? Will they actually support nuclear power plants in their pursuit of cleaner air, or just further regulate it, raising prices that hurt the poor far more than anyone else.

Not that that problem is limited to energy policy, in spite of their support of tax increases on "the rich" (whoever that ends up being in practice as opposed to rhetoric) almost all of that money goes into government programs that do little to offset the increase of costs to almost all other industries they intend to touch. People with money may have to buy a smaller house, buy their kid a used car instead of a new one, etc. People without much money will just watch their cost of living continue to rise beyond their ability to pay. Perhaps even more drastic minimum wage laws will be required to balance out their inflationary policies, and further exacerbate inflationary trends at the same time.

So I guess it comes down to how "successful" they'll be at bringing about "change" that will undoubtedly continue many of the same old problems we face today. It's difficult to see, outside of a 2nd tech bubble, how it could be anything but a change for the worse.


Hope:

Fortunately for the voter, any rational, reasoned, evidence-backed explanation of how any of this can work is not required. Hope alone is used to justify that "we can" pull it off. I can "hope" all day that I can grow money on trees... but unless I have a plan that involves something along the lines of starting an apple orchard with a reasonable costs/revenue analysis, the odds are my hope will give way to cold hard reality sooner or later.

Hope may be all it takes for "Never Again!" to ring true throughout the world and talking about it may suddenly become effective for the first time in stopping genocides, ethnic cleansing, and other large scale atrocities. It'd be a first. But hey, even I hope that could happen. Unfortunately hope and rhetoric alone don't stop such things as we've seen time and time again. History shows us that such things go on and on while we talk and tend to end when we take action against the perpetrators.

Is this our "hope":

Obama: Don't Stay in Iraq Over Genocide

SUNAPEE, N.H. (AP) - Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now—where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife—which we haven't done," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done. Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea," he said.

...

"When you have civil conflict like this, military efforts and protective forces can play an important role, especially if they're under an international mandate as opposed to simply a U.S. mandate."

The UN will let us know when it's appropriate to take action against genocide, and with members like China on the UN Security Council I'm sure glad we will have to wait for their permission prior to taking any action on a humanitarian crisis. Is this the change we were hoping for? Continuing to say "Never again!" while watching that fail again and again and again and again and again and... you get the point.


What's Left After Wright?

Ambition, dishonesty, status quo Democratic Party policies, status quo foreign policies, a reliance on hope instead of convincing arguments to defend any of these policies, less overall relevant experience than George Bush had back in 2000, and like Bush roughly no experience with foreign policy issues to base related policy on... but if we can get him a time machine he can defend those foreign policy decisions with something other than "hoping" he's right.

The alternatives for Democrats are unfortunately not all that encouraging either. It makes me wonder if they'd appreciate the opportunity to bring Richardson back in for a second interview.



I may not have agreed with Richardson on many issues, but for a Democrat, he was the prize bass. They threw him back and kept the minnows.

The Democrats were doing much better when their Iraq strategy was snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, it's making a horrible primary election strategy... again.

No comments: