Sunday, January 27, 2008

It IS Time to Ask What Your Country Can Do For You

Well done, Team Obama. A victory in South Carolina last night and now an endorsement from Caroline Kennedy. The headline: Barack is the JFK of the new millenium.

It's hard to compete with Camelot, but let's try anyway.

JFK is lauded for spearheading the Civil Rights movement - and rightly so. His pet project, the Peace Corps, is still around today and is certainly a noble institution.
And yes, JFK represents a long-gone sense of idealism that has been reignited by Barack Obama.

But let's not forget that on issues of national security, JFK left much to be desired. The Bay of Pigs tipped the scale toward a nuclear holocaust, the Cold War raged on, and so did the Vietnam War.

Barack is simply not prepared to take on the threats posed to this country by the Middle East and our woeful energy policy. I simply do not see him taking a tough stand on Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.

According to Caroline Kennedy:the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.


I respectfully disagree.

Let's not forget that JFK was a philanderer and that Joe Kennedy didn't make his money selling lemonade. So let's stop talking about character in the context of the election - Washington doesn't promote boy scouts, it promotes power players. It's not fair, it's not right, it's just how it is.

And as for this comment: "Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign," Hillary's been running as clean a campaign as possible. Funny how Team Obama has been crying foul over Hillary's tactics - what are they going to do when, say, Pakistan aims a nuclear bomb at us or China, Russia and Iran team up to declare war? Are they going to say NO FAIR!?

And no, the candidates' agendas are not the same. Barack's goal is to effect from change through gosh-darn-goodness and Hillary's goal is to effect change through fact and reason. A million users on Facebook can't do what the right mix of thinkers and leaders in the Oval Office or some club in Washington can.

Being a politician is not a bad thing. And Hillary is the master politician.

I don't care about changing Washington. I care about putting someone in office who can make the system work for Americans. Washington is not Havana or Beijing or Baghdad. The system works if you know how to work it - and Hillary knows how to work it. This is not me casting aspersions on Barack's integrity or intellect, but idealism does not bring soldiers home from an unnecessary war. A war whose funding Barack subsequently supported following his much-publicized opposition in '03.

I have nothing but respect for President Kennedy and his legacy, and I admire Barack's ability to engage young Americans. But the issues facing America won't go away with nostalgia and eager college students. It's time for a hardline approach on healthcare, national security and energy. Thus far, Barack's offered us feel-good fluff.

3 comments:

James said...

Very well said. One of Hillary's speech writers could not have come up with a better rebuttal. I agree compeltely -- the President is one person and an idealist President who does not know how to work the system to push through his/her agenda will be ineffectual and dangerous for this country at such a critical time. We don't need another Jimmy Carter - a well intentioned, smart man who was a Washington outsider who got very little done in his 4 years as president. Obama would serve the country much better from outside the White House where he could add lots of value and keep people in check, much like Jimmy Carter is doing today.

ChrisinSF said...

I don't even know where to begin here, so I'm going to approach this point by point.

1.) "Barack is simply not prepared to take on the threats posed to this country by the Middle East and our woeful energy policy. I simply do not see him taking a tough stand on Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia."

You use "simply" here twice as if to will these statements into truth. Barack Obama is the only candidate who accurately predicted just how unsuccessful the invasion of Iraq would be. He's shown no less willingness than Hillary Clinton to make "tough stands" on Pakistan and China. You're reaching here.

2.) "Let's not forget that JFK was a philanderer and that Joe Kennedy didn't make his money selling lemonade. So let's stop talking about character in the context of the election - Washington doesn't promote boy scouts, it promotes power players. It's not fair, it's not right, it's just how it is."

To call Barack Obama a "boy scout" and not a "power player" is pure Clintonian bunk. He may not have the depth of experience that we find in someone like John McCain, but Hillary Clinton doesn't have that, either (nor did Bill Clinton in 1992). Barack Obama has not spent his adult life overseeing a Boy Scout den; he is, in fact, deeply familiar with the role of power in politics. How else do you think he managed to snag the endorsement of someone as powerful and influential as Ted Kennedy? Not by selling him cookies or taking him on camping trips. Obama is politically savvy, and he knows how to play the game.

3.) "Hillary's been running as clean a campaign as possible."

As clean a campaign as possible? Dear Lord. None of the candidates in either race can honestly make that claim, let alone Hillary. Do you really think that trying to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida -- after making a written promise not to pursue those delegates -- really constitutes a clean campaign? Even the Clintons' closest allies will admit that Bill and Hillary will try to do everything necessary to win, even if "doing everything necessary" ultimately means alienating everyone, including voters. Yes, politics is a dirty business, but that doesn't give everybody a free ride to throw dirt. Nor does it excuse you from turning a blind eye to Clinton's faults.

4.) "Barack's goal is to effect change through gosh-darn-goodness and Hillary's goal is to effect change through fact and reason."

Again, you're being really disingenuous here. Say what you will about Obama's style of self-presentation, but you know very well (as you admit later) that he is an intelligent, reasonable candidate with carefully articulated policies. You may not like his inspirational approach, and that's fine. But to claim that Obama's just trying to get everybody into a group hug is really oversimplifying his campaign and his appeal. Hillary Clinton is a gifted policymaker. She's been a very good Senator for New York. But to say that she alone has a corner on "fact and reason" is ridiculous.

5.) "I don't care about changing Washington. I care about putting someone in office who can make the system work for Americans."

Here, now, is the core problem of your argument. Hillary Clinton's main support lies with hard-line Democrats. She is, and always has been, a deeply polarizing figure. Her negative ratings are consistently high across the country, which means that many independents and moderates would never, ever vote for her (if you don't believe me, just take a look at any poll). If she's up against someone like John McCain, I'm fairly certain that she won't win. As much as you try to discount the way that Barack Obama inspires voters -- inspires them to turn out in record numbers, and not just Democrats, either -- you're denying the dawning truth that Hillary Clinton does not wear well on the majority of Americans. I think that she would be a brilliant Senate Majority Leader at some point -- but if she's the Democrats' nominee for President, I predict four more years of the Republicans. In other words, she's a politician, not a leader. Barack Obama is a leader. He can win. And I honestly think that if he were the nominee, he would win in a landslide.

GCL said...

Chris, thanks for the detailed point-counter-point.

You're right, I overused the word "simply." Maybe in a nod to Barack's overuse of the word change.


Seriously though, I never discounted Barack's ability to galvanize people and make the political process accessible to otherwise disenchanted Americans. That is a great thing, and you're right, it's not something Hillary could do.

And you're also right to say that Hillary is a deeply polarizing figure. But we've also seen Bush's approval ratings skyrocket and plumment over the course of his Presidency. What can Obama deliver at this time next year when Wall Street really starts to feel the crunch from all this recession talk and the bread lines start forming? The same cheerleaders will be the first ones who will call for his head.

And then he's a photo opp away from a 90% approval ratings.

In short, "likeability" does not win elections. A lot of people did not like George Bush. See my point?
To be fair, a few months ago I would have agreed with you on all of these points. I was on Team Obama for a while.

But what happened? I saw that the enthusiasm and energy of the Barack campaign was bulldozing over the issues. Much like the Bush/Gore elections. People wanted a likeable guy as POTUS, someone un-Washington.

I believe Washington is fine - it's the players who need to be changed. Barack is too new while Hillary knows the mechanisms of the capital in and out. Whether she resorts to handshakes or mudslinging it's her prerogative to win - I like that.

As for McCain -- stay tuned for my next post.

And again, thanks for this comment and for giving me something to think about.