Senator Barack Obama has been all over news media lately, and today he said he was considering a presidential run in 2008.
I’m lukewarm on Senator Obama, to tell the truth; he’s a great speaker, but I can’t tell from his Senate record if there is more to him than words.
What makes the liberal establishmentâ€™s crush on Mr. Obama disconcerting is that it too often sees him as a love child of a pollsterâ€™s focus group: a one-man Benetton ad who can be all things to all people. Heâ€™s black and heâ€™s white. Heâ€™s both of immigrant stock (Kenya) and the American heartland (Kansas, yet). He speaks openly about his faith without disowning evolution. He has both gravitas and unpretentious humor. He was the editor of The Harvard Law Review and also won a Grammy (for the audiobook of his touching memoir, â€œDreams From My Fatherâ€). He exudes perfection but has owned up to youthful indiscretions with drugs. He is post-boomer and post-civil-rights-movement. He is Bill Clinton without the baggage, a fail-safe 21st-century bridge from â€œA Place Called Hopeâ€ to â€œThe Audacity of Hope.â€
Mr. Obama has offended no one (a silly tiff with John McCain excepted). Search right-wing blogs and youâ€™ll find none of the invective showered on other liberal Democrats in general and black liberal leaders in particular. What little criticism Mr. Obama has received is from those in his own camp who find him cautious to a fault, especially on issues that might cause controversy. The sum of all his terrific parts, this theory goes, may be less than the whole: another Democrat who wonâ€™t tell you what day it is before calling a consultant, another human weather vane who waits to see which way the wind is blowing before taking a stand.
That has been the Democratsâ€™ fatal malady, but itâ€™s way too early and thereâ€™s too little evidence to say Mr. Obama has been infected by it. If he is conciliatory by nature and eager to entertain adversariesâ€™ views in good faith, thatâ€™s not necessarily a fault, particularly in these poisonous times. The question is whether Mr. Obama will stick up for core principles when tested and get others to follow him.
Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s important to remember that on one true test for his party, Iraq, he was consistent from the start. On the long trail to a hotly competitive senatorial primary in Illinois, he repeatedly questioned the rationale for the war before it began, finally to protest it at a large rally in Chicago on the eve of the invasion. He judged Saddam to pose no immediate threat to America and argued for containment over a war he would soon label â€œdumbâ€ and â€œpolitical-driven.â€ He hasnâ€™t changed. In his new book, he gives a specific date (the end of this year) for beginning â€œa phased withdrawal of U.S. troopsâ€ and doesnâ€™t seem to care who calls it â€œcut and run.â€
Contrast this with Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, who last week said that failed American policy in Iraq should be revisited if thereâ€™s no improvement in â€œmaybe 60 to 90 days.â€ This might qualify as leadership, even at this late date, if only John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, hadnâ€™t proposed exactly the same time frame for a re-evaluation of the war almost a week before she did.
The Democrats may well win on Election Day this year. But one of their best hopes for long-term viability in the post-Bush era is that Barack Obama steps up and changes the party before the party of terminal timidity and equivocation changes him.
I’m still more inclined to agree with Taylor Marsh —
Unfortunately, so far, I’ve seen nothing to imply that he is ready for the presidency.
Frankly, after George W. Bush’s reign, I want someone of deep experience in the presidency. A mature foreign policy thinker and gifted diplomatic leader. It’s a cynch that Obama outpaces Bush by a mile in intelligence, thought, curiosity and every other meter. However, he would still be a man learning on the job, having to rely enormously on his advisers. Regardless of whatever instincts Senator Obama may possess, though there’s no way to judge those talents as yet, he simply doesn’t have the depth of experience I believe is required in these complicated times. It’s simply not the time for a person that is an unknown, in my humble opinion.
On the other hand, I’d rather have Obama as the 2008 nominee than Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. It may be that in 2008 people would rather have an “unknown” than someone they associate with either the Clinton or Bush administrations. We’ll see.