Obama, Pro and Con

Follow up to the last post — today Bob Herbert writes (behind the NYT subscription firewall),

It’s a measure of how starved the country is for a sensible, appealing, intelligent, trustworthy leader that a man who until just a couple of years ago was an obscure state senator in Illinois is now suddenly, in the view of an awful lot of voters, the person we should install in the White House.

At the Kennedy Library forum on Friday night, Mr. Obama declined to rule out a run for the White House in 2008. In an appearance on “Meet the Press” yesterday, he made it clear that he was considering such a run.

With all due respect to Senator Obama, this is disturbing. He may be capable of being a great president. Someday. But one quick look around at the state of the nation and the world tells us that we need to be more careful than we have been in selecting our leaders. There shouldn’t be anything precipitous about the way we pick our presidents.

That said, the Barack Obama boom may well have legs. During the forum, every reference to the possibility of him running drew a roar from the audience. He’s thoughtful, funny and charismatic. And there is not the slightest ripple of a doubt that he wants to run for president. …

The giddiness surrounding the Obama phenomenon seems to be an old-fashioned mixture of fun, excitement and a great deal of hope. His smile is electric, and when he laughs people tend to laugh with him. He’s the kind of politician who makes people feel good.

But the giddiness is crying out for a reality check. There’s a reason why so many Republicans are saying nice things about Mr. Obama, and urging him to run. They would like nothing more than for the Democrats to nominate a candidate in 2008 who has a very slender résumé, very little experience in national politics, hardly any in foreign policy — and who also happens to be black.

The Republicans may be in deep trouble, but they believe they could pretty easily put together a ticket that would chew up Barack Obama in 2008.

My feeling is that Senator Obama may well be the real deal. If I were advising him, I would tell him not to move too fast. With a few more years in the Senate, possibly with a powerful committee chairmanship if the Democrats take control, he could build a formidable record and develop the kind of toughness and savvy that are essential in the ugly and brutal combat of a presidential campaign.

At MyDD, Matt Stoller thinks Obama should run for the Dem nomination in 2008:

I think there are two keys to understanding Barack. The first is to look at his formative political experience, the seering loss to machine politician Bobby Rush in the Democratic primary in 2000. Before Brand Obama emerged, the Senator got destroyed by bucking the system. Losing to a machine, as Cory Booker also did, does strange things to idealistic-appearing hyperambitious politicians. It makes them a lot more wary of picking fights and making enemies, and it makes them a lot more inclined to cultivate chits and work within a system they know isn’t working.

And Obama knows America is broken. He knows it, he gets it, and that’s why he is so aggressively dismissive of progressives. He feels that he is one of us, and so we should understand why he has to have contempt for us. Here is, for instance, what he wrote on Daily Kos:

    Unless we are open to new ideas, and not just new packaging, we won’t change enough hearts and minds to initiate a serious energy or fiscal policy that calls for serious sacrifice.

Barack Obama knows we must change, but he also knows the penalty for fighting for change. This internal contradiction comes out in his sickening praise of Bush, whom he praised today on Meet the Press, or in his embrace of bipartisanship for him and his Senate buddies. It comes out in a strong disdain for progressives, be it random sneering insults towards liberals or pandering to an authoritarian pagan right-wing evangelical tribalism. He doesn’t like that we make him revisit his loss to Bobby Rush, because the last thing he wants to think of himself as is a loser, and because we make him make choices. You know, like the choice he made to not go to Connecticut to campaign for Ned Lamont, which we will remember as the unprincipled betrayal of the Democratic Party that it is. We want to hold him accountable for the dreams that are invested in his persona, and he doesn’t want to be responsible for the hope of millions, though he does want to sell a book called The Audacity of Hope.

Go to MyDD for the rest of the argument.

11 thoughts on “Obama, Pro and Con

  1. To follow up on my last comment on the previous Obama post:

    Thanks esp. for the MyDD link. That was a substantive piece, raising genuine concerns not just about youth or inexperience, but about, well, soul. I think I agree with Stoller: Obama should by all means participate in the campaign process, so that both he and we can learn more about him and see what he’s truly made of.

  2. “They would like nothing more than for the Democrats to nominate a candidate in 2008 who has a very slender résumé, very little experience in national politics, hardly any in foreign policy — and who also happens to be black.”

    So what I see here is a prejudice against blacks, as the current “pres-dent”, comes with about the same qualifications, except for the fact he is white.
    If anything, bush almost makes me feel apologetic for being white, heterosexual and male, but then again, maybe it will eventually be proven he is actually an allien ala “Men in Black”. HOPEFULLY.

  3. This a.m., I’m reading about Obama, but, whew, I’m getting an image of the cliques of high school.
    Lots of stuff about what is ‘attractive’, lots of obsessing over how to be ‘in’, a whole, whole lot of quick categorizing of the ‘new kid in school’, catty dismissals, bald-faced judgments based on first glances, competitive ‘I’m loyal to _____’ pre-emptive snarks, willingness to try hero-worship, but, especially, a swarm of reactions that seem to do little more than projects the writers’, um, staked out ‘advisory superiority’…..like a gaggle of girls intent on choosing just the perfect lipstick, or something….with each girl wanting to show off her shopping prowess….

    Probably the high school stuff comes to mind because I watched my youngest [successfully] go through a ‘new kid’ initiation. He was Montessori taught [no grades, no textbooks, no teachers playing cop, etc] and then entered the local high school, where obviously the kids knew he ‘felt different’ and ‘intriguing’. After a few weeks in this brand-new educational system, my son, one evening, quietly said, “Mom, I think they are teaching…….. memorization.” Later, in wanting to take a year off [he worked as a busboy and went off alone to Europe] before college, he said, “How do I know what I want to do, I have no perspective.”

    To his high school friends who were alarmed that he might not want to go to college after taking a year off, he said, “Look, education is like the road system, it gets you where you want to go, but education is not the territory.”

    My question is: Can this ‘new kid at school’ named Barack Obama survive the clique mentality long enough to become known for himself rather than defined by the clique projections? So, I second ChiTom’s last sentence in comment #1…..let’s get to know Obama. To steal a line from my youngest son, I’d say, “The known political roads may get you where you want to go, but they are not the territory”.

  4. We’ll have to see who the actual candidates shake out to be… I think ideally, Obama should wait until 2012 or 2016, in order to get the experience, the knowledge, the skills, and the network.

    However … we desperately need to win in 2008, and I don’t really see too many national dem figures with the charisma to get elected. If Obama is the best choice of the people who present themselves, we’ll have to use him, I think.

    We’ll see.


  5. With some excellent tested Dems around who we’d have a pretty fair expectation that they could do the job this Obama bullshit is….

    Fucking Stupid!

    Try this…

    Governor Howard Dean

    Al Gore

    Russ Feingold

    Wesley Clarke

    Obama no more belongs in this company than….

    George W. Bush does.

    And Stoller is a very sharp dude.

    Sharp enough to sink the Obama craze by ‘damning it with faint praise…’

  6. One thing I would like to know is who is behind promoting Obama; I am not inclined to think this ‘craze’ is spontanious any more than I believe in the Easter bunny. What is the agenda of that faction? If I find the agenda of the kingmakers offensive, I am done. If not, then what else does the candidate stand for – issues – voting record, etc?

  7. I disagree with A. Citizen [comment #5] on his statement that Stoller is a very sharp dude. In fact, I want to call ‘foul’ on Stoller for playing a dirty game.
    I read the Stoller piece in which Stoller wrote of Obama’s “sickening praise of Bush, whom he praised today on Meet the Press”. Last night I watched the tape of the MTP interview…..alert to hear the ‘sickening praise of Bush’ to which Stoller referred. Oops, didn’t hear it…..so this morning I read the transcript to try to find the ‘sickening praise of Bush’ referred to by Stoller [thinking I must have somehow missed it watching the tape].
    This is all I could find in the transcript:
    “SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I, I think the president is, is a complicated person. As I say in the book, I think he is a decent person, and, and the—I like him personally. I think that the president has come to approach the problems we face in very ideological, absolutist terms, and I think that’s, to a large degree, characterized how the Republicans who’ve been controlling Congress have operated over the last several years. And I think that has been a mistake. I think that the American people are historically a nonideological people. I think when we operate on the basis of common sense and pragmatism, we end up with better outcomes. ”
    Unless Stoller and A. Citizen want to find some actual ‘sickening praise of Bush’ in that MTP transcript and post it here, I will not have respect for Stoller nor A. Citizen’s judgment about Stoller’s ‘sharpness’. I do not like spin and I hate being lied to.

  8. Donna, much as I admire your commentary normally, I think you’re off here. Obama does throw obligatory praise at Bush, to wit: “I think he is a decent person…”

    What kind of decent person could engage in the things Bush has? What kind of decent person could party while the citizens in his charge suffer and die in a disaster? I could not. I’m sure you could not. Yet, Bush did. I think we’re on the same page here as regards that.

    So why isn’t Obama?

    Mind, I’m torn. Obama is an amazing and powerful speaker, and we need gravitas in our next President. But I cannot find my way clear to endorse him as long as he continues to prevaricate in deference to Versailles culture. Call me an idealist.

  9. Snowwy, you use the term ‘obligatory praise’ to label “I think he is a decent person”. Stoller used the term “sickening praise” to label “I think he is a decent person”. Your phrase changes Stoller’s term to mute the spin, but is just a gentler unexamined interpretation/judgment. Then you go on to offer a further unexamined assumption and label Obama as ‘continues to prevaricate [‘to lie’] in deference to Versailles culture’. I think you may be lying to yourself about being an idealist. Ideally, one would take some time to understand someone new before interpretation and dismissive judgments.

  10. If you want people to listen to you it’s important not to come across as not angry or strident. “I think he is a decent person” signals “what I’m about to say isn’t personal and isn’t hateful,” which is smart communication strategy.

  11. I’m completely perplexed by the Dems who’ve become entranced by Obama. This is a classic case of projection; people ascribe to Obama the qualities that they’d like to see in a president, which he may or may not possess. The point is, we just don’t know, the guy is just too green. We can say this – he’s been a relatively timid and overly cautious legislator so far, making no waves, offering nothing really groundbreaking and supporting a few complete dogs (including some really poor energy legislation) and otherwise giving us NO indication as to how he really thinks. My instincts say that under that smooth exterior is another egotistical bullshitter and equivocator, perhaps another Clinton…the male one. Hillary, now we know what we’d get with her. There’s another DNC – created trainwreck coming down the tracks for you.

    Did anybody see Webb’s response to Bush’s State of the Union? I have my doubts about him as well, but he’s the only Dem who’s had the guts to talk about class issues in this country, at least the only one who’s received air time, in recent memory.

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