WHY HE'S STILL THE GUY
I know this is post is inherently silly. Inserting Senator Obama into the company of Mega Man, Rick Astley, David Caruso, Jon Arbuckle (sans his cat), and one big burger... well, it's a group that I wouldn't mind hanging out with. But it's also a group that doesn't exactly lend itself to the sensible defense of one man's presidential candidacy.
I'm going to try anyways.
(and I know, I know, I know - I'm a musician, an entertainer - this is fairly aggravating to some anyways)
see, we KNEW you were just like the Arcade Fire!!
(but here goes)
Since the first few primaries, I've resisted the urge to open this blog up to full blown political discourse. It's easy to write about what you follow and my site rotation (I would be interested, I think, at some point to find out what everyone else's daily website rotation is) has slowly turned into a litany of campaign blogs. Don't tell the Detroit Pistons - I'm sure it would break their hearts. Anyways, why I haven't politically posted in over a month:
The names Clinton and Obama... you've heard them enough, I'm pretty sure, since the beginning of the year. Adding another voice to the growing chorus of "who's right? who's wrong?" would be redundant. And as a result, I think it's getting easier to tune out the real strengths of both candidates, it's getting easier to be swept away by the (increasingly ridiculous) campaign narratives:
National Security Fears
It's both exciting (I'll be honest - how do you look away? how do you not get sucked in?) and entirely too much.
So why I'm posting today... I remembered again why I like the Illinois Senator so much. To cut through the semi-hysteria, the loud shouts from both campaigns, the rising temperature of this thing.
I remembered why I still think "Preseident Barack Obama" sounds good to me.
Three quick views:
The first was written by a colleague of Obama's from the University of Chicago Law School. Not a close friend, I don't think, but someone who ought to have an alright idea of who he is:
"Those of us who have long known Obama are impressed and not a little amazed by his rhetorical skills. Who could have expected that our colleague, a teacher of law, is also able to inspire large crowds? The Obama we know is no rhetorician; he shines because of his problem-solving abilities, his creativity and his attention to detail. In recent weeks, his speaking talents, and the increasingly cult-like atmosphere that surrounds him, have led people to wonder whether there is substance behind the eloquent plea for "change" – whether the soaring phrases might disguise a kind of emptiness and vagueness. But nothing could be further from the truth. He is most comfortable in the domain of policy and detail."
This isn't the oft-advertised "rockstar Obama." This is the evenhanded thinker from last spring. When his "style" wasn't the central topic.
"This is the Barack Obama I have known for nearly 15 years – a careful and even-handed analyst of law and policy, unusually attentive to multiple points of view."
If you want, the rest of the article is unlike the treatment (both good and bad) that Obama usually receives.
Another perspective from Marc Andreessen (the co-founder of Netscape) who has only spoken with the Senator once:
"Early in 2007, a friend of mine who is active in both high-tech and politics called me up and said, let's go see this first-term Senator, Barack Obama, who's ramping up to run for President.
And so we did -- my friend, my wife Laura, and me -- and we were able to meet privately with Senator Obama for an hour and a half.
The reason I think you may find this interesting is that our meeting in early 2007 was probably one of the last times Senator Obama was able to spend an hour and a half sitting down and talking with just about anyone -- so I think we got a solid look at what he's like up close, right before he entered the "bubble" within which all major presidential candidates, and presidents, must exist."
A unique opportunity to hear from one of the last strangers to have had a lengthy conversation with Obama:
"I've spent time with a lot of politicians in the last 15 years. Most of them talk at you. Listening is not their strong suit -- in fact, many of them aren't even very good at faking it.
Senator Obama, in contrast, comes across as a normal human being, with a normal interaction style, and a normal level of interest in the people he's with and the world around him."
This is harder to demonstrate in front of crowds of 15,000.
"Senator Obama's political opponents tend to try to paint him as some kind of lightweight, which he most definitely is not. Two, I think he's at or near the top of the scale of intelligence of anyone in political life today."
His oratory skills have almost become a liability. I think it's easier to view "style" and "substance" as being an either/or proposition. It doesn't have to be.
"We asked him directly, how concerned should we be that you haven't had meaningful experience as an executive -- as a manager and leader of people?
He said, watch how I run my campaign -- you'll see my leadership skills in action.
At the time, I wasn't sure what to make of his answer -- political campaigns are often very messy and chaotic, with a lot of turnover and flux; what conclusions could we possibly draw from one of those?
Well, as any political expert will tell you, it turns out that the Obama campaign has been one of the best organized and executed presidential campaigns in memory. Even Obama's opponents concede that his campaign has been disciplined, methodical, and effective across the full spectrum of activities required to win -- and with a minimum of the negative campaigning and attack ads that normally characterize a race like this, and with almost no staff turnover"
Even before the race started, he KNEW how to answer the experience/leadership question. Just watch. Judge me on my actions. Judge me on my campaign. I think that speaks well and it shows a comfortable confidence. He knew he'd be able to run a tight ship.
(okay, now I'm just having fun)
"We then asked, well, what about foreign policy -- should we be concerned that you just don't have much experience there?
He said, directly, two things.
First, he said, I'm on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I serve with a number of Senators who are widely regarded as leading experts on foreign policy -- and I can tell you that I know as much about foreign policy at this point as most of them.
Being a fan of blunt answers, I liked that one.
But then he made what I think is the really good point.
He said -- and I'm going to paraphrase a little here: think about who I am -- my father was Kenyan; I have close relatives in a small rural village in Kenya to this day; and I spent several years of my childhood living in Jakarta, Indonesia. Think about what it's going to mean in many parts of the world -- parts of the world that we really care about -- when I show up as the President of the United States. I'll be fundamentally changing the world's perception of what the United States is all about."
Perhaps this is a different kind of hysteria on my part... but answers like these are so refreshing.
Maybe that's what I wanted to get back to in this meager defense of Barack Obama. A shift back from the "exciting candidate" to a "refreshing one." An important (necessary?) difference to me.
The entire article is here... and a nod to The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan and his blog for sharing it in the first place.
It's Sullivan's post today that rounds out this Obamathallo manifesto.
"I don't think Obama has - or anyone ever will - abolish the human nature of political life: its combat, its competing interests, its partisanship, its necessary compromises. If I thought one man could do that, I should be given a Valium and told to take some time off..."
"...we have domestic politics that have become poisonously polarized by the cumulative impact of two decades of Dick Morris, Karl Rove-style politics and have lurched from one president whose every sentence was a carefully parsed legalism to one often in total denial about the reality he grapples with. We desperately need not some kind of new politics, but a return to reasoned politics, to leaders who, even when they disagree, can rationally explain how and why. Americans know we have deeply serious problems and are tired of deeply unserious posturing. Republicans have grasped this. That's why they actually rejected the most polarizing (Giuliani) and cynical (Romney) and facile (Huckabee) candidates, in favor of a serious man, who is at least open to opposing arguments and engaged in more than partisan hucksterism and nasty minority-baiting."
"Obama is simply more capable, more trustworthy, more reasonable and less partisan than Clinton. That's all. He is not a messiah, for Pete's sake, and I'm tired of being told that those of us who support him are somehow irrational or emotional."
You can see why I'm using other people's words. They say what I feel much better than I can.
"If that is a new politics, fine. But only if 'new' means an older, calmer discourse for newer, more perilous times. That's what Obama represents."
There. That's the defense.
I'd like to think that this post was earned. If you weren't interested, of course you could skip it. And if you were... even if we disagree, I'd like to think you know there was some careful thought behind it. The attempt not to bash. The understanding that being in a small time indie band doesn't attract an audience especially concerned with our every political/ideological whim. The understanding that we really ought to put up a track from the new record soon.
So yes. With the two huge primaries today, it seemed that words like these were now or never.
And if this wasn't your cup of tea, I would like to remind you that if you scroll down a few clicks there are FREE VIDEO GAMES waiting for you.
Thanks thanks thanks.
Your previously scheduled You-Me-Go blog to resume shortly.