Musing About ’08: The Obama Factor

I wrote this on December 6, 2006.

I was watching Scarborough Country last night on MSNBC, I liked Joe Scarborough when he was a Florida Congressman (R.) He was hugely popular with both Republicans and Democrats, and I like to check him out from time to time on MSNBC, as last night.

Anyway, one of the things he was pondering was a possible first female or first black president: 1.) Hillary Clinton, he says, has a harder time of it in terms of the War in Iraq because she initially voted for it, based on the evidence available at that time (it’s so easy to go back and Monday morning quarterback such decisions, huh?), and because as a woman, she cannot come across as anything but tough on defense (sad, but likely true), so that’ll put her in the “nuanced” category that strangled the potential out of Kerry in ’04 (again, sad, but true: Americans don’t like to see nuances, we like black and white/good and evil).

2.) Barack Obama who he says . . . well, like everything anyone says about Barack Obama, it sort of blurs in my memory and fades away to a gentle feeling of good will. I like that man, he’s attractive, articulate, and he seems . . . presidential. Oh, wait, now I remember: Scarborough (who I think of as “Joe” from his early politico days) said that Obama would have it easier in that regard because he has always been against the war. Always? Really? That gave me pause because I was pretty sure, even though facts about him don’t really stick for some reason, that he wasn’t in the Senate in 2003 when all the should we go after Saddam and what about the terrorist threat and oooh, there are wmd’s debates were happening . . . that he wasn’t there to vote because he had yet to be elected to the United States Senate. No small point, right? I mean how can we know what he believed or thought or might have voted since we can’t check his voting record as we can all the Senators who were actually . . . well, Senators at the time.

I guess we should take his word for it. And that seems easy to do, really, because he’s so . . . likeable, so trust-inspiring, so solid. Did I mention that I like him? I really do. I’ve seen him on countless interviews, watched him give numerous speeches, and . . . still know very little about him or his vision for this country. And that seems bothersome given all the rumors that he’s going to run for the big office in two years.

Who the heck is he and what’s his deal? Well, turns out that he’s been in Illinois politics since he earned his law degree at Harvard, and that he’s been a United States Senator since 2004. Blah blah family, blah blah happy, blah blah loving hubby. He’s (as we all know) a Democrat, and he supports . . . stuff. And he’s against . . . other stuff. Like the war in Iraq. He’s very very against it. Trouble is that he doesn’t really say much about what we can do NOW. We’re there, that’s fact. What do we do NOW, not what SHOULD we have done, nor what WOULD HE HAVE done, but what do we do NOW. Or better yet, what do we do in two years’ time when he sits his cute little butt in that big cushy chair in the Oval Office (at which point, I will be mortified that I just disrespected a future president of the United States by saying something about his heiney).

In his speech A Way Forward in Iraq Obama goes on and on and on about what’s wrong over there, how it got to be wrong, and how wrong it really is. And I do mean on and on (check it out); it’s hard to read the “I’ve watched with heavy heart” cliches, but when he SPEAKS, well, that’s different, he’s mesmorizing, hypnotic (probably why I can’t ever pinpoint him, nail him down). But this speech, well, it mostly says that he’s waiting for the Iraq Study Group to issue its report–which it did only hours ago, so people are still reading, absorbing, debating it.

Finally, about halfway down (scrollbarwise), he advocates putting pressure on the Iraqis to bring all these factions together and get peace going. That’s a great plan. I think that the way to solve world hunger is to feed all the hungry people. Let’s get on that right now. What a silly thing to say; we all know that, even George W. Bush knows that, but what no one seems to know is how to make that happen. How does Obama think this should occur? Well, he actually begins to sound very George W. because he thinks we should consult with the Iraqi government and alert them to the fact that we will begin withdrawing support troops from the region, but we should neither wait for nor care about their approval, we should just do it. And this is supposed to be a “political” solution. Hmmmm. Sounds mighty political, alright, but not global politics, more like national or even Obama politics. What do the people want? Us out of Iraq. How do we do that? Well, we just do it. Like Nike. Only with guns. Or the back tail of guns as they leave the country.

I do like what he says about keeping the troops safe, not allowing the balance of troop strength to weaken to the degree that it endangers troops still in the country. That makes sense. He also says that we don’t need and should not adhere to a “rigid timetable” for this withdrawal and that it would stop as soon as or if “military commanders” said that it should. Cutting to the chase, he’s saying, really, that it’d be nice if we could blackmail the Iraqis into peace (with the threat of our imminent departure and withdrawal of support), but if that doesn’t work (which it won’t), then it’ll be business as usual over there. Or war as usual. He’s got nothing. And he’s right about it all. To his credit, he’s dealing with the situation as it exists when he finally gets to his ideas for the future in Iraq.

Well, he does have an occupation strategy, and we all know that we’ll be in Iraq as a presence for decades to come (we’re still in Saudi, we’re still in Germany), and that is to protect the supplies, the resources, and to respond to “emergencies,” police terrorist activity, etc. All that stuff good occupying nations do, right? And he does think that we should continue to train and equip the Iraq military, and he thinks that we should send more Special Forces peeps to do just that. I’m really not seeing much difference between what he’s saying and what Bush, or even Rumsfeld, has said and done.

Obama makes another interesting assertion, that the troops pulled out of Iraq should be repositioned in Afghanastan. Uh, hello, most people that I know think they should never have left Afghanastan in the first place, and that getting bin Laden should have remained a priority (blah blah chopping off the head won’t stop the beast, it’ll grow another, yes, we know that, but still . . . it’d be good to get him, all the same). And Obama agrees. Or seems to, I mean he wants to troop up in Afghanastan, resist the Taliban (where are those dudes, anyway, does anyone know?), fight terrorism, that kind of thing.

I definitely like his idea of bringing in the entire Middle East (well, that’s not going to happen, but as many as possible) to help with this so that the region remains stable; George Bush the first did that admirably, right? Syria was on our side in the first Gulf war, for goodness’ sake, and that was no mean feat. Why the current Bush didn’t seek more support than he did or earlier than he did will, I’m sure, haunt him for the rest of his life. But it’s done now. Let’s deal with what we have, not a load of “what if’s”; Obama reserves the last third of his speech to talk about what we’ve learned (in terms of lessons, not intelligence or how to proceed), and I say, once this is all over, we can study and mull it over and muse about this and that and learn from it, for now, let’s just get on with it and clean it up.

Obama is charismatic, that’s for sure, and he seems to be the answer, certainly for a lot of Democrats, but look at him closely, listen to him talk, go to his website; if you like what you see and hear, yay!! But know who he is and what he’s about. I guess this is a sore spot for me because Massachusetts just elected a new governor whose entire platform was for “change.” That’s it, just change. No one knows a whole lot about Deval Patrick, except that he’s attractive, well-spoken, charasmatic. We’ll see what we’ve got soon enough, and I just hope it’s a good thing.

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