Friday, May 25, 2007

Barak Obama: The Reagan of the Left?

Mr. Sullivan attended an Obama event this week.

Here are some of his impressions:
The overwhelming first impression that you get - from the exhausted but vibrant stump speech, the diverse nature of the crowd, the swell of the various applause lines - is that this is the candidate for real change. He has what Reagan had in 1980 and Clinton had in 1992: the wind at his back. Sometimes, elections really do come down to a simple choice: change or more of the same?

Look at the polls and forget ideology for a moment. What do Americans really want right now? Change. Who best offers them a chance to turn the page cleanly on an era most want to forget? It isn't Clinton, God help us. Edwards is so 2004. McCain is a throwback. Romney makes plastic look real. Rudy does offer something new for Republicans - the abortion-friendly, cross-dressing Jack Bauer. But no one captures the sheer, pent-up desire for a new start more effectively than Obama.


At a couple of points in his speech, he used the phrase: "This is not who we are." I was struck by the power of those words. He was reasserting that America is much more than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and Katrina and fear and obstinacy and isolation. And so he makes an argument for change in the language of restoration. The temperamental conservatives in America hear a form of patriotism; and the ideological liberals hear a note of radicalism. It's a powerful, unifying theme. He'd be smart to deepen and broaden it.


Read the rest.

19 comments:

Ezzie said...

Sounds like a lot of excitement over... nothing. Not a single mention of substance. It's exactly the knock I've been hearing from people on all sides, including people in politics. He's trying to ride this wave of excitement without having to actually say anything until as late as possible.

Jewish Atheist said...

Sullivan's post wasn't about substance. Substance doesn't get you elected; it just makes you a good president. In other words, don't hate the playa, hate the game. :-)

Did Bill Clinton's "bridge to the 21st century" have substance? What about George Bush's "compassionate conservatism?" Neither Gore nor Kerry offered an overarching theme of hope and optimism.

As to the question of whether Obama has substance, I'm relatively convinced that he does. He was prescient on the Iraq war and he is the candidate who agrees with me the most on the issues.

Scott said...

I read this yesterday, what a well done article.

Perfectly spoke to the downfall of conservatism, and the upcoming age of big government/limited individual rights. He also nailed how out of touch with reality republicans are.

No wonder this guy is one of the few in the mainstream right that understand the appeal of Ron Paul.

I must say though, I think Al Gore can (and will) beat him.

Intergalactic Hussy said...

Substance? That's why bloggers blog...to make up for the lack of substance in politics, religion, etc. Hah!

Scott, I think you're right about Al Gore. I'd vote for him over the others...again...

Anonymous said...

Substance? Hmm. He certainly appears to have luck on his side at least. But as for anything else? To take one example a genuinely serious candidate would not have made such a howler over the Kansas tornado deaths. If Bush had made a howler like that the airwaves would have been full of "stupid" jokes, but somehow Obama gets away with it. This apparently isn't the only time he's made such a howler either, but somehow they're not getting much traction. As I said, lucky.

And as for his excuse - if he's tired enough to be making that sort of mistake now, then how tired will he be and what sort of mistakes will he be making after a year in the White House? Running the USA is not a part-time job, after all.

I'm sorry, but every time I see this guy the phrase "not ready for prime time" leaps out at me. He'd probably be a good pick as Veep and after 8 years of that he probably would be ready to try for the top job. But now?

Random

Jewish Atheist said...

Random:

One of the marks of a successful American president is how they manage to not let things stick to them. Remember how Reagan was the "Teflon president?" How Clinton's approval ratings were around 60% while being impeached?

If Bush says something stupid, it sticks because it fits into the larger story of Bush being stupid. Similarly, if Kerry said something ambivalent or contradictory, Gore said something kind of snobby (or just sighed!), Dean sounded angry, etc. Kerry, Gore, and Obama can get away with stupid statements and Bush can get away with snobby or contradictory ones.

Do you have any reasons besides his obvious misstatement about the aftermath of a tornado to think he's not ready for prime-time?

Scott said...

What does substance look like anyway?

Anonymous said...

Well, there's the way his campaign brutally hijacked Joe Anthony's Myspace page in support of the Obama campaign. I though his campaign was supposed to be about engaging with and inspiring people like Joe Anthony, not effectively stealing their hard work?

There was also the time during one debate when he was asked who he thought were the USA's three most important allies and he said the European Union, NATO and Japan. Most of the controversy in the US over this was about his failure to name Israel, but seriously - the European Union and NATO are not individual countries (the EU doesn't even have a common foreign or defence policy so can hardly be defined as an "ally" singular) and NATO can hardly be a US "ally" for the simple reason that it's a multinational organisation of which the USA is far and away the most important member. How can the USA be an ally of itself? I say again - if Bush had made a geographical howler like this, the airwaves would be full of "stupid" jokes(in fact I distinctly remember they were after he was ambushed with geography questions during his first presidential run). How many stupid things does a guy have to say before he gets a reputation for being, well, stupid?

Random

Jewish Atheist said...

Random:

Don't you think you're holding Obama to an unfair standard? Which candidate hasn't made larger gaffes? This gotcha stuff is superficial when you consider how many words a candidate speaks in a given week. Obama choked on the allies question, no doubt. But on the biggest foreign policy question of the last decade, he was the only one of the major candidates who was right, and he was right for the right reasons.

The reason Obama doesn't get tagged with the "stupid" label despite making some stupid mistakes is that he is so obviously not stupid. Listen to him talk for two minutes and that's beyond doubt. The gaffes you mention don't fit into a larger narrative, so they haven't gained traction.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Like the earlier commentator said, he'll make a great VP and a great candidate in 8 years. He's way too green- a great example was his ridiculous "verbal violence" comment after the VT massacre where he compared the shooting to job outsourcing and Don Imus.

And and as Random said, he's got luck on his side, any other candidate would have been roasted by the press for such a stupid remark- but Obama gets a free pass because he's so green.

Jewish Atheist said...

a great example was his ridiculous "verbal violence" comment after the VT massacre where he compared the shooting to job outsourcing and Don Imus.

He did no such thing. He said, after speaking about the VT massacre for a while, "There's also another kind of violence though that we're gonna have to think about. It's not necessarily physical violence but that the violence that we perpetrate on each other in other ways."

At no point does he compare the shootings to outsourcing or Don Imus's comments. You can read the speech here if you don't believe me.

The most frustrating thing to me about this game of gotcha is how a lie can be repeated over and over again long after it's been debunked. Somehow it seems that the right gets away with this more than the left does. I'll bet anybody here that if Gore gets into the race, we'll be hearing all over again about his claim to have invented the internet. Except he never did.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

I've saw the speech in its entirety when right after he said it. And after reading it again now, I stand by what I wrote- he sure comes across as comparing physical violence with verbal violence. He's not equivocating the two, but talks about the massacre and then leads into a discussion about verbal violence. Call it comparing, leading into,call it whatever you want, the bottom line is he screwed it up. He could have stopped talking or said something about gun control. Instead he wandered off onto irrelevant topics.

It's a rookie mistake.

beepbeepitsme said...

hussy

Re: al gore

Al has included a slide of Adam and Eve in his Global Climate Change presentation if my information is correct.

Apparently Adam and Eve are credible sources when it comes to meteorology and climate studies.

Of course, I am hoping that this is a joke - but who knows in christian fundie america?

http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2007/04/adam_eve_and_al_gore.php

Noodilin said...

I feel like the only reason why Obama is getting so much buzz is because he is black. He has not said anything about what he would do if he is elected (Please correct me if I am wrong), all he's been saying is "We need a Change!" I also feel like Hillary is getting a similar buzz just because she is a woman.

I've gotten tired of this "We Need A Change!" stuff. How are you going to make these changes? How will you solve these problems? What America needs is someone who can solve problems, not someone who to talk about it.

Anonymous said...

"Don't you think you're holding Obama to an unfair standard? Which candidate hasn't made larger gaffes?"

I'd be interested to hear what you think the larger gaffes are that, say, Hilary Clinton or Bill Richardson have made (to name just two rather more obviously qualified Democrats). But no, I don't think I'm holding him to an unfair standard. Most people can sound inspiring when asked to give a prepared speech, but the debate format requires a candidate to think on his feet, and the allies thing (as well as the VT thing, and apparently also an inability to remember what his own health care plan is) shows he has problems with this. Not a shortcoming you'd hope to see in a POTUS. And frankly too I'd have to say that not appearing to know that the USA is a member of NATO is a somewhat more significant mistake than not knowing the name of the president of Pakistan (one of the questions Bush got wrong which helped to cement the "stupid" meme, despite him getting higher grade scores than, say, John Kerry, who was supposed to be something of an intellectual).

As for the Joe Anthony thing - that shines a light on how Obama (or, to be charitable, the people he's hired to represent him), despite all the fine rhetoric treats the little people when he thinks nobody is looking.

As for the tornado thing. POTUS is certainly the most important job in the world. Do you really want somebody doing it who by his own confession is showing a tendency to make stupid mistakes when tired? And if he's that tired now, when the campaign has barely started, then how tired will he be, and what mistakes will he be making, after two years of campaigning at this pace and a year in the White House?

So yes, small things. But they hint at big problems. It's possible they're uncharacteristic flubs and he'll recover his poise as he gains more experience, but that's what I meant by saying he's not ready for prime time and should get some more experience first.

Random

Scott said...

This whole experience thing is a silly way for Republicans to pick apart a candidate who is clearly going to have their GOP man for lunch. American presidents have a LONG history of screwing things up for Americans AND the rest of the World. I find it very peculiar that we're going to pick now to all of a sudden hold them up to some high idealistic standard of "substance" that no one can really define.

If you read the constitution (of the United States that is) the president has remarkably little power. He's not suppose to have "the most important job in the World". That's what the KING of the United States would have.

What we need is a president who obeys his constitutional limitations. Whenever we have one of those "great" presidents who overstep their bounds we have such unmitigated disasters as the Federal Reserve system, the New Deal, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, the Iraq War (actually more congress' fault, but things have been so perverted there's quite a bit of blame to pass), and the up-and-coming War on Climate Change. (to name but a few)

To quote the good Mr. Robert Higgs:

American liberty will never be reestablished so long as elites and masses alike look to the president to perform supernatural feats and therefore tolerate his virtually unlimited exercise of power. Until we can restore limited, constitutional government in this country, God save us from great presidents."

So who's with me? Restore the Republic! Restore the Constitution! Restore th.....

I mean ALL HAIL KING OBAMA!!!11

Jewish Atheist said...

I'd be interested to hear what you think the larger gaffes are that, say, Hilary Clinton or Bill Richardson have made (to name just two rather more obviously qualified Democrats).

Okay, Hillary's joke about Gandhi running a gas station in St. Louis was clearly worse. Richardson's naming of Justice White as his model Supreme Court justice "because he was an all-America football player" was worse, especially considering White was one of two who dissented in Roe v. Wade.

Do you really want somebody doing it who by his own confession is showing a tendency to make stupid mistakes when tired?

It's not like he accidentally shot someone. He said 10,000 when he clearly meant 10. I'm not worried that he's going to accidentally lean on the red button when he starts getting fatigued.

As for NATO, it's not clear that Obama didn't know the U.S. was in NATO. Here's George Bush in 2006:

"NATO is effective, and that's one of the things that's really important for our citizens to understand -- that our relationship with NATO is an important part of helping us to win the war on terror," Bush said in a statement to reporters after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the White House.

"Our relationship with NATO." Is that much different than calling NATO an ally?

Anonymous said...

"
Okay, Hillary's joke about Gandhi running a gas station in St. Louis was clearly worse. Richardson's naming of Justice White as his model Supreme Court justice "because he was an all-America football player" was worse, especially considering White was one of two who dissented in Roe v. Wade."

You have an odd definition of "worse" then. Firstly, whilst Hilary's joke was clearly in poor taste she at least apologised immediately for it and didn't try to wriggle and in any case it didn't raise any concerns as to her grasp of fundamental policy. As for Richardson - it may surprise you, but there are plenty of people out there, quite a few of whom support abortion rights, who believe that Roe v Wade was a lousy decision with no real grounding in the constitution. It isn't a lunatic fringe belief. In any case, it appears that the main reason he nominated White was because he was an appointee of Richardson's long time political hero, John F Kennedy.

As for the Bush quote - yep, it's different. I have a relationship with my wife, it would sound odd to describe her as an ally. A relationship is something you're part of, in other words. And in any case I didn't think that the slogan "Vote Obama - he's almost as smart as George Bush!" was one that would appeal to you...

Random

Jewish Atheist said...

My point about the gaffe is that it doesn't necessarily reveal anything about Obama's knowledge of foreign policy and that everybody makes them. Obama's on the Foreign Relations Committee and, again, he was right about the war when so many were so wrong.

As for the Bush quote - yep, it's different. I have a relationship with my wife, it would sound odd to describe her as an ally.

Yes, but you are not a part of your wife. Bush said we have a relationship with NATO -- a better analogy would be you saying you have a relationship with your marriage, or with the Randoms (using "Random" as your last name.)

And in any case I didn't think that the slogan "Vote Obama - he's almost as smart as George Bush!" was one that would appeal to you...

Come on, I was just using that as an example. It's ridiculous to base your opinion of Obama's foreign policy knowledge on a single misstatement during a debate. Do you similarly discount McCain's ability because of his ludicrous statement that "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where [Wolf Blitzer] and I could walk through those neighborhoods today?"