Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's speech

Right off the bat, let me just say that I'm not all that crazy about Barack Obama. I don't believe he is the progressive candidate that progressives think he is. Ever since it became clear that he would win the Democratic nomination, he's been moving to the center (read: right) so fast it's making liberal heads spin. He may be doing this because he's "politically savvy." It's hard to get a handle on what he really believes. If I had my druthers, Dennis Kucinich would be the Democratic nominee. Even had Kucinich gotten the nomination, it is my belief that Ralph Nader is the best candidate in this election, based solely on his stand on the issues as well as his past history in comparison with McCain, Obama or even Kucinich. But... the reality is, our next president will be either John McCain or Barack Obama. That said, well, you all know the outcome of that argument. I just wanted to clear the air before getting into the next bit.

So, Obama gives "THE MOST IMPORTANT SPEECH OF HIS LIFE", as all the talking heads have been calling it, tonight at the Democratic National Convention. I decided to watch it, despite the fact that, as I've said before and will undoubtedly say again, I'm not very excited about the prospect of an Obama presidency. I'm sure that his speech will be dissected and interpreted by "experts" and their ilk to the point where it won't even be recognizable to people who actually heard it. The rethuglicans will attack individual phrases or words in an attempt to tear him down. Truly, the only platform McCain has to run on is fear. Fear of a black man in the oval office. Fear of terrorists. Fear of increased taxes. Fear of a smart and educated man (elitist). I'm sure that, in one way or another, the rethuglicans will play on all those fears, maybe more, and they will do it very skillfully. Let's give credit where credit is due: it's the only thing that they're good at.

Enough of that. My response to Obama's speech was that he did a very good job of presenting himself as someone who is "outside of Washington." He took the bull by the horns and addressed some of those points that everyone expects the rethuglicans will attempt to use against him, and I think he did it very well. I disagreed with many, many things he said. I think he pandered too much to what he believes to be middle america. For instance, he brought up abortion and same-sex marriage without ever stating his views on those issues. I would have liked for him to have said flat out "I believe in a woman's right to choose" or "I believe in the right of one person to marry the person of their choice, regardless of gender" or something along those lines. While he had the guts to say the war in Iraq was wrong, he also said something about withdrawing troops from Iraq "responsibly" or something like that. What the hell does that mean? It sounded a little too much like Nixon's "peace with honor" bullshit during the '72 election. He never mentioned a plan for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, where we are still at war, a fact which seems to have been forgotten. Further, he talked about protecting Israel without mentioning the horror that is being perpetrated against Palestinians by the Israeli government. He didn't even say the words Palestine or Palestinian. Shameful. He talked about Iran in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable, and Russia, and ... sigh. Nonetheless, I felt he was very adept at speaking about the failures of the Bush administration, and he did it without EVER smirking the way Bush does when he knows he has the attention of the whole country, and never apologized for being ... gasp! ... a liberal. He manages to address racial issues bluntly while acknowledging and legitimizing the concerns of those who feel threatened by racial issues, which is not an easy thing to accomplish. He didn't hold back in addressing the stranglehold corporations have on government policy, or the influence that insurance companies now have on what health care you are entitled to. There were definitely moments that were inspirational, but I keep coming back to the old adage that actions speak louder than words. Then I think not about what he's saying, but how he voted and I'm not so inspired anymore. In summary, he's mostly too middle-of-the-road for my tastes, but I think he has the ability to make people believe that he sincerely cares about them and their difficulties, whereas McCain is just, just, just.... he's crazy, rich, out of touch and wrong, wrong, wrong. I think Obama may actually be able to win this election and I suppose middle-of-the-road is marginally better than ultra-right and insane. (What's the saying? If you vote for someone you don't agree with, don't be surprised when you end up with someone you don't agree with? I used nicer language than the way I have heard it.) Anyway, I don't expect great things from an Obama presidency, but I expect absolutely horrible things from a McCain presidency and Obama was very clear about what some of those horrible things would be.

Now you know ... I'm not an Obama convert. Please don't hurt me. But, I must say this: I watched African-Americans in the audience who were in tears while listening to Obama speak and I thought about how it must feel to see, after all these years ... no, centuries ... an African-American candidate for president with a legitimate chance of winning while, at the same time, there were white people cheering and applauding next to them. Quite an amazing sight. I must admit that when I was younger I na├»vely believed that I would live to see an African-American president, a Female president, a Jewish president, a Gay president, an Atheist president, etc, etc. Or, at least one of those: stars in my eyes and all that. Gradually, I came to the conclusion that if this were ever to occur in my lifetime, an African-American president would look like Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice; a female president would be someone like Phyllis Schlafly, Condoleeza Rice or Hillary Clinton (yes, even though she's a dimmocrat, I put Hillary Clinton in the same category as the other two; she votes like a rethuglican, what can I say?). You get the drift. The fact that there is an African-American candidate for president who is not just a black mouthpiece for the ultra-right (I'm sorry, but I must reiterate that, based on his record and his past statements, he's not the progressive candidate that progressives would like you to think he is, or that the right would like you to fear that he is) and seems to have a real chance of winning the election kind of blows my mind. I honestly didn't think that it would happen in my lifetime. That alone is reason to be inspired. If you were to ask me. And I know you didn't, but there it is.

A couple of years ago I hazarded the prediction that the next president of the United States would be either Jeb Bush, John McCain or Condoleeza Rice. Not because I wanted it to be so, but because I seem to become more cynical as I get older and they seemed to be the obvious choices for the rethuglicans while at the same time the dimmocrats have an uncanny ability for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. If it had been Rice on the rethuglican ticket, and if she were to win, imagine the bragging rights the rethuglicans would be claiming for electing both the first African-American president and the first woman president all in one go. Ugh. I still think it would have been a brilliant strategic move on their part, aside from her unfortunate (for her) association with the ever-increasingly-unpopular Bush regime. Boy, am I glad I was wrong about Bush and Rice. I hope I was wrong about McCain.


FranIAm said...

I agree with you that Obama is not some big progressive.

This is similar- to my mind anyway, to Bill Clinton. Bill was always a centrist in my view but many on both sides saw him as a progressive or liberal because they could laud him or hate him for this.

That said, I feel backed up against a wall. Honestly- this country sadly has no balls to elect a progressive.

And the reality is that it is a country that can't be all "their way" and/or "our way."

So sadly the middle is where it may be at for now.

Which is to me, far better than the far right we have been stuck with.

If McCain wins... I can't even think about it just now.

Good post Ed!

Ed said...

Thanks, Fran. I agree that we will probably never have a truly progressive president in this country. Too bad, but I think it's true and I have to accept that. I think what I was getting at with Obama is that so many people, both on the left and on the right, seem to think he's something he's not, which may end up being good, because they're excited about him as a result. That excitement may well carry him into the Oval Office instead of McCain. Even though Obama doesn't excite me the way he seems to excite other people, the idea of getting the republicans out of the White House is pretty exciting, and Obama seems to have a real chance. He certainly seems to inspire people way more than Gore or Kerry did. He's a good speaker, like Bill Clinton, but I wouldn't call Clinton a centrist, myself. I'd be more inclined to call him a moderate conservative, but that's a whole nother issue.

FranIAm said...

Hi Ed- just read your comment on my post. Worry not, man of peace!

Please - I said what I did yesterday and today I mock Sarah Palin.

The human condition. I am usually talking to myself. And usually not listening well.

Peace my brother!

Suzy said...

At school today -- starting a new year with a new superintendent I hope is a harbinger of changes to come in the White House -- but anyway, I spoke with Rosy about the Obama speech, and she mentioned that he has a skill for reframing issues that the rethuglicans think they own. Anyway, IF Obama wins in November, personally what I get choked up about -- in addition to the fact that he is a person of color -- is that we may be able to move beyond this culture of fear that BushCo has used to manipulate the American people for the last 7 years.

As for Obama being middle of the road -- the middle can be a starting point for moving to the left. We may never get a truly progressive president, but the last 28 years have seen such a shift to the right. Perhaps we can begin to regain some of the ground that was lost.

poodledoc said...

Progressive obviously means different things to different people. To me, the idea of a person of color, even if he's "middle of the road" and not somehow perfect (whatever that mean) trumps everything. Yes, there are things he says I disagree with as well, but if I rage about that, ultimately, it's a waste of energy. I have heard some speeches by Obama that have truly moved me to tears. Please, let's not get into long discussons of how progressive he is or isn't. Instead, please, let's get him in to the office. Let's avoid a close electoin that McCain can steal like Bush did the last two. Being engaged in this process MAY be the only way to move this country in a progressive direction. Griping about it 'cause he's not progressive enough and then doing little or nothing won't be helpful.

Suzy said...

Well, someone has got to hold his feet to the fire. Yes, I agree that he has got to win, that it is profoundly moving to be able to vote for a person of color, that sometimes we have to compromise ... but I also think it is OK to point out where he falls short. The cult of personality that surrounds him is a little bit disturbing at times.

poodledoc said...

All politicians have a cult of personality, including Ralph and Dennis. They work at pretty hard. One wonders what they are really like.....

Matty Boy said...

Obama's change is more like Harding's "Return to Normalcy". Bush-Cheney is an administration unlike any other in our history, not unlike World War I was a war unlike any war before it, and we got involved under strange circumstances.

I voted for Edwards and then he dropped out. Lucky I was wrong about that. The guy agreed with the most is and was Kucinich. Still, once it came down to Obama and Hillary, I had no trouble picking between them.

Pagan Sphinx said...

I like Suzy's take in her first comment. Obama was not my pick either and I too worry about his increasing centerism. But even if he can do is get things going on a better course, I will be okay with that and him.

About Rice having been a promising candidate for president. I never thought of her as such. I think because she's single and child-less.

gomonkeygo said...

I thought he said basically what needed to be said...but I didn't agree with a number of things he said.

Did he mention "clean coal" plants? No such thing. And nuclear? Christ, I'd hoped Three Mile Island ended that lunacy.

These are a couple. I strongly disagree with his whacked notion to continue funding faith-based initiatives. Can't remember if he mentioned that, but if he had, I'd have raised my fist tremulously, you betcha!