Obama’s Political Chops

The more he can do to equate McCain and Bush, the better. I think we’ll start seeing Obama’s political chops now that we are (effectively) past the primary stage. Now that he can debate someone with whom he has significant policy differences, I think we’ll get more in terms of specifics. Hopefully Hillary will have toughened him up a bit as well.

The war puts McCain in a very sticky position, rightfully, because he has wholeheartedly supported it during every step of the way. He can use Rumsfeld as a safe and convenient punching bag all he wants, it won’t change the fact that he has not admitted that it was a mistake, or a deception. And he won’t. Bush has one of the lowest approval ratings in history, McCain needs to distinguish himself from Bush, not equate. Although, I can’t say that I mind the hole he is digging for himself.

For what it is worth, I will say that this general election is going to be between two people for whom I have some respect. This is definitely a first in my lifetime. As much as I disagree with McCain in terms of policy, I can’t say that these measures would be unwelcome:

“My administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability. I will hold weekly press conferences. When we make errors, I will confess them readily and explain what we intend to do to correct them.”

Turning to a prime ministerial ordeal greatly admired by the US political class, Senator McCain said: “I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons.”

But aside from the many policy differences I have with McCain, I don’t think I could find it in my heart to vote for someone who supported the war, hence my comparable disdain for Hillary Clinton.

And while I’m at it, I should mention that there are plenty of things that annoy me about Obama. As Andrew Sullivan points out, his support for Civil Unions rather than Gay Marriage is cowardice, plain and simple. You cannot hold that position without believing that Civil Unions is a second-class citizen institution. I also believe his Iraq withdrawal proposal is reactionary. Ironically, I find myself more in line with McCain’s 100 year position, not because I want the U.S. to be there for 100 years, but because we committed to this dumbass war, and we should have to pay whatever exorbitant financial and human cost necessary to clean up our mess. Overall Obama is also a bit too much of a paternalist for my taste. He wants to help us, guide us, pull us out of our sad little lives into a bright new future. Yeah, that sounds… ok, but many of us don’t think that the government should get too deep into the morality game, whether it is Christian or altruist.

But I’ll vote for him, for one reason: he seems to be both intelligent and not evil. That’s sure as hell a first for a presidential candidate, at least in my lifetime.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Obama’s Political Chops

  1. DJA

    Hey Matt,

    Good post. RE: “we committed to this dumbass war, and we should have to pay whatever exorbitant financial and human cost necessary to clean up our mess” — I agree, of course, but we cannot begin doing this until US troops are out. It’s abosultely clear that the US presence is making things less stable, not more stable, and that things cannot possibly begin to improve until US troops are gone. No government in the history of mankind has ever been seen as legitimate whenit’s allied with a foreign occupying army on the streets, so it’s no wonder that the Iraqi government sucks so bad and that the people are in open revolt against it.

    The “financial and human cost to clean up this mess” ought to be massive reparations and humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people (once a stable government is in place), and to the surrouding nations who have been taking in Iraqi refugees… offering the right of asylum for any Iraqis whose lives are now endangered becuase they assisted US forces… stuff like that. Prolonging our stay in Iraq only means getting further embroiled in the onging civil war, helping the illegitimate and corrupt Shia government in its bid to crush the Sunnis and the rival Shia militias. No good can come of this.

  2. Mafoo

    I think what concerns me about the mainstream calls for withdrawal is that they seem focused solely on the domestic effects of the war: the loss of our soldiers, the money that could be used for social programs here, etc. The major candidates aren’t marketing the withdrawal as an alleviation of the suffering of the Iraqi people – it’s sad but I don’t think the American public cares much about that. It seems the general population wants to correct our mistake as quickly as possible and have a superficial happy ending superimposed onto the whole thing. This all sounds terribly cynical, I know.

    This isn’t to say that I think a long occupation would be any better, though. Your idea of reparations and asylum would definitely get my vote, but could it actually come to fruition? One would hope. But again my cynicism starts throbbing in the back of my head.

    The fact that recent mass tragedies in Burma and China have elicited less concern in this country than, say, one pretty white girl makes me wonder if genocide in Iraq would even be of concern to people here.

    That said, I do have some trust that Obama would have a sensible withdrawal plan that would be more based on the reality of the situation on the ground, although I don’t really know specifics of his plan. I think Clinton would base her move solely on public opinion and I fear McCain would listen to Halliburton, who I’m sure would love the 100 year plan.

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