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The Education of Barack Obama January 19, 2008

Posted by chuckwh in News and politics.

Note: This comment is about the real world, not the alternative history usually described by the Gore Years.

Or, maybe this post should have been titled, The Disillusionment of His Many Followers. Or, maybe The End of the Obama Movement.


It’s hard to say what will happen as a result of Obama’s newly found boxing gloves, but since one of the lures to Barack Obama’s candidacy has been, even for me (I’m in my late 40s and should know better), a certain sense of innocence, I get the sense something big will happen, and it will begin happening soon.

So far, Obama’s success, as so aptly noted in this Washington Post article, has been a result of his oratory and his ability to transcend the political divide (actually, the article doesn’t mention that, but it’s what won him a landslide Senate victory in Illinois and it’s what won over Iowans). Quoting the Post article:

After his victory in the Iowa caucuses, Obama arrived in New Hampshire more as the head of a movement than as a candidate, greeted by huge crowds that lined up for hours to hear a speech that could have been delivered at a suburban megachurch, all empowerment and inspiration.

Obama’s movement was carried by a fairly simple message. We do not live, he said, in blue states or red states, but in the United States. And the very act of his being elected would send an incredible light of hope to the rest of the world, a despondent world that got sick of George W. Bush’s message long before most of America did. Yo, Mr. Conservative: You want to stick democracy somewhere in the middle of the Muslim world? You want a real beachhead? What better place to do it than Indonesia, a place Obama called home for a significant part of his childhood? Who better to carry that message than someone who has lived there? You want the hearts and minds of Muslims, you might wanna try a place with about 200 million of them.

Obama’s message, then, is a very nice message, and it would be nice if whoever is president would be forced to listen to it in all its incarnations as he/she falls asleep every night, but the message alone doesn’t qualify him to be president. Not in these times. Not when events are so threatening. Not during the kind of times where sovereign funds are propping up our biggest banks.

Or, is it? He has stated that he can be a bit disorganized (he wins points there for me) and prefers to delegate.

Hillary went on the attack, and said, “oh my, Dubya delegated himself into history.” The history of bad presidents, she meant.

Normal people, however, would react to Obama’s confession to being disorganized and say, “yeah, me too.”

But most of all, the fallout from that discussion told me that Obama was willing to try to surround himself with smart people who would give him advice. He seems smart enough to know he can’t absorb all the minutia given to him, and that he’ll need absorption centers to deal with the massive amount of information coming his way. Hillary’s point that the current president does the same thing is a bogus one, because Dubya’s a dumb drunk who never would have been elected had the electorate been paying attention at all, which it wasn’t because it was near the end of the Clinton years, steeped in economic happiness and political, Monica-based cynicism.

Hillary exposed herself once several years ago when she trotted out a multithousand page tome on healthcare, all done behind closed doors. Her attention to detail scared the hell out of everyone, but mostly because it seemed to come out of nowhere. That sends a message to me, someone who has been paying attention to politics in America since the late 70’s, that she is too detail-oriented for the job. When she slams Obama for his desire to delegate, I am not sure if she is saying that for political reasons or because she really believes it. Either way, though, she’s wrong.

Obama is discovering that his idealism, which has driven his campaign so far, will only take him so far. And now he is fighting back against the Clinton machine.

Another quote from the Washington Post article cited at the beginning of this blog:

On Friday night there was another attack, a radio ad from the Clinton campaign in which basketball star and Clinton friend Earvin “Magic” Johnson calls Obama a “rookie.” The Obama campaign immediately produced a rebuttal noting that Johnson in his rookie year won the MVP award in the National Basketball Association finals.

The ugly truth in American politics is that you can’t win without the Tit for Tat. In fact, if you don’t engage, you will surely lose.

The only question for those who believe in Obama is, will he live up to his promise if elected. I think there are ways he can convince people that he will. He only has until the first week of February to accomplish this, though.

To that end, his closest adviser appears to be David Axelrod, who has been involved in Chicago politics since I was a kid (I’m from Chicago).

David Axelrod NY Times shot Axelrod has a long history in Chicago politics, and he helped another progressive, Paul Simon, defeat an entrenched Republican, Charles Percy, for Senator back in I think the late 80s. He’s tied to the Richard Daly machine, so the fact that Obama even exists on the national scene is no accident.

I’ve always liked Axelrod, and I’ve never been able to pinpoint why. On one hand, he seems like the ultimate political operative, and he is always in the right place at the right time (from Paul Simon to Obama!). In another era, his Richard Daly would have been defeated by a bigger, meaner machine. But Axelrod’s Daly planted trees in Chicago and did a book pact with Oprah and talked skyscraper owners into self-sustaining roofs . The West Side still looks like a war zone, while the rest of the city sleeps, but that’s not Daly’s fault. That’s a federal government thing.

I’ve never talked to Axelrod, but maybe he sees this as his big opportunity for the kind of liberalism Paul Simon had in mind.

Maybe this is what he has always dreamed of.

If that’s the case, then both he and Obama have at least a 50/50 chance.

And for those Naderites who would vote against Obama because of guys like David Axelrod, I have three words for you: Nader. Gore. Bush.

Nader brought us Bush.

If you wanna be a green, find a way to do it organically, and please do not fuck up the rest of the country. Again.

Image sources: http://tomroeser.com/blog/img/f23253/barack%20obama.jpg



1. Dave Winer Endorses Obama « The Gore Years - January 29, 2008

[…] Dave Winer, the father of blogging, has endorsed Obama, largely, if I am reading him correctly, because Bill Clinton destroyed his credibility with his attack dog mode in South Carolina. […]

2. surf2bnsun - March 25, 2008

Has Barack Obama ever been to any war zone ?
Just curious

3. thegoreyears - July 8, 2008

How is your question relevant to the discussion?

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