Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Who is Obama anyway?

American election for President of this great country, episode number 44, seems to be underway, and I find myself actually thinking of, yes, voting for someone.

Anyone who has read this blog in the past will no doubt assume that I’m voting Republican based on my viewpoints.  And you’re probably right, although I maintain that nothing is written in stone, and I’ve been known to vote Democrat or 3rd party from time to time.

However, it’s not state secret that I’m leaning McCain.  Sometimes it’s not about issues (although he’s worlds closer to my views on most major issues than Obama is), but character and consistency of position over long periods of time. 

I’ve read articles about how he’s adopted poor children from south Asia, and I’ve noted that he doesn’t trumpet this fact.  If for no other reason, I’d like the guy.

However, while I don’t think the world is going to end if the country elected a Democrat, I find it difficult to determine just what Obama believes and what he’ll be about if elected.  Apparently I’m not the only one, as people on the left are having a tough time with it as well.

      To earn the Democratic nomination, as Fred Thompson points out, Obama ran as George McGovern without the experience, a left-of-center politician who would meet unconditionally with Iran, pull us precipitously out of Iraq, prohibit new drilling for oil, and grow big government in Washington by all but a trillion dollars. In his general election TV ad debut, however, Obama pirouetted like Baryshnikov. With a commercial Mike Huckabee could have run in a Republican primary, Obama now emphasizes his commitment to strong families and heartland values, "Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses." In this yet unwritten chapter of his next autobiography, Obama tells us he is the candidate of "welfare to work" who supports our troops and "cut taxes for working families." The shift in his political personae has been startling. Obama has moved right so far and so fast, he could end up McCain's Vice-Presidential pick.

      General-election Obama now billboards his doubts about affirmative action. He has embraced the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption saying, "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon...everything." He tells his party "Democrats are not for a bigger government." Oil drilling is a consideration. His FISA vote and abandonment of public campaign finance introduce us to an Obama of recent invention. And as he abandons his old identity for the new, breeding disenchantment among his formerly passionate left-of-center supporters and, equally, doubts among the center he courts, he risks becoming nothing at all, a candidate who is everything and nothing in the same moment. In one of the most powerful marketing books of the past few years, Authenticity, an exploration of our demand for what's real in an increasingly contrived world, authors Gilmore and Pine quote philosophy professor Crispin Sartwell about Al Gore. "Every attempt to regain authenticity," Crispin says, "only casts a new, infinitely repeated image through the hall of mirrors that is his political life and our media experience of that life." Those reflections set the authenticity of John McCain in high-relief. McCain has revealed himself to his core.

      In the defining moment of his life, McCain was willing to give everything for one thing, and that one thing was his country. Contrast that with Obama, who has told America that he is "a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world." Obama is the talented salesman who seduced one state after another saying "Iowa, this is our moment," "Virginia, this is our moment," "Texas, this is our moment," and then tells Europe, "people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment." How many times can Barack Obama sell the same moment to everyone, before he becomes Mel Brooks in "The Producers"? Who is Barack Obama? His campaign, as it reupholsters him before our eyes, says we can never know -- perhaps because Barack Obama does not know himself.

      Dreams from My Father is a staggeringly beautiful book, lyrical, powerful and poetic. It is also the story of a man who has been many men, all named Barack Obama. In his own eyes, he is one race, but also another. He is an American, but also a Kenyan. He is from Hawaii and also the Kansas heartland. He is Harvard elite, then the Chicago streets. At times he decries the very clay from which he was made, only to remake himself again.

      At each place and stage, as Barack Obama chronicles the chapters of his life, he tells us how he has re-invented himself, becoming the role he inhabits, though not falsely or in-authentically, like Bill Clinton. He actually seems to transform himself, becoming what must be next. He has been called distant, aloof and somewhat unapproachable, perhaps because we cannot approach what he does not have, a solid core. His soul seems to be molten and made up of dreams, which is at once breathtakingly inspiring and forbiddingly indeterminate. When this young man with the flowing, passionate core, when this candidate without the solid-center changes positions and transforms himself as we watch, it leaves Americans much more in doubt about who he is and how he would lead us. It also reveals an Obama of unapproachable arrogance and inestimable self-regard: He appears confident voters will appreciate his superiority regardless of where he journeys or what he becomes to meet his political ambitions.

So who is this guy.  I tire of hearing about his Chicago days, and readers (all 2 of you) of this journal know that I usually just go through candidates platforms and try to pick out what they’re saying as opposed to where they’ve been.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure in Obama’s case I can even do that and expect that he’ll follow the course he sets for himself in the campaign. 

Side note.  I was in San Francisco this weekend, and the Obama machine is in full tilt there, no surprise.  We were walking on the Embarcadero and passed some people carrying signs and buttons and stuff and attempting to engage people.  One guy saw us approaching with the kids and said something vague about how it was change for the kids or something.  I must have looked at him funny, said something brush-offy like “sure, sure”, because he mentioned that he was an economist. 

I audibly snorted.  My wife made mention to me to just leave it alone, so I did.  But should you announce to the world that you’re an economist while endorsing and campaigning for a guy who’s proposing to increase the size of government by hundreds of billions of dollars?  And with all the tax cuts he's proposing, is anything he says on the issue even realistic?  What are they teaching economists these days?

Not that Republican’s are rosy when you’re talking about economic sense, and if you’re voting for Obama because you want the government to do everything for you, or if you’re scared the Republicans are going to lock homosexuals up or invade Canada, that’s great.  But don’t claim that it makes economic sense.

Although it was San Francisco, and it was Jerry Garcia’s birthday.  The air did smell kinda herbal.  Perhaps that explains it.


Anonymous said...

So economics is a solved field then? There's only one valid viewpoint and strict adherence to it is the only means by which to proceed in the field.

Look, the Chicago school (and rational choice theory in general) is as dominant today as it was at any other period - but that doesn't mean it's the sole "logical" stricture within the discipline.

Furthermore, that's variance within chosen theory. In terms of application you essentially assume that anyone who does not embrace libertarian viewpoints is "wrong" or doesn't know what s/he's talking about; and that's just flat out wrong.
It's a bogus assumption and either you know it and enjoy basking in the comfort of solipsism as justification or you simply have no understanding of the issue you are actually addressing.

I read your blog because geography is cool, but if you are going to talk about a specific field as if you hold expert knowledge in it - actually do. Banal implications of how no one could support X while knowing about Y is childish and only serves to demonstrate your own lack of knowledge both with regards to the candidates and the field you claim determines your support.

I've voted for McCain in the past, so this isn't about "Oh please support Obama he's so great." It's about a sloppy post.

Anonymous said...

I'm not following too much the American elections, but it seems hard for me to believe that Obama is "proposing to increase the size of government by hundreds of billions of dollars"
Wow, if he's going to expense more than W. Bush, that's quite scary :)