Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Barack Obama: Savvy or Sellout

Okay, that headline is a little harsh. Regular readers of this blog know that I am a strong supporter of Barack Obama and that I am realistic about what he can do as president, what he can't do and what I need to do as an American citizen to hold him accountable.

Barack Obama is not the Messiah. I worry about the folks who appear to think troops will come home from Iraq, our international problems will disappear, we'll all get raises and tax refunds, and reparations checks will be in the mail, within hours of Obama winning the presidency. The reality of politics is that change takes time, it takes sacrifice, and sometimes it takes compromising and getting a little less (maybe a lot less) than you hope for. Read more...

Barack Obama is a politician--a smart politician with noble ideas that may change the fabric of government--but a politician all the same. It doesn't surprise me when Obama does what politicians do, but sometimes it disappoints me. Case in point: His reaction to Gen. Wesley Clark's recent remarks about John McCain.

Here is what Clark said:

Gen. Clark is absolutely right. Service in the military is not the same thing as executive experience, and donning a military uniform does not automatically make one beyond criticism on issues of national security and international relations. What kind of "land of the free" are we if we are not allowed to realistically evaluate a member of the military industrial complex...if we, without thought, trust anyone in shiny stars, stripes and badges? That is not the America that I believe in. Blind allegiance is death on a democracy, and true patriots know it.

Of course, it doesn't surprise me that the right wing, abetted by the mainstream media, have gone along with the ridiculous notion of the McCain campaign that Clark's comments represent a "swift boating" of the Arizona senator--some sort of attack on God, country, the military and McCain's Vietnam service. Never mind that Clark himself is a retired general. Does any thinking person really believe that Clark, a career Army man who served in Vietnam and the Balkans, disdains the military or takes service during wartime lightly? I think most people know better, but why should reason get in the way of ratings-driving controversy or Republican talking points?

Yes, in this latest "controversy" neither the right nor the MSM disappointed my low expectations. But Obama's reaction disappointed me plenty (about 1 min. 22 sec. in):

Now, it could just be that the media is framing Obama's speech as a rebuttal to Clark and a distancing from the surrogate's comments. I hope so. I hope that Obama is not giving credence to the damaging belief that patriotism means never questioning someone who has worn a military uniform. That is the patriotism of people who believe that showing love of country means waving flags, donning pins and affixing yellow stickers to your car, not protecting democracy, understanding what is going on beyond your borders, making sure never to risk the life of a man or woman in uniform unless absolutely necessary, and taking care of veterans when their service is done (BTW, Obama supported the GI Bill; McCain not so much). I hope that, like my husband believes, Obama is playing the political game, allowing his surrogate to take the heat for speaking some truth that the candidate wants to say but can't.

Maybe Barack Obama is doing what he has to do, but I submit that this is an area of the political arena where I would like to see some of that "change" my candidate promises. Four years ago, I waited for John Kerry to call the Republicans on their bullshit, including their unpatriotic attacks on his patriotism. He never did. Kerry let the other side define him and define what it means to be an American. He lost the election and we got four more years of the Age of Anti-Reason. I don't want that to happen again.

Sen. Obama, I understand that you are working within the system. I understand that you are a politician, not a radical. But the politicians that I really appreciate know when to be politic and when to speak the unvarnished truth. You missed a chance to show that you can do this. As a supporter, I hope you'll do better next time.


MacDaddy said...

What Gen. Wesley Clark said is correct. But Barack is trying to stay clear of any perception of smearing McCain. Besides being political, it's also being in his self-interest. Obama is saying "I didn't swiftboat McCain. So don't swiftboat me." But they're going to swiftboat him anyway. So, he should have stood his ground, I think.

Like you, I know he's constrained within America's conservative political system. But I'm still waiting for a little change I can believe in.

Anonymous said...

I feel much as you do about Barack Obama. Before he's anything else, let's not forget he's a politician and even though I really like him I'm not putting him up on a fantasy pedestal and have hissy fits every time he does something mere politicians do. Politics is a mean dirty business and for Obama to get where he now stands he's had to be a bit of a shape shifter. So be it, he's STILL heads above what we've had and will have in McCain. He's going to have to do something far worse than nudge his positions more to the center to lose my support.
Peace, Quackers

Evan Carden said...

I have to admit I find things like this, and his vote on FISA a bit unfortunate. Okay, a lot unfortunate, especially given his 'I am not a usual politican,' line.

On the other hand, we could do a lot worse than someone with liberal ideals who can beat the Republicans at their own game.

Of course, he's opening himself up for attacks on flip-flopping (ala Senator Kerry) but I think the Republicans are going to want to steer clear of that tactic this year, unless they want endless rounds of Senator McCain's various position to hit the air.

rikyrah said...

I believe General Clark was right in what he said. My thing is, he shouldn't have said it. IF he wanted to be a good partisan, there are so many other things that HE, being a former GENERAL, could attack McCain on.

1. He could attack McCain on the ' elitist' charge - throw it back in McCain's face. After all, the 'average' soldier is NOT the son and grandson of Admirals that only got into ANNAPOLIS because of their 'pull'.

2. He could attack McCain on his VOTING RECORD of being crummy towards the average soldier. Of consistently taking positions that HURT the average soldier.

3. He could have attacked McCain on a) NOT supporting the New G.I. Bill (relating it back to McCain the elitist) and b)LYING about that he DID support it, when the truth is McCain didn't even vote on the bill.

See, these are things that can't be disputed. These are things that allow no wiggle room and allow for no where for McCain to hide or blowback.

BUt, Clark went and chose something where the GOP could scurry and run up in the flag. It just wasn't SMART of Clark.

There are PLENTY of ways to actually use the military against McCain.

Clark's way wasn't one of them.


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