Sunday, April 15, 2007

Politics as normal?

There’s something about Senator Barack Obama that doesn’t really sit well with me anymore. It has nothing to do with his political allegiance, race or anything like that. It has more to do with his character, or at least the way he is portrayed in a number of articles I’ve come across recently.

Over the past few months, my opinion of the man has just diminished. Following a number of articles from various different corners of the printed media (New York Times, Time, Rolling Stone and so forth) he’s not coming across as the golden boy he was originally portrayed to be. In fact, he comes across as a little arrogant, rather than just confident.

I could be wrong – perhaps, living outside of the States, I am not getting the complete picture, despite my daily reading comprising of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the LA Times, and no British daily newspapers.

Following a lengthy, very well-written Rolling Stone article on Obama, it felt to me like the Senator was falling in love a little with his own myth or cult of personality. He’s written two books, and both of them are about himself. (Well, sort of.) Apparently, what little policy material there is in the books is “scattershot and banal” (The Economist, April 14th 2007), adding fuel to the allegation that he is a lightweight. From the same Economist article, he apparently contributed to a Democratic Party policy forum on health care with “empty waffle” and confessing that he didn’t actually have a health care policy. This in itself seems both dense (considering how important an issue health care is to Democrats) and highly arrogant – it suggests he thought he could wing it, basically, which is very much what a certain someone else in Washington seems to have been doing for the last six years. (Another hint: he lives in a big white house…)

Obama’s campaign claims to not want anything to do with Washington lobbyists and will refuse to accept anything from them. A fair announcement, and no doubt one that will go down very well with politics majors at lefty universities enjoying their being-a-socialist period (pretty much every 1st and 2nd year student in the UK too, then). But, according to the Washington Post ("Obama Taps Two Worlds To Fill 2008 War Chest", April 15th 2007), he will still happily accept help from the spouses of lobbyists and lobbyists who haven’t registered for specific clients – even though, in a way, this would mean that he is their client.

A lot is made of his financial achievements for the first money primaries. But, if he doesn’t manage to start churning out some decent, useful policies then he will just sink in the eyes of intelligent people. Certainly, if he gets the nomination but is then fumbling and slightly-vapid, then the Republicans are going to rip him to shreds.

I don’t usually believe in it being someone’s “turn” to be president, but I am starting to feel like it really isn’t Senator Obama’s turn. Perhaps as Vice President, as that would provide him 4-8 years opportunity to cement some executive branch experience, policy experience and foreign policy experience (hopefully).

On a personal note, I wish he’d stop trumpeting the fact that he didn’t vote for the war in Iraq: neither did the rest of US citizenry at the time. You can’t take credit for not voting for something you had no opportunity to vote for – he wasn’t a senator yet. Plenty of other Senators didn’t vote for the war, and while some may have, realising they were duped – as they all were, is not a sin. Admitting fault is all too rare in this day and age, it’s time people started seeing it as an admirable trait.

Maybe Obama will grow into the role sufficiently over the next year and a half of campaigning, I don't know. It's too early to tell, but it would be nice if he did. If he fills out the gaps, he could make a very good president. (Or VP - Clinton-Obama 2008-2016, followed by Obama-Other 2017-2024?)

Now that’s dealt with, don’t get me started on what Senator John McCain’s doing to ruin his chances of being a great Republican President…