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That Guy

obama.jpg“I wouldn’t vote for that guy!” Larry said when I asked if he’d voted for Obama. Larry’s way of thinking is completely different from that of anyone I’ve ever met; during his years on the planet he’s formed his own singular philosophy of life. Politically, he leans leftward, and on most issues he’s radical. His candidate was Dennis Kucinich, but since he dropped out of the race, Larry went for Hillary, reasoning that “At least she’s competent.”

Larry’s choice of words—that guy—lent another dimension to my view of Obama. I wasn’t a big fan to begin with, but now I went from unsure to active dislike. That guy, who seemingly appeared out of nowhere, possesses certain qualities frequently associated with hucksterism. So when I heard the results of the so-called Potomac Primary this morning, my blood ran cold: I do not trust that guy. John McCain was, for once, accurate in naming Obama’s constant refrain of hope and change mere platitude.

images-11.jpegMany if not most of Obama’s enthusiastic supporters are young people, andimages1.jpeg I understand why they feel as they do. I felt the same way about John, and, later, Robert Kennedy, and although Bobby at least had the moxie to back up the ideology, I have to admit that my enthusiasm was based primarily on the Kennedy charisma. I was 16, 17, 18 years old, and because they spoke with their tongues on fire and had sexy, dynamic personalities, I thought they were good guys. I wouldn’t want to take away any young person’s hope and enthusiasm with my world-weary cynicism; nonetheless, I have to say that Barack Obama is starting to scare me.

The Kennedys weren’t the only charismatic leaders that my peers and I became enamored of during our youth. Every week a new guru came along, dynamic speakersimages-61.jpeg who knew how to manipulate the vulnerable peace-and-love hippies. Having seen, time after time, how the mechanism of follow-the-leader works, it’s no surprise that we aren’t exactly gung-ho for Obama. Many supported Kucinich, whose politics meshed with ours; the more practical among us saw he’d never get elected and went for John Edwards. Kucinich and Edwards–and, I might add, the almost-ignored Bill Richardson–talk reality. They discuss issues. They describe, in concrete language, what they think is wrong with our country, and they propose actual plans to address these problems. They do not chant slogans and shout hot-button rhetoric designed to push emotional buttons, especially among the young.

images-10.jpegimages-91.jpegjon-edwards-4.jpeg

“Cynics can no longer say our hopes are false,” Obama said after sweeping yesterday’s primaries. I admit I’m a cynic, but that doesn’t mean I think hope is false: in this case, I think hope is being misplaced, on a guy who thinks personal history, physical appearance, facility with words, and a winning personality are enough. These may very well be enough to win elections, but they aren’t enough to deliver what Obama’s promising. These superficial qualities will not change public policy. They aren’t enough to enable someone to govern wisely.

Caveat emptor:
No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, he or she cannot possibly be worse than The Nitwit, or than John (Bomb-Iran) McCain. Ironically, that’s one reason I’m so disturbed by what’s happening: because of backlash against eight years of incompetence, war-mongering, and power grabs, we have the opportunity to elect a superb President—but the superb candidates were weeded out early. Still, should Obama win the nomination (long-suffering sigh), I will vote for him. I may even stop dissing him. But I’ll be pinning my hopes on his ability to attract and select competent, honest people to help run things…and hoping against hope that I’m wrong about that guy.

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Someone sent me this today, thinking I might want to blog about it. I might, but meanwhile, everyone should go see this video of a cop tossing a quadraplegic out of his wheelchair.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDNU3FKiIlI

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One response »

  1. I understand and appreciate your wariness for cultish figures. At this point, the worship of Obama does seem cult-like. The other day one of the New York Times columnists (David Brooks, I think), warned of the personality-cult that seems to surround Obama — Brooks was concerned specifically not with Obama himself but with the irrational passion for him that some of his followers have displayed.

    As you point out, John Kennedy possessed a dramatic charisma similar to Barack Obama’s. Yet Kennedy was only a mediocre president. He instituted the Peace Corps and inspired the space program, but he also didn’t know how to extricate us from Vietnam, he sometimes was too slow to act during the civil rights crisis, and then there was the Bay of Pigs disaster.

    It’s difficult to tell whether Obama would be a similar kind of president as Kennedy. But I’m reminded of a smart thing a young friend once told me. She was considering whether her current boyfriend was marriage material. “I think the person you should marry,” she said, in an insight that was wise well beyond her years, “is the person you can best solve problems with.”

    I want to vote for the candidate who I believe will best solve the problems facing our country. Right now, I am not sure whether that candidate is Hillary or Barack. But I can understand why Obama-mania could lead one to think there’s no more to him than passion and beautiful words. And that’s not enough.

    Thanks for your insightful comments, Steve.–MS

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