February 5, 2008

Talkin' Super Tuesday

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It’s difficult for me to imagine that it has already been almost four years since I was introduced to now-senator Barack Obama. I remember it clearly–my government teacher at the time, Mr. Martin Lichter, walked into our class that daymoved by a speech the previous night. The speech, broadcast from the Democratic convention that would choose John Kerry to run against the incumbent President Bush, was a moment of greatness.
There was no question that Kerry would lose–the senator was -and continues to be- dull and uninspiring. But, it was at his nominating convention that the Democrats realized they had the exact opposite on their hands. Obama took the stage as an unknown Illinois state senator and left as a national celebrity. I, as a high school senior, knew immediately after watching Obama speak that this young man would be something special. I think everyone who saw that speech felt the same way. It was apparent that if Obama would bide his time, he most certainly would be President in 2016 if not 2012.

Barak Obama, 2004 National Democratic Convention
Obama, however, didn’t feel like waiting. Millions felt the same. And so, with “Al Gore level” grassroots support for his candidacy, Barack decided to give it a go. With words now synonymous with his candidacy, Obama told those who had come to his announcement, “In my heart I know you didn’t come here just for me, you came here because you believe in what this country can be. In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope.”
It wasn’t just his message but his whole persona that carried Obama to the point he is at now.. Obama was –and is- more than just a likeable guyhe’s someone with the ability to inspire, big time. In a political system so saturated with stiff fakes whose smiles are put-on and words are half-heartedly spoken, Obama represents? a glimmer of hope. He has taken that glimmer all the way to Super Tuesday, with a chance to capture the democratic nomination.
What makes Obama’s message so powerful is that when you listen to him, you actually believe in what he’s saying, but more importantly- you believe he believes it too. Obama is all business–he knows what he’s made of and will leave nothing on the table. His work on the Harvard law review demonstrated an ability to work with all kinds of people with all kinds of viewpoints, an ability mainly due to the tremendous charisma and optimism that he exudes. This ability is necessary not only in a highly partisan U.S .political system but inforeign relations as well.
Barack is so charismatic, in fact, that Joe Biden went on to call him an “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Biden later took hits for the “clean” reference which could be looked at as slightly racist. What was really notable, however, was Obama’s response. When asked about his feelings towards Biden, Obama described a phone call: “He called me,” Obama said. “I told him it wasn’t necessary. We have got more important things to worry about.” It hard to believe that a a politician would eschew easy political points for the high road.
Obama is the type of guy that everything goes right for, and for good reason. He’s the type of person who comes along once in a generation and is capable of capturing the hearts and minds of not only this nation, but the world. Never has there been a time in American history when a person such as Obama was needed as much as he is now.
Roger Cohen gets it. In a November 15th article for the Times he writes that Obama has the potential to be the first truly globalized American President. Cohen pushes the point home by describing Obama as “the Democratic candidate with a Kenyan father, a Kansan mother, an Indonesian stepfather, a childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia and impressionable experience of the Muslim world.”
Let’s be honest, the next President is going to have a lot to deal with after George Bush leaves office and, while experience is nice, it’s going to take more than that to solve out problems. (Nick Kristof points out that if experience was defining factor, Dick Cheney should be the next President.) What it’s really going to take is the ability to work with other nations that we may have ticked off and to show the world we care about more than just our own well-being. Cohen describes this principle saying “Obama, in many ways, is where the world is going. He embodies interconnectedness where the Bush administration has projected separateness.”
In America today, we can’t afford separateness. It’s already acknowledged that we’re on the decline and a refusal to work with other nations will surely lead us down the pipes faster.
There is one downside however: Obama’s eagerness may lead him to take brash moves such as declaring he would not respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. He also seems eager to talk to Achmedinijad of Iran in person but, as Hillary pointed out, the dialogue would probably be better off being handled by top administration members. As long as Obama surrounds himself with the right advisors to keep these impulses in check, he should do a fine job as the President of the U.S.
Let’s face it–our country is not doing too well right now. We’ve got a terrible war in Iraq (that everyone seems to have forgotten about) and a loan crisis developin while thean administration stays set on choking the middle and working classes till there’s nothing left. Well, nothing is left and the time has come to change course. Both Hillary and Obama would help loosen the Republican chokehold on these lower classes but only Obama, in my opinion, would be able to do so while keeping relations with the Republicans strong and building up America’s image throughout the globe. I’d rather have more choices, but given what I’ve got, Obama is the one I’ll be voting for tomorrow. At worst, he’ll lapse into the petty Washington politics he so decries; at best, I’ll be telling my children about a President named Obama just as our parents tell us about a President named Kennedy.