Monday, January 07, 2008

Watching the Debates/Thoughts about Obama

A couple of days ago we watched the back-to-back Republican & Democratic debates on ABC. Apparently from the NH polls since a lot of people were taken by Senator Obama's performance which seemed lackluster to me but watching them did clarify what bothers me about Obama.

When pressed about the 'change' he advocates, instead of making concrete proposals, he responded to the effect that his message inspires people to press for change and he will continue as president to inspire people with the result that the people will be empowered and change will be inevitable. His message is very short on what he has done or will do beyond inspiring people.

This notion that 'if everyone believes, it will happen' is what I call Tinker Bell politics. In the old Peter Pan movie when Tinker Bell is dying Peter looks out of the screen and pleads with the audience to clap saying if everyone believes and claps Tinker Bell will be well. Tinker Bell survived in the movie of course because the movie was following a script and the result was fixed on the film for all time even if no one in the audience clapped. The Bush administration has tried the same philosophy urging everyone to support his war plans and believe even when they are failing, contending that if only everyone would get behind the president it would work. Unfortunately in the real world there is no script and no future outcome is already frozen on film to be played back to reassure the skeptical that belief was justified. To allude to another movie, in Return of the Jedi when asked about the future Yoda replies that "the future is constantly in motion" meaning that it depends on what happens in the present. While belief that change is possible is indeed essential to changing the course of events, to change the direction events take requires more than belief, it requires effective action. We need a president who can not only inspire, but also write the script and direct the action.

When pressed further for an example of the change he advocates from his past record he presented his support for a bill that prevents lobbyists from buying meals for members of congress. As the moderator immediately pointed out however, the ban only applies to sit down meals. Members of congress can still accept meals while standing, so the net effect is that, in future, members will have to be served wine and hors d'oeuvres by lobbyists instead of soup or steak.

Presenting that slight of hand as a serious change strikes me as very Washington insider, old fashioned, political spin, BS. For all his charm and rhetoric, which is admittedly inspiring, I have yet to be convinced that Obama is the candidate who can or will take the action needed.

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