In defence of Barack Obama

I don't really have a position on the American presidential candidates. But I don't want to go along with the trend amongst some of my political bedfellows to reject Barack Obama because of the Josiah Wright issue (covered, actually, by Jogo on this blog long before it became a big issue).

So, as a counter-weight, here are some of my political bedfellows who are more pro-Obama: Martin M, Martin in the Margins and Norm. And this fantastic piece of writing by Brit abroad Jonathan Raban.


Alan Johnson is also a Eurstonite admirer of Obama's:

He considers him an antidote to the Indecent left.

Yet I keep asking: Obama has denounced Farrakhan, rejected Wright's rhetorical sins (but Christian like, not the sinner...), expressed sympathy for Israel's plight, yet it appears that the constituencies who would be most likely to take umbrage at such public rejection continue to support him with passion . It is as if they are saying: he needs to say all these things in order to get elected. He does not really mean them. A conversation quoted by Abu-Nima of the Electronic Intifada seems to show that Obama is definitely aware of what and who he has to please in order to get elected. Another conversation quoted by Rev. Wright himself reflects the same awareness on Obama's part. I find it does not quite fit the image of Obama as a transparent politician, who says what he means. Unless he has evolved, once confronted with the issues.

It is nearly impossible to know what is in a person's heart. The problem is that all we have are his words, spoken or written. He has a very meagre record of actual deeds and changes he has effected while in the Senate.

I do think however, that he is a decent gentleman, certainly more so in comparison with H Clinton. Unlike her, he does not underestimate the intelligence of the people whose favour he seeks.
Matt said…
I voted for Obama, and don't regret it in the least.
Anonymous said…
Alan Johnson too?

Things look much different on this side of the pond. A sizable chunk of the indecent left (Many of the broadcasters on radical lefty Pacifica Radio for example) supports Obama. Obama does not share the robust internationalism of the Euston Manifesto, especially not of the American Statement. He has much more in common with president Jimmy Carter than senator Scoop Jackson. Carter is an excellent example of a "change" candidate who did far more harm than good, especially on the international scene. I realize that Americans were justifiably upset with Nixon and the Republicans but replacing Ford with Carter was a disaster. I think the same will be true of Obama.
NC: I explored a bit further and reported about it here:

I don't get that gut feeling about Obama being another Carter. Carter is a sanctimonious and hypocritical preacher. Obama strikes me as honest, unsentimental, fair-minded intellectual. That is not say that he will make a good president. He lacks experience and his intellectuality will be an obstacle. We have here in Canada the disaster of Michael Ignatieff, a favourite intellectual of mine, but not a terribly effective or even coherent politician. The Wright scandal was probably the first baptism of fire that Obama experienced as a prominent politician. He may have done some effective troubleshooting but the problem was not solved. It really opened up a can of worms. I sense a lack of confidence in his position in this subject. See my comment at my blog and let me know what you think about the last quote I presented.
Roland Dodds said…
The unfortunate thing about Barak Obama is that we don’t have a very good idea as to what his foreign policy is going to look like, and it looks to me like his supporters are placing their own ideological preferences onto Obama. I hear the argument made that he would actually be for a strong internationalist foreign policy if elected, and would not bail out of Iraq and step away from the fight against Islamic totalitarianism, but at this point, those are all just assumptions. I have to go by what he says and what his advisors say, and I don’t find those words reassuring.

In my personal assessment, I think British supporters of Obama feel he will raise the world’s impression of the United States, and allow the war to gain greater legitimacy, and I just don’t see that happening. I seriously doubt that the international community is going to get behind America if we simply elect a left wing black Democrat.
Anonymous said…
I’m not convinced. I see Carter all over again, above all the naïveté regarding foreign policy and the goals of America’s adversaries. But he’s not alone. A lot of Democratic senators (Kennedy, Kerry, etc.) agree with him.

All we can do is look at his record, which is the most liberal in Congress. We can also look at his base, which, far from expressing Eustonite ideals are actually very weak in their internationalism. They’ll support internationalist endeavors in places like Darfur until soldiers get killed, then they’ll want to bring the troops home. That’s not enough. You often need leadership willing to stay strong in the face of fierce opposition in order for these endeavors to be effective.

As far as my gut feeling, he’s just another politician. Yes he is a great orator, probably an excellent lawyer, but an intellectual? Intellectuals are generally recognized as experts in their fields. Is Obama a luminary in the field of law? What has he published? He has not written any books on jurisprudence. A search of 44 law journals at JSTOR turned up zero articles written by the senator.
bob said…
I like the Carter analogy. Of course, it doesn't completely work, but it is thought-provoking.

I think it is fair to call Obama an intellectual, if not necessarily a great one. I think the greatest intellectuals are generalists rather than specialists.

I do think, from my European perspective, that having a black Democrat in the White House will in itself help America's standing in Africa and Western Asia, which will help America emerge from its isolation in the international community, and perhaps some peace and progress can be bought on that credit.

I agree that his policy pronouncements (like Hillary's) haven't suggested he will somehow become a great internationalist in office, or that he will suddenly convert to wanting to build democracy in Iraq. But, it seems to me, the American people no longer have an appetite for building democracy in Iraq, and this is one of the things driving his popularity. If the people are no longer behind the engagement, can we hope for Obama to be?
Anonymous said…
"But, it seems to me, the American people no longer have an appetite for building democracy in Iraq, and this is one of the things driving his popularity. If the people are no longer behind the engagement, can we hope for Obama to be?"

Absolutely, yes. That's why I'm probably voting for McCain. The greatest leaders often go against the mainstream or common sense notions of those they lead.

I've probably mentioned it too many times but have a look at Thucydides, in particular Pericles' Funeral Oration.

The main gist is the Athenians standard of living, their leisure time, their love of the arts, etc. were all maintained by Athenian naval supremacy i.e. war and empire. If the Athenians wanted to continue their way of life, they needed to be prepared to go to war to defend it. The majority Athenians did not realize this. They supported the demagogues who told them what they wanted to hear. In the end, the entire Greek world collapsed.

There is a lesson for us--and all democratic socieities--in this sad tale. To be blunt, the Democrats who want to withdrawl are analagous to the demagogues, telling the American public what they want to hear regarding bringing the troops home. But the results of this will be disatrous.

In times like these we need a Pericles, not a pandering demagogue.

Bob, Obama taught some law school classes but he has not written anything of consequence in his field. Nothing. I need a bit more evidence of actual intellecual work to consider someone an intellectual, great, mediocre or otherwise.
Here is Pericles' speech:
Incognito said…
Rev. Wright is only one of many reasons Obama would be a disaster for this country.

wrote my rev. wright rant which got placed on chicago Sun times online... has had almost 2,000 views.. (more than I've probably had on Confessions) he's certainly a hot topic.

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