As I have previously blogged, I've been undecided throughout this presidential campaign. Until now:
Barack Obama is my candidate for President of the United States.
I had an entire post written in my head detailing the whys and wherefores of my leap into his camp. It discussed his positions on the issues of concern for me, his life experiences, his sensible and non-sensationalist approach to finding solutions to problems, his varied and diverse upbringing which has informed his attitudes. It discussed his 100%, from-the-start opposition to the war in Iraq--back when it was the decidedly unfashionable and unpopular position to hold. It focused on his ability and potential to finally end the culture wars that have been raging--and will continue to rage unabated in a Clinton or Giuliani administration--since the 1960's. What appealed to me about Senator Obama immediately was his commitment to stop fighting old fights, old issues that get in the way of truly solving the seemingly-intractable problems facing America today. What also appealed to me was his electability. Yes, electability.
All of this I was going to write, just as soon as I took a quick gander through the latest Atlantic Monthly while in the loo (anyone with small kids knows that commode time is your only chance to read anything meatier than the Olivia The Pig book series, well-written though they may be).
All I can say is that b&*tard Andrew Sullivan beat me to a good part of it. He very capably covered some of the items in his article that my post was going to mirror in a far less well-thought out and well-written way. My opinion of Mr. Sullivan (and, admittedly some of his conclusions in this very same article) notwithstanding, I offer some of his prose to explain my own, with apologies for length:
Regarding the question of Why Obama Now--
Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directly—and uncomfortably—at you.
On the issue of Obama's race and ethnic background, which resonates for those of us with multiethnic families:
He therefore speaks to a complicated and mixed identity—not a simple and alienated one. This may hurt him among some African Americans, who may fail to identify with this fellow with an odd name. Black conservatives, like Shelby Steele, fear he is too deferential to the black establishment. Black leftists worry that he is not beholden at all. But there is no reason why African Americans cannot see the logic of Americanism that Obama also represents, a legacy that is ultimately theirs as well. To be black and white, to have belonged to a nonreligious home and a Christian church, to have attended a majority-Muslim school in Indonesia and a black church in urban Chicago, to be more than one thing and sometimes not fully anything—this is an increasingly common experience for Americans, including many racial minorities. Obama expresses such a conflicted but resilient identity before he even utters a word. And this complexity, with its internal tensions, contradictions, and moods, may increasingly be the main thing all Americans have in common.
On the issue of religion and faith, a statement that really spoke to me in that Obama was clearly stating that his religion is also intellectual for him (in contrast to the anti-intellectualism of the born-again Bush supporters), that there is a sense of trying to understand that belief even while using it to engage in what we Jews call Tikkun Olam, "repairing the world":
“What I really did was to take a set of values and ideals that were first instilled in me from my mother, who was, as I have called her in my book, the last of the secular humanists—you know, belief in kindness and empathy and discipline, responsibility—those kinds of values. And I found in the Church a vessel or a repository for those values and a way to connect those values to a larger community and a belief in God and a belief in redemption and mercy and justice … I guess the point is, it continues to be both a spiritual, but also intellectual, journey for me, this issue of faith.”
And, most importantly, when you consider foresight and judgment to be qualities you most desire in a POTUS, you need read no further than Senator Obama's speech in 2002 opposing the invasion of Iraq:
I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war … I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
As Sullivan notes: "The man who opposed the war for the right reasons is for that reason the potential president with the most flexibility in dealing with it. Clinton is hemmed in by her past and her generation. If she pulls out too quickly, she will fall prey to the usual browbeating from the right—the same theme that has played relentlessly since 1968. If she stays in too long, the antiwar base of her own party, already suspicious of her, will pounce. The Boomer legacy imprisons her—and so it may continue to imprison us. The debate about the war in the next four years needs to be about the practical and difficult choices ahead of us—not about the symbolism or whether it’s a second Vietnam."
Regardless, notwithstanding my utterly unimpeachable foregoing recommendation of Senator Obama's candidacy, his critics will say he "lacks experience" compared with Senator Clinton, Giuliani and other rivals for the Presidency, that 2008 is not his time since he's so young.
No one who has not been President has conducted foreign policy on the scale of the POTUS, so to say that someone's lack of foreign policy experience renders them unfit to serve effectively negates all candidacies save the incumbent's. I have long since dispensed with notions of "experience" and age as a primary qualification (as if George W Bush was any more fit to serve during his second term than his first, as if being First Lady in the White House, however engaged in policy, is relevant experience, as if being a hated (pre-9/11) mayor of a large city somehow provides leadership bona fides not provided by the Senate), in favor of attitude, aptitude and judgment. Senator Obama has all three. And he therefore has my vote.