After seeing several Blue Oregon posts take a blatantly negative tone against Hillary Clinton during her visit to Oregon, and since politics is nothing without debate, today I post my first article addressing some of the concerns I have about Senator Barack Obama. I welcome discussion from all in the Blue Oregon community. - CC
Barack Obama lives and campaigns in two Americas. These aren't the two Americas that John Edwards described. Nor is it the "red state" and "blue state" America that he pretends to be capable of uniting. Rather, he lives in two potential promised Americas, forked by the duality of his own campaign and his often self-contradictory projections of his own values.
One of Obama's Americas is the one invented by his campaign for the Democratic base, his fans in the media and the liberal blogosphere: an America where he is the outsider alternative, the populist, the peace candidate, the change candidate (all of which patently debatable, but only if one's willing to retain some disbelief). The other is the post-partisan centrist Obama: the Obama who claims to be able to get things done with Republicans, who speaks glowingly of former Republican Presidents, makes sure not to offend Wall Street, amuses the private health insurance industry with his own hommage to their Harry and Louise campaign, and talks like a Powell Doctrine centrist on military matters.
I am not sure what would happen if the two Obama realities ever met. Perhaps one reality would win out: Obama's election might be like opening Schrodinger's box to find that the cat is alive (hopefully, if you like live cats, and I do). Or we could make the cynical assumption: he will go where the money and power lead him, but at the worst he won't appoint any more conservative Supreme Court justices. Or what I think is the case: it's moot, he is being backed by so many big players because they want a lot of leash, and they will set the policy; he will merely sell it, which all feel he has the skill to do. But whatever comes, I have a hard time swallowing the extreme contradictions in Obama's pitch and accepting that this is the best option Democrats have this year.
Take Obama's speech in Pennsylvania of a March 27, when in continuation of his veneration of past Republican Presidents he claimed that his foreign policy "is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush's father..." as well as JFK and Ronald Reagan.
Today, longtime diplomat and staunchly anti-Bush/Cheney Democrat Joe Wilson responded to Obama's dubious foreign policy claims at length.
Having served in the first Bush administration, as acting U.S. ambassador to Iraq in the run-up to the first Gulf War, and subsequently as ambassador to two African nations, I cannot fathom what Obama is asserting.
His entire foreign-policy claim that he would be a better president than Hillary Clinton rests on the slender reed that he possesses intuitively superior judgment, which would have led him to vote against the Authorization for the Use of Force in Iraq had he been in the U.S. Senate in October 2002.
Wilson reminds us first that papa Bush has supported W. throughout this whole mess, but then to the real question:
What would Obama have done differently in the first gulf war from what he claims he would have done in 2002 had he been in the Senate at that time? ....
Obama claims that an antiwar speech he made while running for state Senate in the most liberal district in Illinois is proof of his superior intuitive judgment. But if Obama had been in Washington at that time, participating in the national debate, he would have come face to face with Secretary of State Colin Powell, the same Colin Powell who, as Gen. Powell, was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the first Bush administration, the one Obama wishes to emulate.
Powell would have told him, as he told the other senators he briefed at that time, including Sen. Clinton, that the president wanted to use the Authorization for the Use of Military Force resolution not to go to war but, rather, as leverage to go to the United Nations to secure intrusive inspections. George W. Bush repeated this claim publicly.
Obama is faking it. While driving the convenience of his own brief service and a single pandering speech as a wedge against Clinton, he is simulteneously claiming to be more akin to a (pre-Bush/Cheney, of course) Republican than any Democrat I've ever followed in an election.
In fact, the non-partisan values and parallels he conjures up by referring to the first Bush are precisely the values that would have led any centrist to vote for the autorization in 2002. I understand both strong anti-war stances and a centrist stance; I marched in anti-war protests from the start, but I also voted for Kerry without hesitation even though he's further right than Clinton on overall war and peace record. I would not at all object to seeing a real "peace" candidate running with Obama's popularity - someone who did stake their career on such a stance and who did have a coherent foreign policy offering that was different than that of Bush 41 and Reagan and JFK. But it is the cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy of Obama's duplicitous approach which offends me and makes me realize that I really don't know -what- he believes. His paradoxical name-dropping of old Republicans and winking to all sides of the electorate so shamelessly, baffles and repulses me; I want to know, damn it, where my candidate stands, even if it's in the center. I do not trust the Obama splits.
Perhaps most unfortunate about this whole cycle is that because of Obama's insistence on making the authorization vote his foreign policy hammer we have been denied the chance to really delve into each candidate's detailed vision and approach to really solving the mess in Iraq for the relief of the living. With this hammer Obama has attempted to nail the lid on the pandora's box of his own inexperience, but that lid pops open a little further each time he makes a speech like this and people actually pay attention; meanwhile we hear his own advisors reveal that the firm commitment to withdraw troops in 16 months - a facile promise which he also used for one-upmanship against his rival - may very well never happen. Which would be worse: that we wrench the lid off that box now, or that the Republicans do it for us in the general election, or that the ills it contains actually get loosed on the nation and the world with a remarkably unprepared but equally egotistical, opportunist and self-righteous Obama White House? The latter option is better than losing to a Republican, but still not one I can embrace with any conviction.
Joe Wilson's credibility on these issues is as strong as anyone's, and his questions on Obama are tough, as they should be.
As to Obama's self-promoted "judgment," which judgment would that be? Would it be to follow the path of Bush 41: tough diplomacy backed by the threat of military action, as in the first gulf war? Would it be to ignore the rationale put forward by Colin Powell in the debate on the second gulf war? Would it be to vote exactly the same way Sen. Clinton did on war-related issues since he became a U.S. senator, which he has? Or is it simply to criticize from the sidelines with the benefit of never having had to face tough decisions with real consequences?
The next president will be presented with two difficult wars, U.S. moral authority at low ebb, and unprecedented complexity of our relations with the rest of the world. Obama has no record whatsoever, only his utter absence from his committee responsibility. His claim to be the one true heir to George H.W. Bush is a misguided illusion and no substitute for offering more about what foreign policies he would actually follow.
As for me, what concerns me most now on foreign policy are those living in all nations, including in the region of Iraq, and how they will be delivered from the hell of war, chaos and poverty. And here what matters is not buzzwords or name-dropping; what matters is that we know details about what is possible in policy and strategy and, with eyes wide open, commit to the candidate who has the best chance of building peace through what will surely be difficult and complex negotiations and responses. I have searched for a voice with breadth and depth of experience and realism on the issues, and Obama's waffling is not it; I find such a voice in Joe Wilson, in Wes Clark, and in the candidate they support, whose policies are not based either on false promises or on facile comparisons to aged Republicans, but in real long-range terms of carefully withdrawing troops and achieving the best outcome we can with diplomatic vision and strength.
Read the full article. Discuss.