Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Falstaff Said

Falstaff says several things I've been trying to say, but does so more directly and succinctly (my emphasis):
Isn’t it remarkable, at this late date… after more than a year of candidacy, and four years in the public eye… after a primary that attracted more attention than any in our lifetime… after the eruption of issues of unprecedented urgency, scale and consequence, which are assaulting us every day – or hour… isn’t it remarkable that there continues to be no substantive case for Barack Obama’s prospective presidency?

Isn’t it remarkable that Obama’s supporters, after all this time, cannot come up with a serious argument for why he should be president, other than (a) the other guy’s awful and scary and (b) we have to throw the Republicans out (or, at best, he’ll hire better advisors)? ...

Press them for a single respect in which he has shown actual substantive and innovative thinking and leadership… or for a coherent policy frame that makes sense of his FISA vote, his D.C. gun control statement, his position on the death penalty, his Harry and Louse ads and on and on… and they resort to one of the responses above. It’s all horserace, all GOP-directed schadenfreude, all Palin snark, all ohmygod apocalysm about a possible McCain win, all the time.

Don’t get me wrong. Obama is going to win. The American people are going to throw these Repubums out. We are going to recreate the political conditions of 1932… whether or not we have an FDR to fill that role.

But wouldn’t you think that, given the foregone conclusion we face... and given the pressing urgency of making the right decisions about economic policy -- with material consequences for all our lives, including those of these interlocutors – wouldn’t you think that other conversations would be happening? Is it just too scary these days to think? Are we down to nothing but repeating “hope” and “change”?
Where Obama falls down, where he has always fallen down, is on "that vision thing", a clear statement of what it is he intends to do once he gets into office. He is very deeply into getting himself elected and into creating structures to cement his hold on power, but there just isn't any political vision or passion driving him. His advisors all have their own agendas, to be sure, but I still have yet to hear of a purpose or cause that dirves this guy beyond promoting himself.

The problem is that the times both call for and reward a bold, decisive leader. I'll be honest and say that even Hillary doesn't measure up to what my perfect Dem president would be, but I'm also not sure that creature exists. We haven't had a leader like that since LBJ, and he was far from perfect, but he had the key combination of faith in (dirty, flawed, partisan, wheeling & dealing) government and a willingness to do what was necessary, the nattering nabobs of negativity be damned.

In Obama, I see someone willing to bargain away all benefits to the ordinary citizen in order to maintain his approval with The Village.



Shainzona said...

At some point during the primary I began to realize what I was looking for in my candidate: After 8 years of the WPE (Worst President I am sure that W will be known throughout history) I was praying for someone - anyone, at that point - to show me his/her intelligence, experience, vision, policy and courage. I later added the need for a "love of the wonk" because I am convinced that we must have a leader who is involved...not a lurker on the issues.

As my concerns about Obama grew, this was still my biggest concern. And, I confess, the issue upon which my real dislike for the man has developed: he was more interested in himself than this nation. More concerned about getting elected than helping his country.

I will never forgive him for that.

Anonymous said...

I have been with you most of the way and think you're mostly right, but we've got to elect Obama. McCain and his people are crazy. Look at the rallies around Palin with the neo-fascist all-white mobs calling for Obama's head. These people need to be defeated once and for good and all. I'm a former Hillary Clinton supporter, though not 100% but I can drop my resentment now as I see these ugly people yelling at their stupid rallies.

Anglachel said...

No, Hattie, "we" do not have to elect Obama. Obama has to get himself elected.

That's been the problem all along.


PS - If you are worried for his physical safety (I'm not, as I trust the Secret Service to do its job) then the *last* thing you want to do is elect him. That's what puts him in danger.

Anonymous said...

If it weren't for the economic collapse, Obama wouldn't have more an even bet to win.

In the primaries, Obama was the candidate of the yes to Bush leadership. Rein, Pelosi and Manuel, yes to Bush leaders, are hardly Democrats (Pelosi used to be one) and their main interest lies in their positions, their relationship in congress and ability to get things done in Washington.

The affinity between the Democratic congressional leaders and Obama was almost automatic.

Despite endless repetition from all side, I don't buy the "Obama is very intelligent" story. In debates, in the campaign and in any exchange to hear to take place, all you see is an average person. In the almost 18 months since he decided to run, there is no single line or a single thought originated by him that we can point to as standing out in our political discourse.

The talk of obama's lack of vision are therefore kind of funny. I don't believe he can run even a small company let alone take a suffering country to higher heights.

Guys, we are talking about a minimal leader not even an average one.

Mike J. said...

I am not sure whether I fully agree. If you look at the most recent issue of New Yorker, for example, the editors lay out a five-page endorsement of Obama (combined with a condemnation of McCain) in the most glowing terms imaginable. In effect, they envision him as the second coming of FDR. In fact, a few issues ago the Talk of the Town column (penned by none other than David Remnick himself) stated that Obama has shown indications of first class temperament and first class intellect. Given this is clearly a riff on what John Maynard Keynes once said of FDR ("third class intellect but first class temperament"), Remnick evidently places Obama two notches above FDR. On basis of what evidence he does that I do not know.

But in any event, Obama's supporters can and do put forward a substantive case for Obama. The problem is that the expectations have plainly outstripped reality, and by a huge margin. I wonder what will happen once Obama gets into office and begins to disappoint, which I think is inevitable if the expectation is of FDR++. Is their ego so heavily invested in the Obama presidency that they will go wherever he leads (war with Iran, Social Security privatization, undivided Jerusalem, four more years of occupied Iraq, continued existence of Guantanamo and illegal wiretaps, etc.) or will the disillusionment be so severe that it will sink the Democratic Party itself?

Anglachel said...

Note to commenters - Using foul language and ALL CAPS, no matter the target, guarantees you will *not* get posted.

Just a reminder...


alibe said...

If Obama shows signs of first class intellect and first class temperment, I am the pope. I have seen no evidence beyond banal and mediocre. His temperment is passive aggressive and he is petulant and nasty. His remarks to a North Carlina crowd after he was whomped good by Hillary in that Philadelphia debate was very telling. First class temperment my ass! And intellect, he needs a teleprompter to recite his name and a few basic bullet points. Dumb and nasty is what I see evidence of.

show me said...

I may be looking at things in a simplistic way but it seems we are looking at an opportunity. Bush has wreaked many institutions of government.Unfettered capitalism has eaten itself alive.We are in two unwinnable wars.Our planet is in danger and we have been through 8 years of anti-science.

With a Democratic President and Congress it would seem that things could be rebuilt within a new and more progressive framework.

Conservative policies have been proven bankrupt.The evidence is all around us.

I can't understand why there is no discussion of this by supposed liberal writers. It is also impossible to get any comment threads going on policy ideas.

It is all horse race,Palin facination blah, blah, blah...Nothing serious, no thinking.

Anglachel said...

Show Me, I'm doing my best.

Of the forty comments on this thread, most are unprintable due to bad language (and I'm not talking a cuss word here or there), parroting of campiagn talking points, exhortations to vote against the eeevvviiilll Obama/McCain/Palin monster (Joe Biden must be getting tired of being ignored), people repeating the same point in multiple comments, and long-winded copy/paste posts from the commenters' own web site.


Esmense said...

"In Obama, I see someone willing to bargain away all benefits to the ordinary citizen in order to maintain his approval with The Village."

Exactly. Obama, like the Democratic leadership, sees "The Village" as his primary constituency. He has never taken a stand or promoted an idea or policy that would not meet with their approval.