Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Getting to know you...Obama and McCain

People who think that Obama is some kind of closet socialist should listen to this exchange he has with a Democrat activist.

Obama is no ideologue, which is why I like him. It's also what troubles the woman questioner in the video. She senses, correctly I think, that Obama is willing to compromise with what she calls a "Republican minority". Implicit in her comment is the idea that it's "our turn" to impose a new agenda. I don't think that's how Obama operates, and that's what keeps the left just a little nervous about him.

Also, notice how well he listens to a very long, three part question and how he responds in detail, at length, and directly to each part. The man knows how to listen to criticism without becoming defensive, he's at ease sorting through a whole laundry list of assumptions, and he is up to the task of articulating difficult and nuanced positions.
It's not just that he is good with words (though he is); it's that he seems to have reflected deeply about what he talks about. Plus, he displays a level of self control and discipline that suggests something fundamentally trustworthy about whether the man is equipped to perform well in the Oval Office.

McCain's reputation for having a volatile temper is only one of my concerns. The more I watch him the less impressed I am with his grasp of things. When he wanders off script, he borders on being incoherent at times though he has become adept at sometimes turning such moments into self deprecating shtick about being senile. Good for a laugh or two if you're doing standup comedy, but not all that reassuring when it begins looking like a pattern. I'm not saying that McCain is too old; I am saying he lacks coherence, not just in choosing his words, but in conveying what his vision for America really is.

I continue to be amazed by the claims that we don't who Obama really is. Obama has written two memoirs (actually written them, I might add). McCain hired Mark Salter to "co-write" his story. In addition, the task of getting to know Obama has been poisoned by a hatchet job currently on the NY Times best seller list. (It would be nice if the Times would differentiate between books that are sold in bulk and those that are actually purchased by individual readers.) Meanwhile, McCain's biography has basically been boiled down by the media to two or three memes, POW, war hero, maverick...end of story. Do people really know McCain as well as they claim they want to know Obama? You'd think they'd show a little more curiosity.

If there is a candidate that has shown the nerve to walk out in front of the public in an unscripted and improvisational manner, speak meaningfully and substantively about not just policy but also personal convictions and values, that candidate is Obama. I remember how in the previous election cycles Bush supposedly connected with some voters as being the one folks might most enjoy having a beer with. McCain seems to get the benefit of that litmus test these days. I suggest that we find a better criterion for voting this time around.
K

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