Friday, 6 July 2007

A great orator, but are his policies (too) shallow?

Several days ago I watched Barack Obama inspire a crowd in Fairfield, a town in Iowa, a so-called bell weather state, on C-SPAN. Iowa serves not only as the site of one of the first party primaries, but also is seen as a measure or standard of support. The role it will play in the 2008 presidential election remains to be seen. It is amazing, though, that a state with such a small population, carrying little significance (sorry Iowa) can attract some of the biggest names in US politics.

Truth be told this special day-before the 4th of July (Independence Day) event was the first time I watched or heard a full Obama speech. What was more covered was Obama's complementing Bill Clinton — which made headlines, tons of them. The junior senator from Illinois is known for his fantastic speeches, after all his claim to fame was his moving address at the 2004 Democratic Convention. That one speech shot him up the ladder of political stardom.

Obama's policies and charisma seemed great... until he started talking about our "globalized economy" — not that I disagree with that point itself — and his Democratic protectionist trade populism (yuck!) set in. (The Dems have their protectionism from trade, the Republicans have theirs in the area of immigration.) Nonetheless that succeeded a few policy winners like the idea of putting solar panels "on every roof"; the globalization talk was followed by Iraq and national security. He is already talking like he is the Democratic choice for president. Obama is a great orator, plain and simple. Here are some more quotes from his 3 July Fairfield speech:
"There is no military solution in Iraq."
"The world still needs America, just like America still needs the world" (sounding somewhat like Madeline Albright, Bill Clinton, Ann-Marie Slaughter, etc.)
He says he can see from the perspective, "viewpoint" of a foreigner.
"This campaign has to become the vehicle for your hopes."

Then Obama — after talking more on foreign policy, which I'll touch upon in a later post (Foreign Affairs is publishing an array of essays from all the candidates on their pledged foreign policy), with power and energy in every syllable — spews into talk of a people-powered candidacy (see last quote). "We want something new", he is really plugging at the progressive-minded members of the audience, as well as those just fed up with the status quo, i.e. Bush. He, however, talks little of drastic reform, keeping with his earlier precedent of a belief in moderate reform [scroll down to February]. He doesn't want to alienate voters more cautious of great change.

After that he talks about civil rights and the Selma march for black voting rights at the height of the civil rights era in the 1960s, further tying in how his African immigrant plus native American (note: not Native American/American Indian) heritage makes him a symbol of America: with it's goods like openness and rights, and it's bads like xenophobia and repressiveness.

More on Obama:

  • Profile by The Economist
  • Wikipedia article
  • Barack Obama for America website
  • Washington Post profile (with voting record)

    I'll leave you with this question: among the other mainstream candidates, none of whom besides Obama have been called "inexperienced", is Obama really as inexperienced as many point out as his most universal flaw? What do you think counts as experience? — Being governor for a term (or more)? Senator or congressperson for a term (or more)? Business leader? Or more than that?

    Barack Obama's political report card score for his two-day Iowa run, plus a bit before and after: B. Seeming like a mix of populist-cheesy-progressive at times, which can only be expected; made amazing amounts of money, without an ex-president as spouse; connected with people but failed to touch upon experience factor. So overall above average, but not stunning.

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