Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Must Be Naive

What is it that people hate so much about Barack Obama? I understand people's unwillingness to vote for him because of his support of pro-choice legislation. I get that and may yet find myself voting against him for that exact reason. But it seems to me that no matter what he does, no matter how good, he is derided for it.

I watched his speech yesterday in response to the questions about his 20-year association with Rev Wright. I thought he handled the situation beautifully; humanly, rather than politically. I thought he handled it Christianly. Politically handled, he would have cut ties with the man - it would have been the wise move politically. But instead he gave a speech seemingly on the human heart (as much as a politician can), using this opportunity to reveal the quiet hatred in each of us, and asking each of us to take another step forward in becoming one people, calling us to love one another more. It was an incredible speech. (Granted, there was still standard Obama campaign rhetoric embedded here and there.) And yet some of my conservative friends, while somewhat grudgingly admitting the speech was OK, think that it's further cover for the evil he plans secretly in his heart. Now, maybe it is. Maybe Senator Obama hates America and all that it stands for. But do we have any evidence to support this belief, or are we slandering and misrepresenting him for some other reason? Do we simply fear him because of his quiet ability to inspire? I don't get it. Someone help me understand.

Maybe part of what draws me to Obama is that so many people seem to revile him for no particular reason. That ain't right.

10 comments:

tangence said...

Great post. I watched the speech yesterday and I felt much the same way. I don't know that I could vote for Obama for the same reason you express but, without a doubt, he raised the level of political discourse in a positive direction that I don't believe I have ever seen.

(long time lurker first time poster)

paul

Freder1ck said...

He makes a great case that he had the judgment to oppose the authorization to go to war in Iraq. What use is experience if it doesn't improve your judgment? Again, I don't know that I'd vote for him - but he did stand apart from the cynicism in the Democratic party at the time.

paul's 2 cents said...

Hi Scott. I don't know why so many folks seem torqued about Obama.

Personally, I've not done my homework on the candidates. But what I think might help provide the truest picture of how a candidate would manage the role of President is how they have managed their preceding role, their track record...and I'm not referring to the role of candidate, but that of legislator.

I need to take some time to evaluate how they've each actually voted, the legislation & other measures they've sponsored or otherwise supported (particularly the stuff that tends to be politically unpopular).

So, for me, speeches can be a tricky thing and actions speak louder than words. Which means it's incumbent on me to do to the work of learning about each of the candidates actual records.

truevyne said...

I hear ya, man! I've heard someone refer to him as the Anti-Christ for heaven's sake. What gives?

Scott Lyons said...

Thanks for the comments. And Tangence-Paul, thank you for your first-time comment.

2-Cents-Paul, I would agree that we also can't merely judge a man by his rhetoric and while I have not done in-depth research on Obama's legislative record (in the Senate and in Illinois - anybody's record provides a great amount of material to wade through), I've given it a cursory glance. I'll have to look into it more given your exhortation.

From what I can tell, he votes most often like your average Democrat. Some of his votes I really like, and some of them I really dislike. He does seem more thoughtful about some of his votes, but that's my bias speaking probably more than anything else.

It's also sometimes difficult to judge and understand a man from his voting record because a Nay can be the product of a disagreement over the specific wording of a piece of legislation - it's repercussions, it's loopholes - as well as the substance of the legislation.

Fortunately, as time and debates rage forward some of these explanations are revealed by the candidates. And eventually we have to take him or her at their word. But then that goes back to whether one judges the candidate trustworthy.

paul's 2 cents said...

Hi again, Scott.

I would agree that a vote here or there can be misleading, as the politics of passing federal legislation involves significant backroom haggling & pages of add-ons, but since passing legislation is what they're voted in to do, I think it's what they can each reasonably be judged on.

And I guess until I've really verified the elements of what the candidates are telling me are in their resumes, I'm gonna be skeptical of most of what's said during the interview - they're trying to say what resonates, after all.

And if the record largely bears out the stump speeches, then those words probably ought to be considered trustworthy. But, considering the words without more deeply considering the previous actions would seem overly trusting to me. That's all.

Hey, I could be wrong, though.

Scott Lyons said...

2-Cents-Paul,

I totally agree. I think it's safe to say that taking someone at his or her word is a cautious business to begin with. And time will bear it out further.

The thing I like about Obama - and I can't help but like the man (which, again, does not necessarily translate into a vote) - is that oftentimes he has taken the politically untried road, done the politically dangerous thing, spoken when he's been advised to be quiet (or vice versa), and through it all been single-minded and cool-headed.

Now this might be some brilliant ploy to win over the likes of me and many others. And if so, I greatly appreciate his rhetoric even while feeling utterly duped. But I don't think so. In my estimation of the man, I think Obama is something slightly different than your stereotypical politician. I hope he is. Furthermore, I want to hope he is. But time will tell.

And I would be better off spending the time praying for our next leader than spending hours watching the news on him or her.

paul's 2 cents said...

Thanks for being willing to ask these questions, Scott, and entertain my considerations.

Agree with you that watching most of the news on him or her isn't going to get us terribly far, I'm afraid. The news being largely a regurgitation of soundbytes.

Whereas the possibilities of prayer...

Hey, you mentioned that oftentimes he has taken the politically untried road, done the politically dangerous thing...my not knowing much about Obama prompts me to ask, exactly which untried road or dangerous things has he actually done?

You'd mentioned in your previous comment that his votes were pretty much like the average democrat, some you like, some you don't, but essentially, he seems more thoughtful about it.

Ok, so, thoughtful is good....however, is the actual result of this extra thoughtfulness any different or just more eloquently expressed?

Don't get me wrong, I like eloquence & thoughtfulness certainly beats automoton (sp?) every day.

What I'm trying to sort out is whether his hope-inspiring, courageous sounding speeches are words born out of actual accomplishments/track record, you know, substance like a product that I can look at?

If so, awesome. And could be an indication of a budding statesman.

Or, are they are well-developed, eloquently delivered, courageous sounding themes that serve to create an "image" of Obama as one who stands for so much more than the mundane stuff of politics, markets, laws; someone who stands for the good of mankind, who speaks to the essence of the human spirit. (cue the patriotic anthem)

As is obvious, I approach politicians rather cautiously, skeptically, because I see politics as saying "trust me to use immense power wisely". While at the same time I hear the echoes of Miss Iversen & Mrs. Peterson quoting Lord Acton:

Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Woe, that was a blast from the past.

Scott Lyons said...

2-Cents-Paul,

Here are a couple of things off the top of my head that are examples of what Obama has done that are politically dangerous and largely untried: He didn't disown his pastor even though his pastor made some inexcusable comments. In fact, while repudiating the specific comments, he asked How can I disown the man who brought me to faith, who baptized my children, etc. He said that he could no more disown him than his grandmother (who has also, apparently, made racist comments). He is being attacked for not walking away from this man even though we all know, who are in any way committed to our local community, that you can't simply walk away - that walking away isn't fulfilling the law of love that Christ has given us. The speech was remarkable, and you need to listen to it if you haven't. Another thing that he has done is kept a positive campaign (relatively speaking), even while the Clintons play their usual underhanded game of politics (perhaps my personal bias again, but these people mean to win by whatever means available). Now, even though we speak against negative campaigning, most people also understand that it works. He hasn't gone there. (As an aside, neither has McCain.) Third, he's forthright about the errors he's made, or seems to be. When he's made a mistake, he doesn't try to gloss over it. He calls it a mistake and moves forward. Those are admirable by anyone's measure of a man.

And those are some of the things I like about him, that I see as politically dangerous (potentially, though they have seemed to turn advantageous for him - thus the antichrist sentiments, perhaps - an uber-politician) and untried, some of the tangible things. At the same time, his ability to inspire, his charisma, is largely intangible. I simply find the man inspirational. Perhaps, some find him revolting for the same intangible reasons. Or perhaps it's because of his protection of the right for women to procure abortions.

He's certainly pro-choice. He's had a 100% NARAL rating every year he's served in the Senate. On this issue I strongly disagree with him of course. But I think he's less pro-choice than some make him out to be. For instance, he's pointed at by many as being a supporter of infanticide because he didn't vote for a bill to save the life of a child that survives an abortion attempt - but, from his explanation, his reluctance to vote for the bill was not because he wishes those children killed, but rather the wording of the bill, in his mind, would enable pro-lifers to errode/overturn Roe v. Wade. These nuances are unfortunately often overlooked when dealing with such a powder keg as abortion. (Now, I still disagree with the vote, but that's another matter.)

At the same time, he was once confronted by someone who was pro-life about a comment he made calling abortion opponents right-wing ideologues. The emailer said, "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words." To which Obama replied, "I felt a pang of shame."

What I don't understand about Obama, and the preceding quote may or may not be an insight into this aspect of his thinking on the issue, is why he, or any fair-minded individual isn't more gracious to those of us who oppose abortion because we believe it is immoral. (And perhaps it's because the level of rhetoric over abortion is kept at such volatile levels that we simply can't have a conversation about it - and that is probably our fault.) Just as we also, who oppose abortion, must be gracious to those who believe it is fundamentally a women's right issue because they do not recognize the life of the embryo and/or fetus as being a human life.

We are right to generally mistrust politicians, perhaps - or at least be cautious in our judgments. So I appreciate your push back. I would like to clarify that I don't endorse Senator Obama, but I do like him. And the reason I talk about him frequently, I think, is because I hear him so often berated elsewhere (and in my mind unfairly berated). And while I understand people disagreeing with him strongly because of his being pro-choice, I don't see them attacking Clinton with the same vehemence, the same ferocity. And maybe that's simply due to the fact that he's the new kid, and everyone already knows that Hillary is the antichrist.

paul's 2 cents said...

The casual nature of your last sentence made me belly laugh - thanks for that.

I get that you're not endorsing, just admiring, Obama (at least elements of). And I can see why.

Based on your observations, he would seem to possess the traits of a thoughtful, humble and genuinely decent person as well as an inspiring orator. Those would certainly be positives for him. And, frankly, that may be all he needs to persuade a sufficient number of voters to cast their ballot in his direction.

At the same time, thoughtfulness, humility, decency & inspireability (if such a word exists) although worthwhile, laudable, and certainly refreshing can just as easily lead to disappointing results as much as one respects the person & the consideration he gives to his decisions.

So, I suppose I'll go back to the most significant measuring stick - that of voting records.