March 21, 2008--
Barack Obama could be a great President.
There are many reasons Barack Obama could make a great President in 2017 after election in 2016 as
well as many reasons he's not the right person to be elected in 2008 and not only would not be a
great President in 2009 but would more likely perform poorly, if not dangerously. Because I
think the reasons are worthy of serious consideration, I chose to write this as straight commentary
rather than in my usual place at PoliSat.Com, where "all satire is commentary, but all
commentary isn't satire."
Much of the speech
he gave in Philadelphia on March 18, 2008 in the wake of the release of the videos of the
bitter, bigoted, hateful, incendiary and paranoid diatribes of his pastor/spiritual advisor (Rev.
Jeremiah Wright) for twenty years was excellent and beyond serious criticism. Yet a number of
things he said in the speech are subject to serious criticism. That's why I think the speech
hasn't accomplished what he hoped -- i.e., to put the issues to rest.
He offensively descended into the very kind of political caricaturization he was professing to
condemn when he implied moral equivalence between Wright's hateful, paranoid diatribes and Geraldine
Ferraro's statement to the effect that many people were supporting Obama to "make
history" because he is "black" just as many people had supported her Vice
Presidential candidacy to "make history" on the basis of her status as a woman. He
did likewise in tacitly equating his grandmother's private feelings of bigotry-- which,
apparently, she adequately rose above in her behavior rather than having succumbed to them--
with Wright's hatefulness and paranoia.
He also trotted out the alleged "racial bigotry" of "talk radio"
generally. If he really believes this, then he hasn't listened; if he has listened, he's
being disingenuous. Indeed, much of what's been said on talk radio which the Left
characterizes as "bigotry" is virtually indistinguishable from the moral-responsibility
arguments being championed by Bill Cosby and Juan Williams recently and by Thomas Sowell and
Walter Williams for decades.
He makes much of his Christian faith, which I take at face value. (I'm not religious, by the
way.) His (apparently sincere) effort to say, in effect, "We all have sinned," may
have led him to make such reckless and unfair comparisons.
Part of what he failed to do was to apply that "we all have sinned" analysis to
himself. He should have recognized the grossly unfair nature of the analogies he
selected. He should have recognized that in order for him to be true to what he has been
claiming as his greatest qualification for the Presidency-- i.e., being a person able to rise
above prejudice and bigotry and to inspire the nation to do so in order to heal the wounds of racial
division-- he needed to be able to examine his own behavior under the same moral microscope under
which he was, by such analogies, scrutinizing the conduct of others.
His staff said he wrote the speech entirely on his own. Like a lawyer writing a brief when his
own personal interests are at stake, his intellectual prowess triumphed over his capacity for
objectivity. Perhaps if he were to have sought advice from others (and I mean people other
than his immediate circle of sycophants), someone could have enabled him to understand these unfair
aspects of his speech in the same way that independent counsel can help a lawyer whose personal
interest in a matter may be blinding him to issues easily perceived by others not under the
influence of such self-interests.
Would expecting him to have mustered such objectivity on his own be tantamount to imposing upon him
greater expectations than are traditionally imposed upon politicians, about whom we all have
become accustomed to be quite cynical? Of course, but the very reason he claims to be
different is the very reason for applying such expectations to him-- i.e., does he (indeed,
can he) really mean what he says in claiming to be above such traditional political
Every election features at least one candidate who presents his views as a "new" form of
politics or as a needed "change." In allowing his intellect to triumph over
objectivity, he merely showed that he's not substantially less likely to engage in the kind of
intellectual self-deception, rationalization and absence of introspective objectivity than many, if
not most, other politicians. So much for the "new" politics.
Why wasn't it obvious to Obama throughout the 20 years he remained in Wright's church that if he
were to choose to remain in the church, and if he were to remain true to what he now says
(sincerely, I believe) are his principles favoring racial healing, it would have been necessary for
him to have relentlessly applied his powers of reasoning to try to help Wright overcome his hatreds,
bitterness and paranoia? The common-sense explanation is that until forced by political
ambition (in the current political campaign but not in any prior campaign) to confront
the ugliness of Wright's views, his prior failures to do so manifested his political judgment that
it would have been impolitic to do so. That he could be blind to this certainly doesn't make
him unique among politicians, but then, he has based his entire campaign on this claim that he is
"different" from other politicians in that respect.
I'm sure there are many Americans who would (will) vote for Obama despite having many important,
broad and serious objections to the political philosophies he currently espouses (i.e., a
collectivist view of society and an unrealistically idealistic view of foreign policy) because
they perceive his claimed ability to help move America past the racial divide to constitute an
"overriding" reason for supporting him just as there are many (I hope many more) who will
vote for John McCain
despite important, broad and serious objections to many of his political positions because they
believe (correctly in my opinion) that it's vital for our next President to aggressively seek
long-term victory for classical Western liberalism over medieval totalitarianism and paleo-Stalinism
rather than accepting defeat or merely seeking stalemate.
Why did I begin by saying I think Obama could make a great President in 2017? Because I think
he's smart enough to learn from what will by then be the history of events between now and
then and to then admit having learned such lessons. He'll acquire the better judgment
to understand that the hackneyed cliché "might doesn't make right" tends to obscure the
reality that right without might cannot triumph over wrong wielding might. By then, he would
have acquired the judgment he now claims to posses.
I think (hope?) he'll be smart enough to have learned the superiority of individualism over
collectivism and the need in a still-dangerous world for the military muscle of classical Western
liberalism to remain the most powerful force on the planet and to relentlessly apply such muscle
when needed against the forces of totalitarianism. By then, he'll not only
quote John F. Kennedy's inaugural assertion (I paraphrase) that America must "bear any burden,
oppose any foe and support any friend to assure the ultimate triumph of liberty over tyranny for the
benefit of future generations," but he'll also mean it.
Wrenn, Editor at WrennCom.Com and PoliSat.Com.
link to this installment: