LOL: Bob Herbert says this isn't the Obama he thought he knew
Let's start off by acknowledging that Bob Herbert is as likely to vote against Barack Obama as Michelle Obama. However, the bloom has definitely fallen off of the rose with the New York Times columnist, and he argues that Obama may have taken his supporters on the Left too much for granted. Obama has squandered his exceptionality in a series of zig-zags, Herbert writes, and what's left without that exceptionality?
Only an idiot would think or hope that a politician going through the crucible of a presidential campaign could hold fast to every position, steer clear of the stumbling blocks of nuance and never make a mistake. But Barack Obama went out of his way to create the impression that he was a new kind of political leader - more honest, less cynical and less relentlessly calculating than most. You would be able to listen to him without worrying about what the meaning of "is" is.
In other words, he was the progressive anti-Clinton, which explains a lot about his surprising victory over Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, as Herbert and the rest of the nation has discovered, he's actually Clinton squared:
But Senator Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He's lurching right when it suits him, and he's zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that's guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash.
In other words, he's not just becoming another old-style politician - he's another old-style politician with no experience and little grasp of the major issues the nation faces. During the primaries, he asked America to consider his judgment instead of his opponents' experience, but then stumbled through a series of gaffes to an unenthusiastic finish in the primaries. Now he has started discarding the positions that demonstrated his supposedly superior judgment. What's left except a thirst for power? Of course, this will have little effect on his true believers. Or will it? Herbert wonders:
There has been a reluctance among blacks to openly criticize Senator Obama, the first black candidate with a real shot at the presidency. But behind the scenes, there is discontent among African-Americans, as well, over Mr. Obama's move away from progressive issues, including his support of the Supreme Court's decision affirming the constitutional right of individuals to bear arms.
Like Herbert, it seems inconceivable that a significant number of black voters would pull the lever for John McCain over Barack Obama. A lessening of enthusiasm might create a large problem, though. African-American voters traditionally turn out in much larger numbers than the general population, usually 70% or better. That will probably go up this year, but if it doesn't, Obama may find himself struggling to keep pace with McCain.
Even if Herbert isn't ready to throw Obama under the bus, the disillusionment is clear. If a true believer like Herbert feels this way, the centrists and independents who saw Obama as a post-partisan model of New Politics may feel the disillusionment even more. He's not the New Politician they think he was - and without that, he's a greenhorn with no executive or military experience who wants to lead a nation at war.
Obama could learn from GWB
Comment from Britain
So, the hot news now is Barack Obama. Obama this, Obama that... Naturally, it is very laudable that the United States may have chosen to look beyond the issue of race and opted for a person purely on the merit of his character. But what will they find?
The usual hot air that Washington politicians seem to have made their own. Mr Obama is no different. We're just too politically correct to say that the only thing refreshing about him is his colour. So we say he's "bipartisan", or he's a "uniter".
Whatever happened to leadership and honesty as presidential traits? I happen to believe that the only leader in the West to have these two admirable qualities in droves is the leader of the free world: George W Bush. Yes, we've all heard the Bushisms and laughed at them but do you really think somebody supposedly that thick can make it to the top of the most sophisticated political system the world has ever seen? No, and that is because Mr Bush is far cleverer than most of his predecessors. He may not have been a Rhodes Scholar, but he has the ability to reach out to his people and read them.
Take the Iraq war for example. OK, so he got us into Iraq in the first place. But for Pete's sake, he's the leader of the world's only superpower. He needs to take decisions, even if sometimes they have nasty consequences - which is far better than we do in Europe, where we enjoy dithering not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. Something had to be done about Iraq and our government was all for attacking it too. So let's not blame G.W. for the war.
And when things did go wrong in Iraq, and there were calls to pull out, Mr Bush just followed his own counsel and doubled his bet with the Surge. And he was right because Iraq is in a relatively better shape today than it ever was and Al Qa'eda is a shadow of its former self in that country. This is a man who has the courage of his convictions.
Let's not forget how Europe does wars. Usually we wait and wait until the enemy starts attacking, then we let them win a bit, then we fight until we are tired, then we just call the US to come over to clean our mess. That is what happened in WWI, WWII, and the Balkans. Bush is just showing us what a bunch of dangerous ditherers we are and we hate him for it. Naturally.
And the Olympics. Bush said right from the beginning that he's going to the opening ceremony because he saw the whole boycott thing as silly and counterproductive. Compare that with Sarkozy who has changed his mind twice so far and to Gordon Brown who, well... err. Not much leadership from Europe here, as usual, just doublespeak. Once again, it is to Bush that we look for leadership.
Bush may not have the slickness of his predecessor, but he is a man you can trust and who prefers to tell it like it is. This is refreshing, and very scary for us who are used to our politicians always talking grandly about principles and hiding behind political mumbo-speak. The fact is you guys hate Mr Bush because he is not a hypocrite and you are used to hypocrites as your leaders. We hate what we don't understand.
Yes, yes, all you bleeding heart liberals are cringing out there. I can just hear you. But the fact is, Mr Bush has had to take some very tough decisions and the world needs people who can not only talk but also act tough and admit mistakes.
Of course you think Mr Obama is going to make a difference, but as I write this, he's already giving all the signs of somebody who will say anything to get into power only to act in exactly the same way as the Washington clique he aims to replace!
Hating George W. Bush is not only dull and unoriginal, but it shows a complete lack of understanding of the world in which we live in. You want liberty but you don't want to defend it... right.
And for those of you who still don't buy into what I'm saying, look at the Middle East. Bush single-handedly managed to unite the Arabs in their hate for him. Given how difficult uniting the Arabs is, it takes a special man with special skills to achieve this. He is just the kind of man to bring about peace in that region!
Again Please, In English
Andrew Leonard of Salon gives us Obama's thoughts (presented at a town hall meeting) about bilingual education:
You know, I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, "We need to have English- only." They want to pass a law, "We want English-only."
Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.
You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], "Merci beaucoup." Right?
You know, no, I'm serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get ajob. You are so much more employable. You can be part of international business. So we should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they're 5, or 6, or 7 than when they're 46, like me.
Whoa. Reporting live from the United Kingdom, I have been assured that the typical Brit does not speak many (i.e., any) languages other than English and a smattering of American. Apparently Obama is aware that culturally, Britain is not part of Europe, and he assumes we know it as well. But the real comedy gold is this:
Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.
Really? Will that help me or my children communicate with the immigrants from Vietnam, or China, or Poland? Who knew? Table 4 can help Obama's staffers figure out that if slightly more than half of recent immigrants to the Unite States are from Latin America, than sightly less than half are from other parts of the world.
Obama talked about this during the Univision debate last February. Frankly, I think teaching foreign languages at an earlier age in school makes lots of sense, but I wonder whether are public schools are doing so great a job on the Three Rs that we need to expand their mission.
LEFT UNREPORTED: How many languages does Barack speak? And how are his kids (ages 10 and 7) doing with their Spanish, or do they also embarrass him as the rest of us rubes do? I'd hate to think this is one more "do as I say" scenario similar to Barack's no-smoking aspiration.
Barack Obama's Berlin visit sparks German diplomatic row
Berlin, a city torn apart by war, is the perfect setting for an American president preaching peace. Ronald Reagan famously stood metres away from the Brandenburg Gate and called on the Soviet Union to tear down the Wall dividing Europe. And President Kennedy used a Cold War visit to the once and future German capital to declare: "ich bin ein Berliner!"
Now Barack Obama, the presidential candidate, wants to grandstand there too. But a simmering row between the German Government and the local Berlin authorities could rob the Democratic politician of a photogenic moment at the Brandenburg Gate and derail his flagship tour of Europe this month.
The plan, Obama advisers have told Der Spiegel magazine, is to use the visit on July 24 to signal an imminent improvement in the transatlantic relationship. "The Senator was criticised in the primaries for showing insufficient interest in Europe," said the unnamed adviser. "This visit is an answer to this criticism ... the memories of John F. Kennedy's 1963 speech are still very fresh - Berlin is a bridge between East and West."
Berlin, in short, is the place to establish foreign policy credentials and make rhetorical flourishes. Somehow standing outside No 10 with Gordon Brown does not have the same resonance or filmic potential. And the pitstop in Paris is sure to fall foul of the Carla factor, with photographers going for the glamour shot, Mme Sarkozy embracing Mr Obama, rather than focusing on the chiselled statesman-in-waiting. The Senator from Chicago needs cheering crowds and they may be in short supply if, as expected, his trip takes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is just a matter of the appropriate backdrop. Negotiations are underway between the Obama advance team and the office of the Berlin Mayor, Klaus Wowereit, to hold the speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, close to the line that traces the route of the Berlin Wall. The newly built US embassy nestles alongside. So too does a museum honouring John F. Kennedy. If, as expected, Mr Obama is going to deliver a phrase in German (the insider tip is: "I can listen!" - "ich kann zuhoeren!") and fling out his arms in the direction of Russia and Central Europe, then this surely is the place.
But, say advisers to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, it would be tantamount to giving the German stamp of approval to Mr Obama, an undue interference in the election campaign. "The Brandenburg Gate is the best known and most historically significant site in Germany," said a Chancellery official, explaining why until now only elected presidents have been allowed to perform there.
So the Government would dearly like Mr Obama to find another platform, perhaps the town hall in the district of Schoeneberg where Kennedy expressed his solidarity with West Berlin. Almost everywhere else in the capital has unfortunate historical associations; the Olympic Stadium (where Hitler was enraged by the success of the black athlete Jesse Owens in the 1936 Games) has, for example, been ruled out.
Technically the decision lies with the Berlin Mayor, a flamboyant, openly gay Social Democrat, who quite relishes the idea of irritating the conservative Chancellor. The toing and froing between the various seats of power in Berlin is thus likely to continue until the last minute.
The embarrassment in Berlin masks the fact that almost every corner of the German political establishment now, with varying degrees of openness, wants Obama to win. The press call it "Obamania". The only reservations about Mr Obama are that he may be "too idealistic" - the Germans found it very difficult to deal with another Democratic idealist, Jimmy Carter - and that he may pay no more than lip service to the principles of free trade. But in most other respects he ticks every box in the checklist of Chancellor Merkel, who has already scheduled a meeting with the senator.
John McCain, familiar to German politicians from his regular appearances at the annual Munich Security conference, once chewed out the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for being too placatory towards Russia. Mr Steinmeier meanwhile makes much of a recent 15-minute talk with Mr Obama. Two terms of George W. Bush, reckon German officials, have consolidated the anti-Americanism of the Germans. A President McCain, the German Government fears, would search for new enemies and continue to stoke the hostility of the Germans.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project, published last month, showed that 66 per cent of Germans had unfavourable views of the US and that China and Russia had more interest than Washington in Germany's point of view. The sheer animosity towards America was displayed recently in sneering media reviews of the new, admittedly uninspiring, US embassy building in Berlin. A serious conservative newspaper identified the building's roof terrace as a "spa and water-boarding zone", referring to US military abuse of prisoners.
Mr Obama thus comes to a Germany that nurtures unreasonably high expectations of him as the man who appears to sound the death knell of the Bush Administration. But the fact is whoever wins the election in November will put pressure on Ms Merkel to be more active in Afghanistan and to reduce German dependency on Russian energy. Neither is possible as long as Ms Merkel is in alliance with the Social Democrats, who are deeply unhappy about further troop deployments abroad and are equally opposed to reactivating an atomic energy programme.
Both Mr McCain and Mr Obama have expressed support for the death sentence and the right to carry guns - strongly-felt German points of issue with America. Obamania, it appears, may evaporate rather quickly if the senator ever becomes president.
The Election Will Polarize Around Obama
I have long ago stopped worrying about the massive activity gap that surrounds the two candidates for President. Obama is getting a lot more attention that McCain, but as we saw, with Wright, Ayers, and "bitter/cling," it's not invariably good attention.
It's probably not a wise use of the McCain campaign's time to try and dominate the news cycle and the public consciousness in the same way Obama does, but rather to ensure that in an election that can easily be summed up as Obama vs. Not Obama, Not Obama wins the narrative. Politico captures this dynamic pretty well today, with John McCain's invisibility stacked up against Barack Obama's cultural ubiquity:
"There has never been a major party candidate less relevant in an election than John McCain," said Democratic strategist James Carville. "It's all about Obama."
Longtime Democratic consultant Doug Schoen said that for many voters questions about Obama's identity, faith and patriotism are metaphors for a broader doubt and uncertainty about somebody who, until four years ago, was an unknown even in much of the political community. "It's Obama against Obama-and Obama's narrowly winning,' Schoen said. "He's only five points ahead running against a shadow when he should be up 15." "If he's acceptable, he's president. It's that simple."
This means a few things. First off, the RNC should be making the Democratic Primary their targeting map for the fall. John McCain's relative strengths and weaknesses with various segments of the electorate will matter little. They will be subsumed by attitudes towards Obama. Ironically, McCain's pattern of relative support across the country may be just as if not more conservative than George W. Bush's, despite his long-standing issues with the conservative base. Everything will be purely a reaction to Obama. McCain will get what cultural conservatives are left in the Democratic Party, and Obama will get more of the transplanted exurbanites who handed Bush victories in places like Loudoun County, Virginia.
The 2008 election will polarize around Obama in the same way that 2004 polarized around Bush. That's because Obama is a cultural icon. But so are Tom Cruise and Britney Spears. The danger to this celebrity strategy is that it's rendering Obama's trump card -- partisan contrast and "Bush's third term" -- irrelevant. Once someone is knocked off a pedastal as high as Obama's is, the fall is so hard that it doesn't matter that "the other guy is worse."
Obama Wants the Military's Trust
Senator Barack Obama did an interview with the Army Times and in it he said he had to earn the trust of the military especially since he has not served. Obama is accurate in this statement but to develop the trust of the military the men and women who serve in it need to know the Commander in Chief is ready to stand behind them and ensure they complete the job that the elected leaders sent them to do. Obama and the Democrats want to pull the troops out of Iraq and give victory to the enemy. Obama talks a good game but the truth is he has stated he has a 16 month withdraw plan and while he will listen to the commanders, the decision is his.
America's military does not decide when and where to go to war. Those decisions are made by the people elected to office and though everyone likes to call this "Bush's war" the fact is, Democrats and Republicans in Congress voted to send the military into combat. The troops went willingly and did what they were told. They do not have the luxury of changing their minds for the sake of political expedience because they are obligated to serve when and where they are told. A member of the military who refuses to fight in the war has committed a crime and can be severely punished but no such punishment exists for members of Congress who vote to send them to war and then change their minds based on a poll. Obama certainly has a long way to go. Here is a tip Barry, learn what you are talking about:
Earning trust, he said, means listening to advice from military people, including top uniformed leaders, combatant commanders and senior noncommissioned officers and petty officers. It also means standing up for the military on critical issues and keeping promises, Obama said.
Petty Officers ARE noncommissioned officers.
It is interesting to note that Obama, despite his admitted lack of service, feels he is better qualified to lead the military than John McCain who was serving in the military when little Barry was living with his typical white grandmother and experimenting with drugs. Barry cites his service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his extensive travel as a youth as qualifications. I believe that McCain has quite a bit more experience in travel around the world and he has it as an adult, not a hazy eyed child. Additionally, Obama has been in the Senate about 4 years and has been campaigning for about 2 of them. How much did he learn from the position on that Committee when he has not been there very much? Obama also talked about accountability:
During the interview, Obama discussed the issue of accountability for military leaders, including times when, he said, he believes the Bush administration has blamed senior officers for things that were not their fault. He contrasted his own personal standards of accountability that he said would apply if he becomes president.
His own personal standards of accountability? He has not taken responsibility for anything. Anyone who does something wrong is labeled as "not the person I knew" and is summarily thrown under the bus. Obama took no responsibility for spending 20 years in a racist, hate filled church. Obama has taken no responsibility for the controversial statements made by his surrogates and his "present" votes while a state senator certainly lack any hint of responsibility.
Barack Obama will not get the military vote. He can take credit for programs or bills that he had little or nothing to do with and he can make pie in the sky promises about what he will do for the members of the armed forces but they are not like the mind numbed drones who follow his every move. They know what he is about and since an overwhelming number of them are conservative, they do not like his liberal policies. Members of the military want to win and come home, in that order. They do not want to come home with a loss because their leaders lacked the testicular fortitude to follow through on their actions like they did during Vietnam.
In General Patton's most famous speech he said:
When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American."
The idea of losing is not hateful to liberals because they want America to lose. Patton understood the American psyche and he knew that we all admire winners and that the thought of losing is hateful to any true American. When Patton made this speech he said that this is why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war but that was because he did not know the breed of Democrat that would soon infest this nation. Patton is still spinning in his grave because of Vietnam.
Barry Obama has a prescription for losing and the members of the military do not want to be losers. They joined to serve this nation in peace and war and they are dedicated to ensuring VICTORY. The only exit plan they understand is the plan that Patton and all true patriots espouse:
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