Saturday, February 16, 2008

Barack Obama is Jerry McGuire

Senator Obama definitely owns desirable Presidential qualities, and his symbolic value as a black, multiethnic, cosmopolitan American is simply right for this time in our history. However, he is inexperienced, at this point in his career much more wonderful potential (a label with which I have bitter-sweet familiarity) than proven choice for the most important office of our nation.

In the upcoming Presidential election, as I have been since 9/11, I'm a one-issue voter: American leadership of the Long War. I believe Senator Obama has the right stuff to be the Wilsonian progressive liberal leader we need for the Long War, but I don't know if he is ready or even willing to be that leader (yet). I led with the Jerry McGuire analogy when I wrote this comment in response to a Baldilocks post:

Replace "love" with "I want to support" and I feel about Senator Obama how Dorothy Boyd felt about Jerry McGuire: "I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is."

A big part of me *very much* wants to support Barack Obama for President . . . except the overriding issue for me is American leadership for the Long War, and Obama scares me on that front. At best, Obama remind me of John Kerry in 2004 claiming, literally in the space of seconds, that he is both anti-war and a better choice than President Bush to lead in war.

My first impulse was to convince myself that, as a principled liberal, Obama, despite his inexperience, has all the necessary qualities to rise to the challenge and take ownership of the liberal strategy the Bush admin has chosen in the War on Terror:

[quoting myself from Jan 7] "I like that Obama is black, and better, multicultural and cosmopolitan, relatively young, which is to say, he's post-Baby Boom, Civil Rights campaign and Vietnam War, and a pragmatic progressive idealist. Obama is inexperienced, but he has the right stuff to rise quickly and well to the challenge. It doesn't hurt at all that he's a fellow Columbian. I also believe, despite the boilerplate (and infuriating) anti-war rhetoric - required of all Democrats - he espouses, that Obama would not do anything rash and irresponsible about Iraq, such as precipitous withdrawal. Obama's mantra is the Kennedy-esque, "Let's go change the world". Does that sound like someone who would so seriously undermine America's power to effect change and abdicate our nation's leadership and moral responsibilities by surrendering in Iraq? Like me, Obama has a desire to use American primacy and power to make a progressive difference in the world, which cannot work by subordinating American will to other nations. In that way, he's not unlike the post-9/11 liberal-convert George Bush. We are in the midst of a generational challenge, a multi-faceted global revolution and competition, and I believe Obama has a clearer perspective without the deficiencies and historical baggage of the Baby Boomer generation. He's not trapped in the Cold War. Once Obama is actually in position to decide Operation Iraqi Freedom, he's not going to pull us out of Iraq, or the Long War, in a manner that would cause harm to his greater idealistic mandate. He wants to change the world for the better as President, and retreat and surrender in Iraq by his orders would collapse his goals from the outset. No matter the controversial start to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the stakes in Iraq now are world-changing. Once we are clear of the baggage of President Bush, who did what needed to be done, if not always done well, the next President will be able to clarify those stakes. A charismatic and articulate progressive liberal like Obama, as opposed to the frustratingly inarticulate liberal-convert Bush, will have the opportunity to highlight the progressive nature of our Iraq mission for the American and global audiences as well as warn of the long-term harm to the liberal world order that would result from our failure there."

At some point, though, I have to weigh Obama's stated positions versus the man I wish Obama to be as a war-time leader. When Moveon.org endorsed Obama, I was - with much regret - compelled to shift my support away from him.

[Quoting myself from Feb 2] "A big part of me thinks of Obama as the President I badly want - charismatic, principled and decent, serious, post-Baby Boom, multiethnic and multicultural, cosmopolitan, idealistic and progressive in the Kennedy sense. Also, he's a fellow Columbia grad. Remove the Long War from the equation, and he'd have my full support. However, the fact remains that the issue that matters the most to me is that we win the peace in the Long War. Obama's pandering to the anti-war Left deeply disturbs me."

I still believe Barack Obama would be the best choice we have to be our President in the Long War . . . if only Obama believed it himself. For now, because of the one issue, John McCain has my support because he holds the most sensible position on the Long War. I still want to support Obama, and if Obama can convince me that he is ready to become the liberal champion of a liberal war, then I can see myself supporting him again.


Eric

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