Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Obama straddles different worlds

Okay, this was an actual 15 minutes of fame, and it IS self-promotion, but you're my friends and family, so I hope you can handle it. Sharon Cohen called months ago to get some info from me about Barack Obama from our high school days. She also interviewed my brother Keith and the brotherly team of Mike and Greg Ramos. Mike and I (the older brothers!) both had quotes that made the original story that was released. But hours later the story was edited and our quotes were taken out.

I was thrilled to contribute to this story because I believe it addresses a significant reason that Barack Obama approaches politics differently than most of the rest of the Presidential candidates. He has gained his knowledge of how to work with varied sorts of people by the daily living of his varied 45 years, rather than from his extensive academic experience.

Way back 30 years ago, Barack and I discussed the future of America, societal ills, the state of the world (and basketball). I hope we're both wiser with our older now. Still my personal knowledge of his natural learning is the reason that I believe him when he speaks. I believe him when he talks about his faith in Jesus Christ. I believe him when he gives a reasoned explanation of his opposition to the Iraq War. And even on issues where we disagree, I trust his well-honed judgement and his strong intellect.

Mostly I trust that his heart is in the right place: that he means to serve the United States, that he means good for the American people, that he has a vision for how we can do better for our own people and do better as presence around the world, that he would like to see us act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.


DHO said...

Hey TDad! I've been meaning to ask you about this RL, but the time has never worked out. And now there are a couple of incidents that relate to the same issue. Barack seems to have a tenuous understanding of how he comes across.

I think I know what he meant about the silly flag lapel pin dust up. But the way he stated it seemed, for lack of a better word, awkward. If he had said, "I think the whole country was caught up in a huge emotional show of support around the events of 9/11. I think you'll agree that there were a lot more flags being displayed everywhere. As that emotion began to wane, I got out of the habit." Instead, he said, “I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism. You show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who serve. And you show your patriotism by being true to your values and ideals." Two problems with this.

1) "make this country great" instead of "make this country greater" implies that he doesn't think this country is great at the moment. Is that really what he meant? I kind of doubt it.

2) The way you treat others and being true to your values and ideals isn't patriotism, that's character. Patriotism is "love of your country".

The second example of questionable image management is the Time photo during the national anthem at a steak fry in Iowa last month. He is shown standing with his hands clasped in front of him while everyone else on stage, Hillary and Bill Richardson included, have their hands over their hearts in the traditional stance for hearing the anthem. Additionally he is wearing rolled up sleeves and khaki pants while Bill, and Hill are in suits.

These are all really insignificant things compated to his actual message. But my point is that he doesn't seem to understand that these are the things that stick in peoples mind. Does anyone remember anything John Dean said in the 2004 primary speeches? No, but everyone remembers "the scream."

If his desire is to get his agenda across and let that be what people vote for him on, then he needs to develop a solid understanding of how he's coming across. Even though he appears to have at least as strong, and maybe stronger, grasp of the issues than any other Democrat candidate, he appears to be getting killed by the little stuff.

Thoughts? Missed you tonight! See ya soon!

tdadpete said...

Hey DHO,

Thanks for reading and writing on the blog.

I can’t defend him in any of these areas, I can only guess. My guess is he is trying to be true to himself while dealing with political realities. I think for any politician those are tough decisions to make. Honestly, it seems you and I interpret his actions and words differently. First, my guess is the “be true to your values and ideals” means “be true to American values and ideals.” But additionally, why can’t treating people right be signs both of character and patriotism? I think one of his struggles is that patriotism entails projecting the good of America around the world more than wearing a flag pin. Treating people right is part of the image we want to project of Americans. It’s hard to project that image if other Americans are showing our people to be insensitive, warmongering, unwilling to negotiate.

As far has the attire goes, my guess is that he’s gambling on perceptions. Some people might guess that he’s out of touch because he’s not wearing a suit. Others might be impressed the he’s willing to buck the system a little (when it comes to how he will dress.)

Just my thoughts. Hope you’ll be there Sunday for class, I have some info on that research that I think you’ll appreciate.

Grace and Peace