Musings on Mormonism



Finally, some thoughtful analysis of Obama the President, not Obama the Phenomenon

I ran across this timely article from The Economist (Feb. 14th, 2008) discussing the possible ramifications of electing President Obama, as opposed to Phenomenon Obama. It’s not Obama-bashing, but instead offers some thoughts on the substance of Barack Obama’s candidacy. This is not to say that candidates’ presidential offerings are reducible to mere policy positions, for, as the article rightly notes:

“[Obama] has persuaded huge numbers of people around the world to reconsider politics in an optimistic way. To many Americans, a black man who eschews both racial politics and the conservative-liberal divide is a chance to heal the country’s two deepest divisions. To many foreigners, he represents an idealistic version of America—the hope of a more benevolent superpower.”

In regards to the effect of Obama’s character, the article continues:

“His immediate effect on international relations could be dramatic: a black president, partly brought up in a Muslim country, would transform America’s image. And his youthful optimism could work at home too. After the bitterness of the Bush years, America needs a dose of unity: Mr Obama has a rare ability to deliver it. And the power of charisma should not be underrated, especially in the context of the American presidency which is, constitutionally, quite a weak office. The best presidents are like magnets below a piece of paper, invisibly aligning iron filings into a new pattern of their making. Anyone can get experts to produce policy papers. The trick is to forge consensus to get those policies enacted.”

As far as his policies go, however, The Economist makes the case that:

“Obama’s voting record in the Senate is one of the most left-wing of any Democrat. Even if he never voted for the Iraq war, his policy for dealing with that country now seems to amount to little more than pulling out quickly, convening a peace conference, inviting the Iranians and the Syrians along and hoping for the best. On the economy, his plans are more thought out, but he often tells people only that they deserve more money and more opportunities. If one lesson from the wasted Bush years is that needless division is bad, another is that incompetence is perhaps even worse. A man who has never run any public body of any note is a risk, even if his campaign has been a model of discipline.”

Regarding the limitations of character, the article continues:

“And the Obama phenomenon would not always be helpful, because it would raise expectations to undue heights. Budgets do not magically cut themselves, even if both parties are in awe of the president; the Middle East will not heal, just because a president’s second name is Hussein. Choices will have to be made—and foes created even when there is no intention to do so.” (emphasis added)

The article concludes:

“None of this is to take away from Mr Obama’s achievement—or to imply that he could not rise to the challenges of the job in hand. But there is a sense in which he has hitherto had to jump over a lower bar than his main rivals have. For America’s sake (and the world’s), that bar should now be raised—or all kinds of brutal disappointment could follow.”

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