Tina K. Russell

August 29, 2008

Impressions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:49 am

As a blogger, I feel like some contractual requirement mandates that I write about Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. Well… it was excellent. It was really, really, really, really, really that good. It’s hard to say just after watching it, but…

I felt a certain sense, at the end, a certain quaintness, an enlightenment… that Obama had turned the elaborate staging around, took a brilliant display of tens of thousands cheering one on man and changed it to a celebration, by one man, of the tens of thousands who put him there. It put a spark in me, it’s like all the brilliant stagecraft melted away just for long enough to get Obama’s message through in full force. This is no ordinary election. This is no ordinary time. Barack has come with a strange request: that a skinny, black, middle-aged man, with a pizza head, big ears, and a funny name, should become President of the United States. That a man who was a no-name eight years ago, and a breakaway star at the convention four years ago, stands today at the head of the parade and a favorite for the nation’s highest office. I got a chance to cherish how weird that is. Desperate times, eh?

There was a letter to the editor some time ago, in The New York Times, saying that it seemed silly to have the new guy running with a “voice of experience” veep. Shouldn’t the one with experience be at the top of the ticket, with the new one running as his apprentice? Ordinarily, that might be the case, but we can’t wait eight years for an Obama presidency. We need him right now. It’s a chance, but given his background as a voting-rights lawyer, a Constitutional law professor, a community organizer, and a state- and federal-level senator, it’s one I’m willing to take.

Often in this campaign, I’ve gotten a chance to cherish the parallel’s between Obama’s story and that of Abraham Lincoln, brainy lawyer turned party stalwart turned President in the midst of crisis. Both have the qualities that endear Lincoln to me when I read about him; namely that, like me, he was lanky, reserved, and well-spoken. It’s not just superficial, though… if you look at who led the factions in the Civil War, in terms of nominal experience, Jefferson Davis should have won. He was educated at West Point; Lincoln was educated in law and had no military experience. What Lincoln had was a brilliant military intuition and the good sense to keep a diverse blend of associates (the famed “team of rivals”) to give him the broad views that would allow him to pick the best ideas. Lincoln had, in short, good judgment. McCain, bless his heart for serving our country, has bluster on every issue and promises to make sure America is as obstinate and bellicose on the foreign stage as possible. Obama strikes me as shrewd, careful, well-reasoned, but with a firm (and well-placed!) conviction, and those are the qualities that Lincoln used to get us through the Civil War.

This is, of course, a lot of gushing. But every time the McCain crew makes fun of Obama for being out of touch, I get a little bit of joy knowing that someone as cerebral as Obama is running for the nation’s highest office and favored to win. Yes, Obama is smart! And when times are tough and the country is rushing from crisis to crisis, I don’t want a President who makes absolutism a point of pride, who promises we’ll stay in Iraq until he can decide on a victory condition, who needles Obama for saying that he may talk to people who don’t like us. I should say that I don’t want four more years of a President who does such things. We’ve had enough. I want a president cool and collected to stay on top of the situation. I want a President who uses, yes, them fifty-buck words.

I respect McCain for some things, but he strikes me as a candidate unable to extricate himself from conservative orthodoxy, for fear of being an actual maverick (and alienating his base) rather than merely playing one on TV. Meanwhile, Obama brilliantly summarizes and synthesizes liberal and conservative positions and values, as he did repeatedly throughout the speech. Obama strikes me as someone who will use all the tools in the toolbox. As he told the reporter who spoke to him on economics (see “Barackonomics,” below), “my ideology is what works,” and he’s shown a firm grip on what’s worked and what will work in the future. As far as McCain’s principles go, he opposes universal healthcare on principle, he opposed the new GI Bill on principle, he opposes ever leaving Iraq on principle; his principles seem to contradict everything we’ve come to realize we badly need. Obama’s principles seem to be more suited to the office of President: that if he cannot use every method available to him to address the issues at hand, he would not be doing his duty. I suppose that’s why I like him. …That, and just the message of personal empowerment: that you need to work, but the government can help. The nuance is so unfamiliar, it’s almost blinding.

Yes, and he fits my ideology that the government works best when it’s enabling people to do great things, when it supports small business, builds physical and technological infastructure, and gives every child a top-class American education. He says, quite rightly, that the free market is wonderful and cannot do everything. He says (and I’ve been waiting for someone to say this!) that you cannot pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots. Perhaps I like that just because I’m somebody who doesn’t fit in… I want to make my own way. It’s nice to think I’ve got Uncle Sam not to hold my hand, but to have my back.

Wow, that was long. I intended just to write something quick to fulfill my blogging obligation (or, perhaps, my blogbligation, and if you turn that into a trendy neologism, I will hurt you). Well, there you have it, Tina’s meditation on why she likes Obama. Next up, why Tina likes Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and wishes she still lived in his district.

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