Friday, March 14, 2008

Prepare for the worst

Yeah. I haven't blogged since the end of January. I've been REALLY busy. BUT this kind of got me out of hibernation and served as an impetus for a few comments I have wanted to write about for quite some time. Before getting to THE issue, I want to go into two of my main thoughts on Obama. My apologies for rambling nonsense - as usual I'm pretty much just writing as a stream of consciousness.

First and foremost, I'm really afraid that Obama is set to become our generation's Jimmy Carter. The parallels between the two are almost frightening. The obvious ones being that both are campaigning as Washington outsiders, both are considered young guns in the Democratic party and both are trying to ride general opposition to the previous Republican administration to victory in November. The less obvious ones involve their promises of shaking up the Department of Education (moving away from No Child Left Behind) and the Department of Health (health care reform/insurance, etc).

However the risks seem to be greater than any possible benefits. My general view of the office of the President is that the person who is most competent, and can get the most done should be elected. But also related to that is what is the damage that President will cause? And in that regard I fear that the foreign policy arena is one ripe for Presidential failures. Most presidents have so little foreign policy or executive experience that they make serious mistakes. Let us consider Carter, who sought to reduce troops in Korea, much like Obama wishes to reduce/withdraw troops from Iraq and they seem to generally stand for similar outlooks of how the US should act.

Then let me remind you of the Iran Hostage Crisis. Carter's blatant support for the Shah of Iran (admittedly not his burden) sparked backlash in Iran (again, not really his fault). What WAS Carter's fault is how he responded to the crisis. He pretty much choked. His ultimate course of action, Operation Eagle Claw, was not only a pathetic failure, but made the United States look terrible. It also did not occur until almost 6 months after the hostages were seized. Even if this WAS his "best" response, he took his time. The application of this example and perhaps how Carter handled the situation can be debated, but either way, Carter did not know how to handle Iran. This is a pressing issue of our times too as we fear Iran's nuclearization, their support of Hezbollah and Hamas, and their aid to insurgents in Iraq. How will Obama deal with them? The greater question is, how will he determine how to deal with them? What in his experience, his campaign, or much of anything does he have to offer that will help him choose the right course of action?

The implication of this is more nuanced than simply ruining the US' image. Taken in a big picture sense the Carter Presidency set up a decade of neoconservativism. Carter's failures abroad as well as his domestic ones (serious inflation) gave ammunition to neoconservatives who could say - we were right - liberal democrats spend spend spend and aren't hard on enemies. Do we want that today? Jeb Bush is waiting in the wings and he could be the most moderate of conservatives who could gain from a miserable Obama presidency.

The second issue I have is that Obama is going to change Washington. You have to have hope. Look. This is ridiculous. How do you change a system that has been embedded into our culture for two hundred years? How do you shake up a political system that is determined NOT to change. You want to challenge special interests? How do you distance politicians from special interests? Obama could probably handpick a majority of congresspeople in the midterm elections who he thought would support his political morality type spin/platform and get nowhere.

If his calls for change are more about the policies of the system (ie health care is flawed, education policy is flawed) then how do you work outside the system? It's like, how do you get the ACTUAL LEGISLATION passed if you refuse to use the system, and more likely considering Obama's inexperience, know how to USE the system? We sure as hell know Hillary knows how to use the system and we have seen, and listened to her, explain how she would change the system. This level of explanation, of what she is going to do, is far and away beyond any of the detail Obama has provided. Hillary's early claim that she is the candidate for change because she's been doing it longer is simply fact.

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