Barack, Does America Really Need to be Transformed?

I watched the debate Thursday night, trying to be open-minded about Barack Obama because, like many people, when I get home after a hard day’s work lately, I feel a bout of Clinton fatigue.  Plus, I would really like to get on that locomotive, the Barack Obama Charisma Express, that everyone seems to be boarding.  I feel left out.

But the debate reinforced my view that, while he is charismatic and poised, his substance is much less than presidential.  Amid platitudes designed to uplift, he fumbled through details in his answers to policy questions.  We can’t solve complex problems just by “fighting the special interests and lobbyists” and “bringing people together.” He is trying to waltz effortlessly into the White House on rhetoric, just the way his mentor, Ronald Reagan, did.  He peppers his answers with anecdotes about struggling individuals, unemployed mill workers in South Carolina and children of migrant farm workers in California.  This is pure Reagan, for those of you who are as old as me.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton, that night at her most charismatic and charming (which is not very charismatic and charming), was thoughtful, substantive and rational, mixing theory with a marshalling of facts.  One tidbit:  her point about using “coercive diplomacy,” i.e. multilateralism and sanctions, against “bad actors,” while avoiding a Bushian rush to war — Bravo!  Obama could not compete with that.  He just prattled on that he was against the Iraq war all along.

And when he’s on the stump, I swear, if he manages to fit ‘folks’ twice in one sentence again with that contrived midwestern/southern accent, I might fall off my chair.  I find myself asking sometimes, does America really need to be transformed?  If he says ‘transformational leadership’ one more time, I will definitely fall off my chair.  And then I read today’s NYTimes front page and learn that he takes money from and is close to Excelon, America’s biggest operator of nuclear power plants.  Now I know that you can seriously damage your butt bone (the coccyx) when you fall off your chair. 

Why can’t we find someone who may be a little clumsy behind the lectern, but authoritative, knowledgeable, and decisive behind the desk? 

America does not need to be transformed.  America is doing pretty well, especially by international standards.  We have one of the highest levels of per capita income in the world; our income distribution, while not as fair as in Scandinavia, is among the world’s fairest.  Our middle class is strong and growing.  Poverty rates are fairly low, John Edwards notwithstanding. We have a very flexible economy with low unemployment, where people can move around easily and find work.  Minority ethnic groups are comparatively well off, a lot better than years ago, with improved access to jobs, schools, board rooms, and high political office.  Obama speaks about social justice, yet compared to most countries in the world, America is socially just.  Our democracy is robust, inclusive and responsive to the people. 

The only way I believe we need to be ‘transformed’ is in our excessive consumerism, which is killing the planet. But Barack Obama doesn’t speak much about this.  Al Gore does.  (John McCain and his pal Schwarzenneger do.)  We could also stand to be transformed in terms of our violent culture (remember ‘The Departed’), but no one is talking about that.  Got to go back to Tipper Gore for someone of prominence protesting violence in American culture. 

We are told he is going to unify us.  Who is he going to unify?  The liberals in the Democratic Party?  The African-Americans and young liberal whites who vote for him?  The unity we need in this country is between Red States and Blue States.  Between secular urbanites and suburban evangelicals.  That’s who Karl Rove helped divide.  And it is a tall order to unite them.  I don’t believe Barack Obama can do it.  Hillary can’t either.  The most likely candidate to unify these disparate groups is John McCain.  

Need I remind everyone:  In spite of our prosperity, we are in a global financial and economic crisis!  Banks and financial markets are stuck.  It could get out of hand if policy makers don’t make good decisions.  When I listen to Obama speak on the economy, I feel that he is out of his element.  His experience is limited.  He quit his first job out of college, researching business and economics at Business International, because, as he has said, he did not want to assist American multinational companies.  He should have stayed a while and learned about the global economy. 

He should have learned that American corporations provide jobs to millions, represent the invested retirement savings of millions, and go around the globe searching for low-cost products for American families to buy.  The Democrats this year, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, have demonized American corporations, so much so that their supporters don’t understand that these are engines of job creation, prosperity, and increasingly, green solutions to our environmental problems. 

Obama, when asked about the economy, first blames lobbyists and regulators.  In fact, a lot of blame goes to Alan Greenspan’s Fed which left interest rates at 1% for too long, encouraging speculation in housing.  Obama launches into his boilerplate populism about the injustice of people losing their homes.  Sure, we want to soften the blow for people in hardship, but some people simply bought too much house than they could pay for.   

Mitt Romney, the former head of Bain & Co.’s venture capital arm, for all his faults, is the best prepared to handle the economy.  After that, Hillary.  After that, McCain.  

And on foreign policy, I am not comforted by Obama’s advisers: Zbig Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser, espouses a ‘blame America/blame Israel first’ foreign policy.  Obama was just endorsed by, which is funded by that anti-Israel, intellectually shallow financial speculator George Soros.’s sophisticated politics include comparing W to Hitler and calling General Petraeus, the American general leading our troops in Iraq, General “Betray-Us.”  Folks (to coin a Barackian term), get off your gmail list.  It’s as bad as Rush Limbaugh and the O’Reilly Factor.         

The combination of Clinton fatigue and Obama’s ‘change we can believe in’ is gonna drive people to vote Republican — not to join the Republican Party, but to vote for them this time.  Many of us will stay in the Democratic Party to fight another day for sensible, centrist politics, and seasoned executive leadership. But this time around, we might opt for McCain.   

On JFK and the Kennedy aura — let’s be historically accurate.  JFK lacked experience and made some terrible errors.  There was the Bay of Pigs; and, his perceived weakness encouraged Krushchev to put missiles in Cuba, according to recently-released Soviet archives.  On Civil Rights, he told Dr. King to wait, so that Dr. King wrote a book called “Why We Can’t Wait.”  He pursued a policy of ‘guns and butter,’ cutting taxes and raising spending, laying the ground for the bout of inflation and low economic growth we had in the 1970s.  Who knows what he would have done differently from Johnson on Vietnam, but he began the process of escalation.  Did he show good judgment in a crisis?  Yes, in the Cuban Missile Crisis, but he helped cause that crisis with his inexperience and perceived weakness.   

We love the Kennedys.  They gave uplifting speeches.  They were young.  But we idealized and then anointed them, at least in part because they were murdered.  Pass a torch to a new generation?  Think before you pass. 

My last word on this is a humble one.  Maybe Barack Obama would make a fabulous president.  Truthfully, I don’t know.  But, it’s a punt, an awfully risky punt, for an awfully high office, at an awfully difficult time.  I will vote, therefore, for greater certainty about leadership. 

February 5th is Super Tuesday.  Go out and vote! 

Thanks again for indulging me this rant. Forgive me my snark!  This is not the official launch of my blog, Scherblog; it is, however, the “pre-launch.”  Feel free to visit me at  I will do an official launch soon with all the requisite public relations fanfare (yeah, right!).  Tell your friends, and then they’ll tell two friends…and so on and so on…

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