Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And the schlub endorsement goes to...

Barack Obama.

This is sort of an obvious one to anyone who has read any of this schlub's political musings since this blog went up in the spring.

Not to alienate any of my conservative readers out there, but this isn't even a remotely close call as far as I am concerned.

I am a Democrat -- I care about Democratic issues; I believe in universal health care; I favor drawing our troops out of Iraq; I believe in reconstructing our frayed military and fighting al Qaeda; I do not believe in tax giveaways to the wealthy -- and on and on. All of which are perfectly in line with Obama's policies.

But more than that, I think that Barack Obama is far and away the clearest, most sonorous voice I've heard on any politician in my lifetime. That voice has spoken to all the frustration that Americans like me have felt over the last eight years. (Perhaps even longer than that.) For people of my age (29), it's slightly difficult to understand the mania that people of my parents' generation felt about John F. Kennedy. But now I understand.

During the primary, Hillary Clinton ridiculed Obama as a man who was just words and rhetoric. But I don't think that what Obama did in this campaign can be dismissed so cynically. For a writer like me, words are all important. Obama spoke at nearly every turn with eloquence and intelligence and I refuse to believe that that's not desperately important. He inspired millions. Nothing to be sneezed at.

There was a time (about six or seven years ago) when I genuinely admired John McCain. There are still moments when I reflect back on his Irish hot temper with fondness. When he was the GOP rebel -- when he was fighting George Bush for the nomination, when he was voting against tax cuts, when he was championing campaign finance reform, when he was calling Pete Domenici an asshole -- there was a lot to love about him.

But that McCain is long gone. He made a calculated decision that to win the presidency, he would have to be as ruthless as George W. Bush was in 2000. I think that was a fatal mistake. In his effort to court the GOP base, he sold out his principles on tax cuts, global warming, etc. (That, or he genuinely changed his mind, which is just as bad.) His refusal to distance himself from Bush on the myriad of tragic mistakes of the administration rendered him ineligible for the presidency as far as I was concerned.

Moreover, his campaign was an absolute disgrace.

The "celebrity" ads in which he compared Barack Obama to Paris Hilton were, at best, sophomoric. But the ads in which he made the utterly spurious claim that Obama wanted to teach sex ed to kindergarteners were downright deceitful and a disgrace.

His decision to "suspend" his campaign to fly back to Washington so he could fix the economic crisis was nothing short of a complete farce.

But the biggest disgrace of his campaign would have to be his choice of a running mate, the manifestly unqualified Sarah Palin.

When Palin was picked I wondered whether or not it was a shrewd move, politically speaking -- given her pluck and possible appeal to disenchanted Clinton supporters. But it didn't take me long to realize that, politics aside, it was a shockingly irresponsible choice for a 72 year old with a history of cancer. Palin has proven herself to be a demagogue, an intellectual featherweight, and shockingly dishonest about her lifestory and her legislative record (which is anorexic in substance).

To poise a mediocrity like Palin to be the commander-in-chief of our army at a time of war and steward of our economy at a time of crisis is nothing less than stunning in its contempt for the American people.

But I am firmly convinced that the case for Obama is not simply a case against his opponent.

Whether Obama has a lot of experience or not, he has the most important thing for anyone aspiring to the office: Intelligence and wisdom.

When Obama opposed the war in Iraq in 2002, it was not at all certain that this would be the thing to boost his political future. I always suspected that Hillary Clinton decided that she could not afford to vote against the war if it turned out to be a cakewalk. But, she reasoned, her vote would be forgiven if it was a disaster, given how hungry the country was for war. (She was wrong.)

Obama made an extremely prescient case against the war. He asked how long we would be in Iraq; what this venture would cost; what it would do to our image in the Arab world. It is a shame that Obama had to ask these questions from the sidelines -- but he was asking the right questions. There was never a hint of cynicism in this voice; he never doubted the motives of our troops or those who were supporters of the war.

I was one of those supporters at the time. I think I was wrong. Obama's judgment is superior to mine.

There's one more thing to add to this: I think that the mess that has been created in the last eight years will in all likelihood outlive an Obama administration. It will take America a long time to emerge from the mire we've been cast in. And I think that Obama -- despite all his gifts -- will have to donate much of his first term to putting out the fires of George Bush and Dick Cheney. As promising a man as Obama is, he will inevitably disappoint. (No one could live up to the hopes of his supporters.) The road will not be straight or smooth. What we will not get is a messiah.

We will have, instead, a leader. That's enough for me.

I happily cast my ballot this morning for Barack Obama. To my fellow schlubs, I invite you to follow suit.