Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama Overseas

All eyes are on Barack Obama as he has traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq and now elsewhere in the middle east. This is not a campaign tour; Senator Obama is traveling with Senators Hagel and Reed on a fact finding mission, as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Their job is to meet with US officials overseas and also with representatives of the nations they are visiting, to gather information for the Committee to use in its deliberations as part of the process of establishing and executing America's foreign policy.

But the attention of everyone is clearly focused on Senator Obama, who has a good chance of becoming the next American President. His opponent for the office, Senator John McSame is rightly viewed as the Bush third term candidate, especially in matters of foreign policy. The Obama hope for change is most strongly felt in how the United States views the rest of the world, and in how they view us.

If Obama is the next American President, two immediate facts will be striking. First, he will be the only American President other than George Washington with a father born outside America. Second, he will be the first American President who shares with the majority of the people on earth the fact that he is not entirely Caucasian. If little else is known about him by people in foreign nations, these two facts will be known and will give President Obama an unprecedented opportunity to change the fundamental dynamics of America's role in the world.

The international potential of an Obama Presidency is hard to over estimate. Just getting rid of Bush will send a refreshing breeze around the world, a sigh of relief that can only be stifled if McSame is the successor. Obama feels the world view. It is his birthright, given by an International student father and an international worker mother. The McSame birthright is War, given by a paternal line of Admirals.

Obama is reputedly an excellent listener, an apropos skill on display during this current mission. What a contrast to George W., a man who changed religions to get shorter sermons to suffer through. Obama writes books; Bush doesn't even read. Bush gets his facts from two places, his imagination and his direct line to God. McSame distorts facts to fit his current tactics, as when he toured the Iraqi market in a flak vest under heavy ground and air guard and said it was perfectly safe. Obama knows from his legal background that the only facts that should count are the ones that can be proven by substantial evidence.

The differences between Democrats and Republicans are most apparent on domestic issues. Foreign relations matters sometimes blur the party lines, though the Bush/Cheney regime has been so blatantly imperialistic that the historical nuances between the Parties on foreign relations became a great divide. Partisan politics is supposed to stop at our borders, and on the great issues of War and Diplomacy it should. The Secretary of State will be a key player in the Obama administration. Maybe Colin Powell would like another run at it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What has happened to your critical perspective:

1. Obama's trip is not a campaign tour? That statement is embarrassingly naive to me.
2. McCain is a Bush third term candidate? Not according to many Republicans who can't stand him.
3. A candidates's hope for change without clearly defining the change is empty rhetoric.
4. We should vote for Obama because his father was not born in the US? Irrelevant.
5. We should vote for Obama because he is not a pure Caucasian? Racist.
6. Getting rid of Bush a breath of fresh air across the world? That I agree with.
7. Colin Powell as Obama's Secretary of State? Did you come up with that or is there something more substantial to it? I like the idea but Colin is too old. If elected, Obama should bring youth to his administration to be consistent with his campaign of change.
John from Phoenix

9:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Blake said...


1. When a candidate is the presumptive nominee, everything he does is viewed as part of the campaign. But there is still a valid distinction between a tour involving stump speeches and fund raisers, and one that is a fact finding mission by three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

2. McCain's record is one of overwhelming support for the Bush Administration, with his position on the few exceptions now changing to appeal to the base (e.g off shore oil drilling). It is the religious right that has the biggest problem accepting him as the Republican nominee, because he has not kissed their holy you know what - though recently he has pandered and puckered in that direction.

3. Obama speaks of changing the overall direction of our political discourse, away from polarized warfare and shifting to respected differences negotiated to agreed approaches toward solving problems. On the current tour he has been expressing the need for change in terms of a longer range strategy, rather than short term tactics. For example, he believes our strategy in Iraq should be to leave the country as soon as possible, once it is capable of handling its own security, whereas the Bush Administration and McCain speak of every tactical turn, e.g. the "surge", as being determinative of some sort of "victory". The Bush/McCain long term strategy, as McCain matter of fact answered a while back, is to stay in Iraq indefinitely, 100 years or more being quite acceptable, as part of some imperialist view of protecting America.
If you want more details from Obama, read his second book, where he sets out his visions more precisely. It is more political than his first book which you enjoyed, but if you want definitions of the changes he seeks, which are political in nature, then you will find them there.

4. As a nation of immigrants I think it is relevant that Obama would be only the second President who is not the child of two American born parents. In some ways we are a cosmopolitan country, but in this department we seem xenophobic, and those fears are being exploited by spreading falsehoods about Obama's background. If America demonstrates, by electing Obama, that we are making significant progress on overcoming our historical fear of foreigners, that will be highly relevant in improving our image abroad. This said, it is not necessary to vote for Obama because his Dad was African; there are overwhelming other reasons to elect him rather than McCain.

5. Again, I did not say vote for Obama based on race. His bi-racial background is an added appeal to some voters though, just as it is a deterrent to others. As with my point 4 above, a bi-racial American President will improve our image abroad, particularly in non-Caucasian countries [basically every place but Europe, Australia and Canada]. Is it racist to consider race as a positive factor - such as in affirmative action? Is it racist to want an American President whose dark face does not look to non-Caucasian nations like a colonial oppressor? If an African-American votes for Obama in part because his election will improve self-esteem for African-Americans, is that racist? It is not actually necessary to answer these questions though, because Obama offers the best of racial choices, the superior candidate you can also choose to vote for because he is half black, or half white, or half each.

6. AMEN!

7. I was being a little provocative, but also paying respect to Powell, who deserved much better than what he got from Bush - but then doesn't that apply to all of us? He would bring gravitas to the position and bi-partisanship. Age should not be a factor - after all, at 70, he is barely older than you and I. Change and youth are not necessarily in partnership, nor are stagnation and old age. There are plenty of us old folks who have been advocating change our whole life and who could bring experience and wisdom to an Obama Administration. Incidentally, Powell is the child of Jamaican immigrants.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. No, there isn't a difference. You just buy into the cover and I don't. I think Obama's trip is necessary, but it is necessary for political reasons only. I am using the word "political" as a neutral, unemotional descriptive adjective.
2. The religious right does have a problem with him, and that's a big reason I like McCain. The libertarian wing also has a big problem with McCain. My son-in-law cannot stand him, and he is very much a libertarian. But the libertarian wing also has a huge problem with Bush. So maybe I have to agree with you.
3. Campaign rhetoric.
4. I see your point and I agree. If he is elected, maybe he will be able to stop the anti-immigrant ugliness, and legitimize the millions of undocumented Hispanics who came to this country because we essentially invited them.
5. Maybe.
6. Praise the Lord!
7. I think Colin Powell would be very helpful to any administration. But he is too old to take on a job as stressful as Secretary of State. He would be great doing special assignments. I also use you and me as examples. You have been retired for several years now. I am doing a low stress (for me) job because I like doing it. I have had high stress positions for many years of my career, and I know now I cannot return to them. I think the same is true of John McCain. If his position on Iraq were the same as Obama, I still would have second thoughts about voting for him. He is too old and Obama is too inexperienced. Hillary would have been perfect, but she is out. I would rather bet on youth than age now.
John from Phoenix

10:20 PM  

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