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.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

So Far, So Boring

After an extra long primary season wound down to a triumvirate of the Courageous Maverick, the Charismatic Change Agent and the Great Female Hope, the Lady was edged out, but left the stage reluctantly and ungracefully.

Since then, the two survivors have been waging a disappointingly dull war of words, innuendoes, accusations, denials and counter-charges, without yet engaging on their respective ideas for addressing the important issues we face.

Probably the most we can do for now is watch how both men conduct themselves through this stage of the ordeal, in order to learn more about them personally. McCain is a political dinosaur. Obama is a political phenomenon. In spite of the difference in age and experience of the candidates, most Americans who care enough to vote are now looking with fresh eyes equally at both of them.

McCain has managed to show his true colors. He has flipped and flopped so much already, in pandering to the right wing base, that voters can see his supposed independence is actually an absence of basic philosophy on many issues. His most consistent position is war hawk, not surprising for the son and grandson of Admirals, whose very career is founded on having been a downed aviator war prisoner, as he constantly reminds us. When General Wes Clark accurately responded that being shot down and imprisoned is not a per se qualification for President, outrage ensued, which is what McCain wants, since talk of his naval service plays to his strong suit and distracts the conversation from the real issues.

Obama has tried to put forth some new ideas, but they seem to be more designed to appeal to the middle and to refute the lie that he is the most liberal member of the Senate. Perhaps because of the realities of what it takes nowadays for a Democrat, particularly one of color, to be elected President, Obama has to move to the middle, and if elected he will probably have to govern from the middle, and if elected to a second term, then maybe he can bring the country to a more progressive position. He is showing himself to be a realist, which is a good quality for a President.

The polls seem to agree Obama has a slight lead, but that the country favors a generic Democrat over Obama. As he begins to get his personal story known to more voters, concerns about his background and experience should diminish. His advantage in campaign finances should help get the story out.

How the respective Vice Presidential choices are made will help shape voters images of the decision making skill of the Presidential candidates. Whatever debates actually take place will also be very important, a chance for voters to compare the candidates side by side. Clever advertising, especially from the Obama side, can also enhance the differences by showing comparison clips of the candidates to the advantage of Obama.

We need to hang in and be patient. This most wide open Presidential race in decades, coming at a time of so many challenges to our nation, has to get more interesting. Hopefully, the interest will come in the form of more voters learning who both men really are, making the comparisons, and deciding that we really do need a change toward freshness, youth, new ideas, more diversity and openness and renewed progress toward restoring the American dream at home and the American image abroad.