Monday, May 05, 2008

Obama 0.5

“At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country. It is our right to the moral leadership of this planet.”

--Robert Kennedy, announcing for president (1968)

I watched Obama on “Meet the Press”. He’s got a new approach. He emphasizes the struggles of his (white) single mom, the fighting patriotism of his (white) grandfather in World War II, the hard work of his (white) grandmother in the Midwest during the depression and war, and of his wife’s blue-collar, sole family breadwinner father, like “your (white) dad, Tim (Russert), [who] looked nothing like Michelle's dad, but they lived that same American dream.”

So how does Obama go after the white, working-class voters Clinton is winning because she’s white and he ain’t? He reminds people he’s ½ (0.5) white by discussing his white heritage. Obama's new approach might not be in time to win Indiana tomorrow, but with this “I’m white too” message plus sufficient money, he may cut into Clinton’s white support in Kentucky and West Virginia later.

Meanwhile, Obama is attempting to assert his moral leadership by blasting Clinton for her “pandering” (along with John McCain) call for no gasoline tax this summer. Obama rightly suggests Clinton will say anything to get elected. Obama is with nearly every thinking person in denouncing Clinton’s proposed (it won’t happen) cut in gas taxes when we actually need for gas taxes to go up.

But then there’s foreign policy, where Obama makes less sense. Noting one of the chief outcomes of our Iraq intervention is a stronger Iran, he then proposes that we put pressure on Iran—he doesn’t want to “take military options off the table”—by withdrawing our troops from neighboring Iraq without winning there first. Boy, Barry, that will show Iran! You bet.

Or maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I should understand Iraq isn't about national security, it's a morality play. War is immoral, and since we started the Iraq war, we must lose. I should just accept that Iraq is, truly is, the Vietnam of our generation. Iraq defines us morally the way Vietnam defined Robert Kennedy’s America in 1968. Until we rid ourselves of our Iraq stain, we can’t lead the world to victory in Iran or anywhere else.

But Iraq isn’t Vietnam. Lesson 1.0.

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