Given the ever-increasing milquetoast flavor of each successive presidential campaign, I had pretty much decided that in my lifetime I would never see a contender who preferred to be genuine rather than safe.
By “safe,” I mean the nauseating backpedaling politicians have been practicing since many of us were toddling around in training pants.
I didn’t want to admit it at first, but Barack Obama has done it. And he has done it beautifully.
This year, I have been an obstinate Hillary supporter, having made my choice based on my admiration of both Clintons for their record of service. At first, I thought Obama’s speeches sounded clichéd. I didn’t feel that I was witnessing a grand orator in the tradition of John F. Kennedy, as many around me proclaimed.
That all changed in March, when Obama stepped to the podium to address certain incendiary statements by his then-pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
I sat at my computer mesmerized, not wanting to admit that his speech was one of the coolest things I had ever heard.
He was not willing to lie to distance himself from Wright. How many times have I wanted a politician to clearly and truthfully explain the reasoning behind some flip flop, or some scandal, which would have earned him so many more points than he got by deliberately using cloudy, noncommittal language?
In his speech, Obama said: “I can no more disown him (Rev. Wright) than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”
Thank you, Obama, for finding a way to explain the road we must take, and for knowing that there is a way to reach us.
Ever since that speech, Obama has continued to take the high road. When was the last time we saw a leader refrain from negative campaign ads?
I had to go back to all of the reasons I thought Obama was wrong, and think about why I thought them. I used to say Obama didn’t have enough of a record to be president. Now, I say Obama’s ability to raise more money than any other Democratic candidate—without taking money from lobbyists—is more than enough evidence of his coalition-building skills.
If Obama can assemble such an effective fundraising team, he can certainly assemble the best and the brightest foreign policy team to get us out of the downward spiral we’ve been in for eight years.
People are still criticizing Obama for having a pastor who could say such “anti-American” things.
I guess Bill Clinton should be criticized for inviting Jeremiah Wright and other clergy to come pray with him at the White House during the Lewinsky scandal.
Another complaint I used to have was that Obama’s call for change sounded repetitive. But I have to ask myself: when was the last time we actually had change? And I can’t think of another point in my lifetime when we so sorely needed it.