OldVet on Obama

OldVet wrote the following endorsement of Obama. FWIW, as I mentioned the other day, I held my nose and voted the other day (by mail). It was not for Obama. That said, I would have no problem supporting him if he was the eventual Democratic nominee. In my opinion, whatever the weaknesses of the three main Democrats, and there are many, they seem to me to be an order of magnitude more rational than the Republicans that have looked like viable contenders for their party’s nomination.

Here’s OldVet…

Here is a very well researched and written article on Hillary, and appears to be even handed. Not much on Obama, and nothing on what is appealing about Edwards, but they have less public history. Choice of two approaches to Presidency are well laid out, and I would agree choices are clear.

From 30 years in bureaucracy, I think Hillary overestimates her potential impact to manage programs that are circumscribed by laws and regulations built up by accretion like an oyster shell. Bill never had much success at it, I can assure you. Normal civil servants don’t work for a particular President, but for the People. They almost never couch it like that, but that’s how they see it. And managing bureaucracy is not the same thing as changing the country, by a long shot. Too many people, either by design or ignorance, ascribe magical powers to Big Gubmint to change their lives for the better “if only they would.”

A little secret about government is this: at the root, the core, government is not about transforming lives through social messages and education or any other Utopian mechanism. It’s just a big old washing machine, a money laundering device that takes in money and spins it around and distributes it in all directions. Controlling the money is controlling the machine, and that’s what good management in government means. Money comes in from rich and poor, and goes out to rich and poor, in all types of channels and under all types of labels. But it’s really money laundering, nothing more. That’s why those desperate little “earmarks” are festooned on Congressional spending bills – it’s a feeble attempt, and a misguided one IMHO, to show voters that their Reps are in control of what counts.

In this, despite being around elective politics a long time, Hillary misunderstands what a President needs to do. It’s not manage the bureaucracy so much as lead the country. She needs enemies, and tends to sabotage herself according to the article.

Packer opines about a New Hampshire appearance: “She wouldn’t risk the loss of control that it might take to energize the room with humor or anger or argument, or the sort of spontaneous human touch that everyone who spends private time with her notices and likes. A number of people drifted away before she had finished.” Dee Dee Myers ends the article’s quotes: “But the Presidency isn’t all that powerful, except as the bully pulpit. It comes down to your ability to get people to follow you, to inspire. You have to lead. Can she get people to come together, or does she remain such a polarizing figure? That’s what the campaign will be about.” In other words, winning the Presidency might require Clinton to transcend her own history.”

Obama does not offer detailed management in the Oval Office, and clearly does not feel that’s the role of President. Inspiring and leading 300 million fractious people is a greater good than being a familiar Democratic political wonk who grinds through policy details. For this very different vision, Obama is deemed “risky” by Bill Clinton, and Hillary implies there is something lazy in not being a micro-manager. In my own opinion, Obama is more on the right track, and has the same sense of politics as both Kennedy’s and Reagan, and all of their skill to boot.

An important difference between Clinton and Obama is whether compromise and inclusiveness are strengths or weaknesses. Clinton hates the right wing, believes it will never compromise, and knows it will attempt to chew Obama to pieces. She’s ready to attack. Obama feels that reaching out to Republicans and Independents will form a mass coalition that will overwhelm both political extremes, and that leadership (his own?) can guide that coalition not to compromise with the cruel vision of the corporate and social special interests.

Obama’s vision is very close to the Bill Clinton program which brought him such successes as he had, including balanced budgets and a reduction of the Federal workforce by 300,000, as well as a healthy 20 million jobs increase and a booming stock market. Today, Bill Clinton attacks Obama for this same approach, forgetting Democrats aren’t nostalgic for Bill so much as nostalgic for the good years of cooperation between Demos and Repubs.

Quote: A Clinton associate put it this way to Carl Bernstein: “I’m not sure I want the circus back in town.” To which I say, Amen. Bill Clinton is distorting Obama’s record and words to win office today, allegedly on behalf of Hillary. In reality it’s an ego trip, not only for him but for Hillary, who was humiliated in 1994 over the universal health care plan. Republicans whipped up opposition, were far more clever than the Democrats, and she and Bill want to kick their asses one more time. Enough already!

Finally, unexamined in the article is whether a “hands off” Obama is like a “hands off” Bush, and whether Obama’s style is a sure sign of incompetence to come. The nation shudders at the thought of another George Bush, the smirking and inarticulate menace in the White House. Personally, I don’t see Obama’s education and style as comparable to the back-slapping dry-drunk posturing we are subjected to by Bush.

The reason is that Obama is more likely to attract the most dedicated and brightest minds in the country to help manage both civilian and national security departments. He is that kind of man.

Right now, as dawn breaks in South Carolina and February 5th’s “Super Tuesday” approaches, I’m assessing Obama’s chances. He has been effectively triangulated by the two Clintons playing Mutt & Jeff on his head in public. Even if he beats them, which would be a Herculean task given their trench fighting skills, he will be tarred and damaged by their attacks.

At this stage, Obama needs to establish an immediate salient in the area of National Security which is both Clinton’s and McCain’s ostensible areas of expertise. He needs to attack Hillary’s compromises on Iraq, and refusal to admit her mistakes, while establish that McCain, while himself a military icon, would gleefully subject thousands of young Americans to the same wounds and tortures as those to which he was himself subjected in Viet Nam. Obama needs to make the point that McCain is a war monger and militarist who revels in the use of force, and that Hillary Clinton is a fellow-traveler.

In my own opinion, Obama needs new Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. He is fully compatible with the social tenants of Obama, and wrote a magnificent editorial called “Class Struggle” just prior to the 2006 election to be found here. Sen. Webb could help carry Virginia and some of the South, unlike Edwards, and his war record in Viet Nam is equal to McCain’s – he earned a Silver Star, and served as Navy Secretary under Reagan. He later wrote adventure books and is a student of war and politics, and his son has served in Iraq. Without a bold stroke – and a quick one such as enlisting Webb as his VP-designate – Obama may well be ground into submission in both the Primary, and later the General elections.

Re-reading this, it sounds like an endorsement of Obama. I guess it is. I voted for him in Tennessee early voting this week. Cheers

This was by OldVet.