Monday, August 15

Playing it Safe, Losing it All

Two facts worth highlighting from Drew Westen's controversial NY Times piece titled 'What Happened to Obama':
  1. Obama published nothing (except his autobiography) during his twelve years as a faculty member at the University of Chicago
  2. Before joining the Senate he voted 'present' (instead of 'yea' or 'nay') 130 times
What is one to make of this?

I won't speculate on Obama's not publishing anything in an academic journal, but one thing presidential candidates are often attacked on is their voting record. During a heated political campaign a candidate's previous legislative votes are scrutinized and picked over for any possible controversy (see John Kerry). As an astute observer of political history and campaigns, Barrack Obama would be well aware of this.

Was his voting 'present' strategy all about playing it safe and as Westen puts it "dodging difficult issues"? Or is there another explanation all together?

From Westen:
Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in “Dreams From My Father” appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there — the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.
One of the hallmark qualities of Barrack Hussein Obama's rise to the presidency has been his exceptional risk aversion. That strategy worked well in the campaign but is not serving President Obama or the country well at a time when bold, visionary political leadership is needed.

Like many, I've been scratching my head trying to put my finger on what it is about Obama that just doesn't seem right. And then I remembered a comment made by fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld when he was asked to describe himself: 
"I don't want to be real in other people's minds. I want to be an apparition."

I completely agree with Westen that right now the U.S. desperately needs the gregarious optimism and energy of a Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Teddy Roosevelt type personality in the White House, and not the Lagerfeld-esque 'complete improvisation' we seem to have at present

I will never wholly forgive and forget the missed opportunity in 2009 to conduct a perhaps once-in-a-century overhaul of the global financial system, along with Obama's decision to reappoint many of the same people who led us into the crisis - Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Greenspan protege Ben Bernanke.

With the way things are going at Bank of America and the Eurozone we may soon get a second bite at the financial system overhaul apple. Fighting to keep Timothy Geithner on as Secretary of the Treasury doesn't exactly instil in one a sense of optimism, but there is still time for President Obama to do what is necessary to restore American optimism.

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