Tuesday, January 29, 2008

That warm, fuzzy feeling

I've been having a feisty ongoing debate with a couple of colleagues who are pro-Obama while I'm pro-Clinton. Now, we all agree that no matter who the Democratic nominee is, we will all gladly vote for him/her in November. In the meantime, however, the arguments have been flying left and right like monkeys in the starry Oz night.

One of said colleagues mentioned a recent New Yorker article by George Packer as having convinced him even more of the two candidates' respective (de)merits. I read it this morning on the subway and it made me so angry that I had to put it down for a minute. Most of the article is devoted to Clinton's character and it sets her against her main rival thus: "Clinton as executive, Obama as visionary." Problem is, Obama's speeches maybe visionary but visionary does not pay the bills. His speeches are winning because they are just feel-good hogwash. They are maddeningly evasive, and most of the people who are for him can't get specific about his politics. Obama and his followers assume that once Americans wake up, they will get right back to fulfilling their destiny as naturally generous, enlightened people ready to turn the other cheek, help the downtrodden, clamor for higher taxes for the public good and drive small cars—or even better, use public transportation. Right, the same people who voted for Bush not once but twice (and there was no excuse the second time)—these people just need inspiration to trickle down from above to do the right thing. Same thing for the military and pharmaceutical corporations: They too want change and they'll go along with Obama's "can't we all get along?" plans.

The scary thing is, Obama fans like him for the same reason a lot of people liked Bush: He seems like such a nice fellow. Packer: "In the New Hampshire cafeteria, Clinton couldn’t quite make an individual connection, even when listening sympathetically to a woman in the crowd who said that she held down two jobs and still had trouble paying for her asthma medicine." But I don't want a president to connect with me, Elisabeth Vincentelli—I want the president to connect with the country.

Packer goes on to describe an Obama meeting: "Obama spoke for only twenty-five minutes and took no questions; he had figured out how to leave an audience at the peak of its emotion, craving more. As he was ending, I walked outside and found five hundred people standing on the sidewalk and the front steps of the opera house, listening to his last words in silence, as if news of victory in the Pacific were coming over the loudspeakers. Within minutes, I couldn’t recall a single thing that he had said, and the speech dissolved into pure feeling, which stayed with me for days."

What is this, Pollyanna at the megachurch??

I personally would like to have some hard-ass competence in the White House and I don't see Obama as being able to deliver it. If he thinks the Republicans are suddenly going to be swayed by his charm and share in his bipartisan efforts, he's in for a rude awakening—and we may be in for another Carter-type presidency.


Mike said...

I agree with you - which is why I was seriously considering voting for Giuliani for awhile. I too want to see some accountability and competence in the White House, and he was the major candidate I thought could do that job best. On the other hand, I vehemently disagree with the Republicans on every social issue; plus what works for catching criminals doesn't necessarily work for picking a cabinet and being Commander-In-Chief. So I guess I don't get to see if I'd have held my nose and voted R.

Elisabeth Vincentelli said...

Ah but you weren't around NYC when Giuliani was mayor. Believe me, we saw him in action and that's why we were horrified he got so much traction for a while!

judy said...

The thought of Rudy being prez is more chilling (almost) than Bushie getting four more years. Yuck. I'm with you on Obama, but I'm not so keen on Hillary either. Though when was the last time I got to vote for a candidate I was really excited about? Um, maybe once . . . and I was too young and dumb to know any better.