Demosophist has a post below on Obama’s childhood and background, suggesting that his upbringing is slightly more – exotic – than typically represented.
My initial response tends to be – so?
Look, let’s establish three things which I believe to be conclusively true about Obama:
1. He did have a somewhat exotic upbringing, compared to most of us.
2. He was absolutely brought up in the post ’68 cultural milieu which is much more open about folks like Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright than about, say, Pat Buchanan – who represents kind of a polar ideological opposite (without the moral baggage of the bombs, in the case of Ayers).
3. He’s a hardnosed and superb politician, with a golden tongue which allows him to dance around positions while being applauded by the voting public.
Are those things entirely bad?
I think I can make a good argument that each of them is in fact a net positive.
1. We live in an interconnected world in which we’re the biggest kid – but no longer so big, or so independent that we can tell the rest of the world to take a flying leap. The coming era will be one of cooperation with other countries – the critical question being which countries and on what terms. Having someone who has even a somewhat naive set of experiences that go past Ohio or Manhattan could be pretty useful in navigating those decisions and those negotiations.
2. We’re at the point in history when we are going to see politicians who grew up in the shadow of ’68. What they absorbed from it – there were good and bad things – and whether their values were shaped by it or in reaction to is certainly damn important. But I would no more criticize Obama for being raised in those values – and having some root comfort there – than I would criticize someone who was raised as “an Okie from Muskogee” and maintained attachment to some of the core values from there – even though I might also find some of those values ones I can’t support.
3. David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, and John Cole have covered this one pretty well. here’s Brooks:
And Fast Eddie Obama didn’t just sell out the primary cause of his life. He did it with style. He did it with a video so risibly insincere that somewhere down in the shadow world, Lee Atwater is gaping and applauding. Obama blamed the (so far marginal) Republican 527s. He claimed that private donations are really public financing. He made a cut-throat political calculation seem like Mother Teresaâ€™s final steps to sainthood.
I have to admit, I’m ambivalent watching all this. On the one hand, Obama did sell out the primary cause of his professional life, all for a tiny political advantage. If he’ll sell that out, what won’t he sell out? On the other hand, global affairs ainâ€™ beanbag. If we’re going to have a president who is going to go toe to toe with the likes of Vladimir Putin, maybe it is better that he should have a ruthlessly opportunist Fast Eddie Obama lurking inside.
I never doubted his cunning or his charisma. It’s the combo that’s so lethal. Are the Republicans awake yet? The Clintons weren’t.
The best part of this election is about to start, though- we are going to be treated to months of folks on the right learning Obama really is not as liberal as they think he is and becoming upset that they can not simply attack him as a radical left-winger (although some morons will still continue with the Marxist nonsense because it is all they know), all the while having to watch left-wingers kvetch and moan as they learn he really is not as liberal as they thought he was and that he will move to the center to and compromise. Put together, it has the potential to be really damned amusing.
Look, Obama isn’t Chauncey Gardner. He’s not animating someone else’s empty suit.
But he is not so much about policies and programs – a Hillary-style politician – as he is about constituencies, the balance of power, and leverage. He has values – and yes, they are liberal, progressive values – but they aren’t embodoed in a shelf of three-ring binders he about to try and shove down our throats.
So bring it, bring on the exotic, the child of bead-wearers, the manipulative politician. There’s at least a sensible argument that something much like that is exactly what we need right now. Who he is is one reason I’m comfy supporting him. Whether he’s ready – that’s the question that makes me happy he facing McCain, not Huckabee or Romney.