Friday, February 8, 2008

Barack Obama as a world leader

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on February 7th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

The results of the “Super Tuesday” primary will already be in by the time you read this column, so this week I will discuss some other important distinctions between Barack Obama and the other candidates, which involves the role the next American President can and should play as a world leader.
Since Mr. Obama’s speaks on these subjects so eloquently I will quote him directly; “If, as president, I travel to a poor country to talk to leaders there, they will know I have a grandmother in a small village in (Kenya) Africa without running water, devastated by malaria and AIDS, What that allows me to do is talk honestly not only about our need to help them, but about poor countries’ obligation to help themselves. There are cousins of mine in Kenya who can’t get a job without paying an exorbitant bribe to some midlevel functionary. I can talk about that.”
In discussing pseudo-religious Islamic political violence and terrorism Obama notes that; “I have lived in (Indonesia) the most populous Muslim country in the world, had relatives who practiced Islam. I am a Christian, but I can say I understand your worldview, although I may not agree with how Islam has evolved. I can speak forcefully about the need for Muslim countries to reconcile themselves to modernity in ways they have failed to do.”
Now I ask you to consider for a moment, what other US Republican or Democratic Presidential candidate, or European leader for that matter, can travel around the world and talk like this to the political leaders of countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America?
I see some interesting parallels between Senator Obama’s upbringings as an only child from a broken home who was shuttled from one place to another while he was growing up and the Western targets chosen by al Qaeda for their pseudo-religious political terrorism attacks. I might also note that none of the other Republican or Democratic presidential candidates come from such backgrounds, nor have any of them been as honest and forthcoming about their past use and abuse of alcohol and drugs as Senator Obama has been.
But thus far, four members of the Clinton campaign have been found to have attempted to use or twist public information Senator Obama has provided regarding his upbringings and teenage transgressions to cast doubts about his fitness to be President. I find such elitist, holier-than-thou attitudes on the part of Mrs. Clinton’s state and national campaign staffers extremely disturbing and a harbinger of what Obama can expect from the Republicans should he win the Democratic nomination for President. Such veiled attacks, which Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly disavowed any knowledge of, nonetheless point to why I and many other Americans view Hillary and her supporters as a divisive rather than unifying force in US national politics.
As for the parallels I see between al Qaeda’s Western targets and Senator Obama’s background here are a few interesting facts for you to contemplate. Al Qaeda attacked the US Embassy in Kenya, American and other Western tourists in Bali, Indonesia, the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon and White House in Washington D.C. (although the hijackers were unsuccessful crashing into the White House because resistance from the plane’s passengers brought the jet down before it reached the White House).
Senator Barack Obama’s father was a native of Kenya. The senator spent four years of his youth going to school and living with his mother, her second husband and his step-grandfather (who was a practicing Muslim) in Indonesia. Barack Obama lived and went to college in New York, currently works as A US Senator in Washington D.C. and aspires to one day live in the White House. I don’t find these parallels strange so much as I think they could serve as a source of strength for Mr. Obama if he is elected President later this year.
Regarding the need for the US to finally take action and effectively deal with issues involving global warming and climate change Senator Obama says; “As gas prices keep rising, the Middle East grows ever more unstable, and the ice caps continue to melt, we face a now-or-never, once-in-a-generation opportunity to set this country on a different course. Such a course is not only possible, it’s already being pursued in other places around the world. Countries like Japan are creating jobs and slowing oil consumption by churning out and buying millions of fuel-efficient cars. Brazil, a nation that once relied on foreign countries to import 80% of its crude oil, will now be entirely self-sufficient in a few years thanks to its investment in (clean) biofuels. So why can’t we do this? The answer is, with the right leadership, we can.”
Barack Obama has also taken a progressive stance regarding the divisive issue of immigration reform. He supports attempts by Democrats to strike some sort of compromise with sympathetic Republicans such as Senator John McCain on new legislation to more effectively deal with this problem, despite opposition from right wing Republican TV and radio talk show hosts who are stirring up opposition to immigration reforms among Republicans as well as independent voters.
These conservative demagogues conveniently choose to ignore the reality that;
1) These illegal immigrants are not going to just pack up and go home.
2) The US has neither the border security and law enforcement manpower nor the capacity in its judicial system to arrest and deport more than a few thousand of these illegal immigrants each year.
3) Many businesses and industries depend on ‘illegals’ to fill jobs that legal US citizens don’t want and would be forced out of business without them.
4) Illegal immigrants contribute more in taxes than they take in the form of government benefits for food stamps, health care and schooling.
While it is only a small step towards immigration reform, allowing states to issue drivers licences to illegal immigrants will nonetheless allow them to report crimes against themselves and other legal US citizens, while Congress debates how to develop immigration reforms that realistically deal with this problem.

Senator Obama also scores points for this summary of Mrs. Clinton’s Senate voting record and her propensity for “thinking that the only way to look tough on national security is by talking and acting and voting like George Bush Republicans. When I am this party’s nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq, or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran, or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders we don’t like. I don’t want to see more American lives put at risk because no one had the judgment or the courage to stand up against a misguided war before we sent our troops in to fight.”

I’m sorry, but Hillary Clinton’s argument that she is more “ready” to assume the US Presidency than Mr. Obama (simply because she has more experience in Congress than he has), just doesn’t cut it with me. The US President controls the most powerful armed forces in the world which means the President’s judgement, insight and wisdom are all much more important in a crisis than any amount of legislative experience. We are not talking about passing legislation here. We are talking about when, where, why and how to use the United States awesome military capabilities. By her actions in support of President Bush, Hillary Clinton has shown that she doesn’t have the requisite judgement, insight or wisdom that Barack Obama has. So on that note I believe I will now rest my case for Barack Obama as the next US President.