Friday, October 03, 2008

Into the wild blue yonder

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. famously said of Franklin Roosevelt that he had a "second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament." Obama has shown that he is a man of limited experience, questionable convictions, deeply troubling associations (Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Tony Rezko) and an alarming lack of self-definition -- do you really know who he is and what he believes? Nonetheless, he's got both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament. That will likely be enough to make him president. Charles Krauthammer - Washington Post
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I don't like Charles Krauthammer, but before he was a columnist he was a clinical psychiatrist, a "psyco-analyst", and sometimes, when he sticks closely to what really knows about: the human psyche... he makes some sense.

I chose the quote of his above because it encapsulates, in only a few words, this very special moment in American history.

Many think this moment is special because the likely winner of the presidential election is black, but in that case, "special", would only be the voters themselves who put aside traditional race prejudice to vote for him, something which will make them feel very good about themselves, no doubt, but says nothing in itself about who they are voting for.

On the contrary, I would say that this moment is special because, at a time of enormous gravity, with two wars going nowhere and the economy about to melt down, the American people are very likely going to vote for someone about whom almost nothing is known: the color of his skin being practically the only indisputable fact known about him and, unless you are a racist, the color of a person's skin says little or nothing about what is under that skin.

What sort of "Hail Mary pass" are Americans making if they elect someone of no experience at a time like this? Not just the candidate's personal lack of experience, but much more importantly, electing someone that they the voters themselves have no actual experience of, other than hearing a few speeches and reading the candidate's story as told by the candidate.

This I think is the center of the question, instead of accepting their losses, leaving the tables and just getting on a greyhound bus and riding home, with enough money left to tide them over till payday, the voters are about to take their last chips and bet double or nothing on a number they saw in a dream.

Watching the debate between Palin and Biden, I couldn't help asking myself why Joe Biden did so poorly in the primaries? What is wrong with him? He gives long winded answers?

To me Joe Biden seems a more reasonable proposition than either Obama or Hillary ...or McCain, for that matter.
What is wrong with the voters?

Biden looks and sounds and has the record of someone who knows what to do and how to do it... In a moment
of great doubt and danger why has someone so sensible, distinguished, experienced and knowledgeable been of so little interest to Democratic voters? Can democracy and such desperate, frivolous, stupidity long coexist? DS


oldfatherwilliam said...

I think Krauthammer's right about intellect and temperament. You seem to favor men with markedly smaller gifts in both categories, and feel that experience should rule. In addition, the question of character, which I can't help but weigh against the record of deliberate lies, again favors Obama. Better the Merlin?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Obama hasn't been around long enough or done enough to have been caught out in inconsistencies. As to character, what character? Where has that ever been demonstrated? What is really known about his ideas or actions? Intelligence and determination are tools that serve both good and bad men. When I speak of experience I mean just as much our experience of the person chosen to lead as to the experience of that person. Here there are neither.

Mike Doyle said...

I share your feeling that Obama is a big unknown and thus a gamble. But we're stuck in the usual dilemma of US elections - lesser evilism.

Obama has temperament and intelligence but largely unknown character. He's a servant of the ruling class and no savior. (My litmus test, single payer h/c, will be no closer under Obama.) But surely McCain is far more risky.

I was mildly surprised that Palin did better in the debate than expected after her Katie Couric interviews. But I suspect this was due to the way the 2 parties control the debates - they linit and define the topics about which questions may be posed. This makes the prep much easier. It's interesting to note the statement from the League of Women Voters when they pulled out from sponsoring the debates in 1987:

The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates...because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance,spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.

RC said...

The die is cast. Obama is the elected. But so what. A vice president has run the country for eight years now, so relax, David.
I've never liked Biden, but because I happened to be visiting a friend over in the Rain Forest last night, I saw the debate, and Biden was Presidential. So, you have a ticket with two presidential types {yeah, I know you and Krauthammer doubt Obama's motivations, but like all presidential aspirees, they are very simple, EGO and EGO, no mystery there, and Krauthammer being a shrink does not give him special powers, in fact many shrinks are total jerks} and another ticket with no presidential types. So the choice is easy unless intellect, ability, nuance and competence alarm you.
Those qualities do alarm many people in the "heartland". They prefer any flavor of kneejerk hick
glorification, especially those flavors promoted by right wing radio.
So vote for the Biden ticket and just pretend the sneaky black guy is only gripping Joe's coattails.
George Bush has been in office as President for eight years and in all that time he has never shown an iota of leadership or any other remarkable qualities other than bike riding, and he isn't all that good in that department. He also likes to model personalized presidential seal and signature clothing.
This is not to say we are using the George Bush standard as a metric for judging future presidential timber, but it is to say that Obama/Biden is a ticket in another universe from Bush/Cheney and McCain/Palin.
Perhaps it will turn out that you are right about Obama and the country is doomed since a naif and a narcissistic person {Obama the fake} is about to lead.
OR, you may be wrong. I have a great deal of respect for your opinions and efforts and I hope if the day comes when you realize that you have misjudged the situation, you fess up.
Meanwhile, practice saying it and, of course, writing it: President Obama.
And really, how can you give Krauthammer any credit at all?
Jerk, jerk, jerk. How can you even grind through his plodding texts?
How did he ever have any patients? Any suicides among them?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Look, I have been ranting like Jeremiah now for several years and looking back over what I have written, I think I have a pretty good track record. I am very happy with the paragraph in this post that goes:
This I think is the center of the question, instead of accepting their losses, leaving the tables and just getting on a greyhound bus and riding home, with enough money left to tide them over till payday, the voters are about to take their last chips and bet double or nothing on a number they saw in a dream.
This is all a tragedy... one of those train wrecks that a dispatcher sees coming on the control board, but can't avert... nobody answers the phone.

You could compare it to the months leading up to the Spanish Civil War or the rise of National Socialism in Germany during Wiemar.

We read about these strange periods, but now we are in the midst of living one ourselves.

Anonymous said...

For one thing, Obama talks about hope and change and post-partisanship, which is very inviting to people after the last eight years. Voters also realize that experience is nothing without good judgement, and only one of those can be learned. Third, McCain is a Bush republican and isn't getting the youth vote. The press has soured on McCain as well for making them feel the fool by constructing an image of McCain they now feel was incorrect (and self-examination is not required for today's press). Fifth, the voters have had a year to get to know Obama, and obviously feel that is enough vs McCain. I don't think that means there is something wrong with them.

Obama does nothing for me, as I was (and am) a Hillary supporter. But next to McCain Obama looks quite attractive, attractive enough to send to the White House, with a democratic majority in congress to replace the republicans who voters are sick of at the moment.

bailey alexander said...

I was a Hillary supporter too, but Obama has excellent analytical skills, and isn't just about hope. I wouldn't underestimate analytical skills in a country fostered and educated under the multiple choice system.

I don't think it's coincidence we're going from incurious george to even less curious sarah palin.