The Republican Party and its various kinds of supporters are attempting to portray Senator Barack Obama as someone who is flashy, charismatic, an eloquent speaker, even a rock star, but who has no substance.
George Will has likened Senator Obama to the famous dancer Fred Astaire, who was flashy and elegant as a dancer. But in the case of Obama, he lacks substance.
George Will is regarded as an astute political analyst. He recently had an interview with Wolfe Blitzer on CNN to advertise his latest book. Blitzer made the observation that this Presidential election was a real exception, because it was possible that a Black man might become President.
George Will's response to this observation was that he did not think that this would be unusual. Wolfe Blitzer had a look on his face, as if he was not hearing what he was hearing. There have been 43 Presidents in American history, and all of them have been white men. George Will did not think it would be unusual to have a Black man in the White House!
What he thought was unusual about the upcoming Presidential election, was that it would provide an opportunity for a classic contest between a conservative and a liberal running for the high office.
George Will's first response to Wolfe Blitzer was so bizarre that one can only conclude that he does not want a Black man to be President. It is not something he would say in public directly, but he nevertheless said it publicly and clearly by implication; and also said publicly by implication, that being President of the United States was "a white man's job."
This is still what a lot of white people feel in this country, and what is meant by those who publicly and directly say that they will not vote for Senator Obama because he is Black.
But other white people, like George Will, express their racism more subtly. Some Republicans express racism against Senator Obama by saying that he is too young to be President. Theodore Roosevelt was 42 when he became President. John Kennedy was 43, and his brother, Robert Kennedy, would have been 44 had he been elected in 1968.
Senator Obama is 47, a relatively young man, too. But while relatively young white men can be President, a relatively young Black man--who is even older than the white men mentioned--cannot be President. This is almost like saying 47 is too old to be President. If so, then what about John McCain who is or will be 72?
Clearly, saying that Senator Obama is too young to be President is subtle racism at work, and is also saying that "being President is a white man's job".
The Republican Party's general attack against Senator Obama at the moment is that he lacks experience, is not ready to govern, lacks substance, and would be risky and a liability in the White House. This line of attack exhibits subtle racist undertones, as will be shown.
Senator Obama himself believes that one of his strengths as a Presidential candidate is that he did not spend years or decades in Washington D.C., and become drenched in and handicapped by the old political thinking and old politics in the city.
He believes that his life experiences, combined with the political experience he has had, which includes being a state senator and a U.S. Senator, and being able to understand and evaluate how executive and legislative branches function and interact with each other, has given him some preparation to be President, and also insights into how to govern.
The strongest part of the Republican attack line is that Senator Obama lacks substance or personal substantive qualities, and that this is the main reason why he would be risky or a liability as President. When someone like Obama who is drenched with such qualities is accused of not having them, one sees the subtle racist undertone of the argument, and how it points to the sign that reads "being President is a white man's job."
Let's review some of the things that Senator Obama has done and accomplished that speaks to the question of whether or not he has substance, and that would also speak to the caliber of his experiences that has given him some preparation to be President.
Senator Obama is very intelligent, which is an achievement. Having intellectual ability is not the same as being intelligent. George Will, for instance, has intellectual ability, but he certainly was not exhibiting intelligence, when he said that having a Black man in the White House would not be an unusual thing in American history and life.
Senator Obama graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, the most prestigious law school in the country. He became editor of the Harvard Law Review, the most prestigious position that a law school student can attain in this country. Being the editor of the Harvard Law Review opens an unfettered path to the nation's biggest law firms, or a position as a legal assistant to a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Instead of letting these opportunities open up doors for him, Senator Obama decided to dedicate his education, intelligence, and knowledge of the law to serving people on the lower end of the social scale. He became a community organizer in Chicago to help such people, namely, Blacks and Hispanics, became a civil rights lawyer for them, and subsequently taught the American Constitution and Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago.
Senator Obama was elected to the Illinois state legislature, as a state senator. He served in that capacity for eight years. Tucker Carlson, who used to have an hour's long program on MSNBC to analyze politics, and who boasted constantly about being a conservative, used to say of Senator Obama's experience as a state legislator, that it amounted to nothing, and also added his few years in the U.S. Senate to that castigation.
How can being a state senator and a U.S. Senator totaling up to 12 years amount to nothing, and not involve important political and legislative experience? One can see what is agonizing Tucker Carlson at the gut level: a Black man possibly becoming President.
Senator Obama was able to pass some significant legislation in the Illinois state Senate. He got an ethics bill passed, the first one in twenty five years in Illinois. He joined with conservative Republican Kirk Dillard to pass a law requiring police in Illinois to videotape interrogations in capital cases, which could be used in court. He helped to get health insurance for 150,000 children in Illinois, and also a tax cut for low income families. His last year in the Illinois state legislature when Democrats were in the majority, he, remarkably, was able to get 26 bills passed.
The Republicans usually refrain from talking about what Barack Obama actually did in the Illinois state legislature. They usually only like to mention that he voted "pass" on 125 bills. This was out of over 4,000 votes that he cast.
The Republicans will use the 125 "pass" votes against Senator Obama in the general election. What they will not tell voters is that Senator John McCain did not vote 235 times between 1999 and 2008 for measures that were voted on in the U.S. Senate. He just refused to show up.
What the Republicans also will not say is that Sentor McCain has a dismal voting record with respect to American troops and veterans, while Senator Obama has a good record with respect to both. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran Group gave McCain a "D" for his voting, and Senator Obama a "B+." Disabled Veterans gave Senator MCain an unfavorable 20% rating, while giving Senator Obama a favorable 80% rating.
In 2002, the Illinois Senator publicly denounced the war against Iraq, and indicated the negative consequences that would result from it, which came to pass. This showed great insight and judgment, i.e., substantive intellectual and perceptive qualities.
In 2004 Obama gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that catapulted him into the political limelight. In that speech, he exhibited a plethora of subsantive personal qualities: visionary thinking, holistic, rather than narrow either-or thinking, great oratory, charisma, an ability to excite, enthuse, and inspire people, and showed that he had a high capability for leadership.
How impressive Senator Obama's substantive personal qualities are can be compared to the personal qualities of Senator John McCain. The Arizona Senator has demonstrated over and over again, that he is not a good speaker, is not visionary or inspirational, cannot excite or invest people with enthusiasm, totally lacks charisma, and is stiff and dull.
Senator McCain is also not a leader, and he has never been one. For many years, he considered himself a "maverick," and some politicians, political analysts, and some voters thought that was what made him attractive as a politician. The Republican Party is presently running an ad that says Senator McCain is "the original maverick."
This ad is running, because McCain's campaign and the Republican Party are trying to combat the charge of the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party that John McCain is so closely allied with George Bush, that he would provide a third term of Bush's domestic and foreign policies. He would keep Bush (and Cheney people) on the domestic and foreign policy side of his administration to do so.
The ad also seeks to combat the opposition's charge that John McCain is no longer a maverick, but is now a Presidential candidate who will say and do anything to get elected. It is also out there to try to attract Independents to McCain.
Senator John McCain's definition of maverick would correspond to that found in Webster's Dictionary: "An independently minded person who refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adhering to a particular group." A maverick defies and eschews leadership and seeks to circumvent it.
It is one thing to be a maverick as a member of the House of Representives or the U.S. Senate (and it is not being a maverick just crossing the political aisle). But what is true about a maverick is that such a person cannot lead a national political institution, as some Republicans are saying about John McCain, with respect to him trying to lead their national Party, and who are angry about the new ad.
And it does not take a rocket scientist to know that a maverick cannot be President of the United States and lead the national government or the country. Mavericks are extemporaneous, careless, and unpredictable. John McCain, thinking and acting like a maverick in the White House, would not only be an enormous risk and liability, but would have the country potentially courting disaster, and could plunge America's international relations into chaos.
To believe that the first of these dire things is a possiblity with maverick John McCain in the White House reflect on the comments he made on a campaign stop on 8/8/08.
The comments were prepared remarks: "When I am President, I will call the Congress back into session. They left for a five week vacation. They should return and return immediately. I will be glad to go back to Washington to vote to solve this energy crisis. And Americans want action. They don't want Congress to take vacations."
These remarks are illogical and wholly incoherent. If elected, Senator McCain would not be President until January 2009, when he would have no need to call Congress back from the vacation they had taken months earlier. He apparently was also thinking he would be President sometime in August, or in early September, to call Congress back into session. But then, abruptly, he ceased to think of being President, and switched to being a Senator, so he could go back to Congress to vote. And when did the American people say that they did not want Congress to take vacations?
As to the second possibility with a maverick McCain in the White House, reflect on what he said on Youtube a year earlier at a townhall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa: "I was in a conference in Germany over the weekend, and President (Vladimir) Putin of Germany gave one of the old cold war style speeches, as he adressed the conference there."
This comment coming from someone whose experience and strength is supposed to be in foreign affairs is so mindless, so egregious, it is stupefying. Indeed, both comments are stupefying.
Thus, need more be said bout maverick John McCain in the White House, except perhaps that these comments and the times that one has seen him show forgetfulness, ignorance of facts, ignore facts, misstate something said, or bungle attempts to explain things, might be suggesting that, if not senility, enfeebleness, is settling in.
It is a disservice to the American people that so many people in the media do not draw attention to, and evaluate the portent of, these shortcomings of someone who is seeking to be President, a patent pressure cooker job.
Senator Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Junior Senators usually do not get much legislation passed. But the Senator managed to get some notable measures passed. He teamed up with conservative Republican Tom Coburn to create a public internet that enables taxpayers to track how the government spends their money.
He teamed up with conservative Republican Richard Lugar to pass a meaure to facilitate the US. working with its allies to detect and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. He joined up again with Tom Coburn to stop the Bush administration from handing out no-bid contracts to companies to reconstruct the Gulf coast.
Senator Obama also introduced the resolution that got the Senate talking about withdrawing troops from Iraq. He also got the Senate talking about fuel efficient cars, which had not been discussed seriously in that body for decades.
In 2007, Senator Obama decided to run for the White House. This was to be the greatest achievement of his life, and it showed just how much substance he had, and how valuable his own life experiences had been. Using his education, intelligence, communicaions skills, his community organizing skills, and an ability to draw talented people to his side, as advisors, campaign managers and operators, he built a national political organization from scratch to participate in the Democratic Party Presidential nomination contest.
With the same people, he was also able to build a national coalition, and a national political movement, to use the internet like noone before him to finance a nomination campaign, and also a Presidential election campaign. He got more youth involved in politics and voting than would have been thought possible, and also gained their help in building his national coalition and national movement.
In addition, he had to take on Senator Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, the Clinton political machine and the institutional Democratic Party, that supported Hillary Clinton during the nomination campaign. Senator Obama evidenced extraordinary perception and judgment mapping out how he could win the nomination contest, and he did so, and became the presumptive nominee of the Party.
Recently, Senator Obama returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, and other countries in the Middle East, and also Germany, France, and England. In Iraq, he stood eye-ball to eye-ball with General David Petraeus, and made it clear that if he were President, he would be commander-in-chief, and would set the mission in Iraq.
He also said to the General, who he said disagreed with him, that as President, he would drawdown American roops in Iraq on a 16 month time table (while paying attention to conditions on the ground) and that he would redeploy troops to fight the war in Afghanistan. The Senator also was able to get Nouri al Maliki and the Iraqi government to endorse his withdrawal plan.
That was not all that Senator Obama accomplished in Iraq. He changed the nature of the debate about the country, that Senator McCain had dominated: the discussion from Iraq to Afghanistan, from the surge to redeployment of troops to Afghanistan and fighting the war there, and from long term occupation of Iraq, to maintaining only a minimal military force to protect American personnel and facilities, continue training Iraqi security forces, and to root out remnants of Al Qaeda.
Senator Obama was greeted as if he were a head of state, rather than a Presidential candidate, in Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, in Israel, and also in Germany, France, and England.
He gave a speech in Berlin to over 200,000 people in which he said, as Pesident, America would form a strong partnership with Europe, and would listen attentively to European concerns, and that America would seek to achieve a favorable image in the world again with a new approach to regional and global diplomacy and policies.
This speech was received with enthusiasm throughout Europe. It was consistent with the speech he gave on foreign policy before the Chicago Council on Foreign Policy in February, 2004, and with the foreign policy views he expressed in Foreign Affairs (July/August, 2007).
If a white man of 47 years of age exhibited the kind of substantive personal qualities that Senator Obama does, and had achieved what he had achieved, as just outlined--and had done this coming out of virtually nowhere, and having to go up against formidable opposition to do so--there is no question that he would be lauded and lionized in the media, with little to no effort to detract from his attainments.
There would, instead, be endless talk about the superb personal qualities that he possessed, and that he would be bringing to the White House, and also endless talk about how this would be a blessing to the country and to the American people.
There are many Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Whites, with Whites being the largest among these groups, who helped Senator Obama become the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party,and who believe he would bring superb personal qualities to the White House, and who will be seeking to put him there in November.
On the other hand, there are many Whites, especially, who do not want to see Senator Obama as President, and for many of this number, it is because of their racist hostility, that sometimes takes the form of openly saying, "I will not vote for a Black man," or something worse; which conveys the additional racist thought, even if not conveyed verbally: that "being Pesident is a white man's job."
There is a long standing racist discrediting technique that Republicans are presently using against Senator Obama, particularly in their ads. That technique involves denying or lying about the personal attributes of a Black person, or ridiculing, mocking, distorting, demeaning, defaming, caricaturing, belittling, or being dismissive of the attributes or achievements, to convey the impression that the Black person in question is nobody, and has done nothing and can do nothing of significance.
In short, a method to assault and diminish the character, intellect, stature, and humanity of a Black person, which is the wont of racists, that gives them the sense of being superior, powerful, and omnipotent.
Thomas Jefferson used the racist discrediting technique against the nonslave Black Benjamin Benneker, who was an astronomer, mathematician, and producer of almanacs, whose intellect, mathematical skills, and achievements he mocked and belittled. He did the same to Phillis Wheatley who, as a slave, published a book of poetry that gained her some international acclaim. Jefferson said her poetry "was below the dignity of criticism."
White racists have always been most afraid of the Black person with substantive personal qualities, because such people contradict the racist stereotypes--that allege who Black people are, what they are capable or not capable of doing--and who point to the immorality and injustice, and the violation of America's ideals and values, denying Blacks opportunities.
Frederick Douglass used to argue that it was not the color of the Black man that agonized Whites, because they had no trouble relating to a Black field hand, servant, or coachman, who they knew would stay in their place, or whom they could easily keep there.
As Douglass remarked: "The evil lies deeper than the prejudice against color. It is, as we have said, an intense hatred of the colored man when he is distinguished for any ennobling qualities of head and heart."
For years white boxing promoters would not let Black boxers have title shots, not because they were convinced they could not win them, but because they were afraid that they would win them and hold them. They justified their exclusion practice by demeaning the character, the skills, and the morality of Black boxers.
When Branch Rickey decided to bring Jackie Robinson into the major leagues to play for his Brooklyn Dodgers, he was sure Robinson could make the grade. There were major league players who thought so as well, and for this reason, they made extensive use of the racist descrediting technique on the field during games, and drew fans in on what they were doing, to try to make him fail, but, instead, they and the fans failed.
During the Second World War the Army Air Force did not want to train Black fighter pilots, because of their fear that they might be successful pilots, and the Air Force's racist practices against Blacks, which centered in denying or disparaging their intellect, courage, and morality to be pilots, would be seriously challenged.
Under pressure from the Roosevelt White House some Black pilots were trained, and finally sent to the war theater in Europe. One group of these pilots trained at Tuskegee Institute, which became the 332 Fighter Group. It had the distinction among fighter escort squadrons of not losing a single bomber to German fighter planes, during their escort of numerous bombing missions over Gemany.
Today, there is Barack Obama, a Black person who has substantive personal qualities aplenty, and who has tremendous political skills; and there are white Republicans (with Black Republican strategists, and John McCain surrogates, acquiescing) trying to make white people afraid of him, by using the long standing racist discrediting technique that many of us Black people easily recognize.
But there are many Americans who recognize the substantive personal attributes of Senator Obama, and who believe he has had the kind of experience in his life, and has the leadership capability and the political skills, to be President of the United States, and who think that he will be a good President.
America should be proud that it has produced a person such as this, and almost as if it knew instinctively what it needed in these very trying times at home and abroad to provide itself with vision, vitality, and leadership.