Answering Obama Myths

Since Oklahomans vote in the primary this Tuesday, I'm going to address a few common misconceptions/questions that seem to be going around. I decided to write things down, after I've given shorter versions of this answer to several friends (all of whom know, because of my blog, that I'm an Obama supporter).

"Obama lacks experience"

This meme is not true. It is also not relevant.

Why is it not relevant? Obama has more experience than Abraham Lincoln had when he ran for president. What matters in a president is judgment, not experience. Obama's demonstrated his judgment on several issues when it's required courage to do so. For example: he opposed the Iraq war from the very beginning, saying "I'm not against all wars, only dumb wars." He was right on Iran (they turned out not to be producing a nuclear weapon, yet most Senators were rattled into voting to authorize force). He was right on Pakistan, pointing out that we shouldn't be relying on Musharraf guaranteeing stability. On all three of these issues, none of the other candidates for president made the right call. On one illustrative domestic issue that requires courage to be correct: he's the only one to actually understand the facts on drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants (he's for them). New Mexico, under Bill Richardson, gave drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants and this increased road safety, because more drivers now carried insurance and there were fewer hit-and-runs (a driver without a license who is involved in an accident is going to run). In Oklahoma, we pay some of the highest uninsured motorist premiums in the country. Our inability to distinguish between the act (illegal entry to this country) and the person (the immigrant) is part of the reason why. On this, as on many other issues, Obama is the voice of sanity.

Bottomline: It's not experience, but judgment that matters. Usually, more experience leads to better judgment. But we now have Barack Obama, a person who's demonstrated that he has the required judgment. Why ask him to "pay his dues"?

Why is the meme not true? He's had experience as a community organizer, state legislator and professor of constitutional law besides his current job as US senator. His experience, in other words, is broad. Just not deep. There are times in our nation's history when we've needed different types of experience. Right now, after all the unitary executive nonsense the Bush administration has been pushing through, we need someone who understands (really understands) what the US constitution is all about.

"Obama is all talk, no action"

This critique is false on two counts.

It is misinformed in the way it underestimates the power of talk. The job of a president is not to pass laws. That's Congress' job. The job of a president is exhort Congress to get the job done, using the unique bully pulpit that the presidency provides. The most successful presidents are the ones who don't have to play defense, but can inspire the country. Ever wonder why presidents are so aware of their poll numbers? It's because it's a measure of the strength of the president to set the agenda. An inspirational personality is one of the best qualifications for a president.

On the issues: There are three problems that we as a nation have to solve going forward -- healthcare, loss of US soft power abroad and climate change. On all three of these issues, Obama has solid proposals on the table. Obama's healthcare plan is the most pragmatic of the lot because it takes the current system of employer-provided insurance and private healthcare providers into account. The source of US power (the French call it "hegemony") over the last 50 years was not because of military might -- we did lose in Vietnam and stalemate in Korea -- but because of the immense attraction of American ideas and openness (it's why I moved to America). With an unplanned occupation (Iraq) and the use of torture, we're frittering away those advantages. An Obama presidency is our best hope for getting back on the right track. Third issue: on climate change, a carbon tax is the cleanest solution, but it's never going to happen. The next best thing is Obama's carbon cap-and-trade proposal, something similar to the one that worked for acid rain. In other words, Obama is not all talk: he has substance.

Please vote for Barack Obama.


  1. already did.. a few weeks back.. by mail!

    the will to resolve a problem is sometimes the most important thing..


  2. Agreed, agreed. He should be president. Can you address the Muslim connection...that's the biggest obstacle I encounter, around here, especially.

  3. T.R., you mean the myth that holds that Obama is a muslim? None of my friends ever brought that up, but yes, I can see why that would be an obstacle.

    Barack Obama is not a Muslim. He's a regular member of the Trinity United Church of Christ. In his book (Dreams From My Father), he talks about the role that the church played in his life.

    His father and step-father were both non-practicing Muslims and he grew up in Indonesia, which is a Muslim country. However, his mother raised him up with no particular religion. He is literally a "born-again" Christian because he found Christ at a relatively late age.

    So, Barack Obama is not a Muslim. Of course, even if he were a Muslim, it is not a disqualification. But ... he isn't.

  4. I agree with your assessment of Obama, but there is also a very pragmatic reason for progressives to support his push for the Democratic nomination. Fair or not, there is a significant anti-Hillary feeling among certain crucial voting groups.

    Many Independents and even some Democrats have a negative perception of Clinton and would never vote for her for President. They would likely vote for McCain (assuming he is the Republican nominee), or at best, not vote at all.

    Likewise, there are a signicant number of self-described "faith-based conservatives" who aren't excited by any of the remaining Republican candidates and are thus less likely to vote than in the past. But they dislike Clinton so much they would turn out in force and vote Republican if she were the Democratic nominee.

    The "anybody but Clinton" philosophy may be irrational, but it is very real.