Friday, February 01, 2008

Endorsement: Barack Obama

I am a sucker for hope.

My 11th grade history teacher, Dorothy Agranwitch, made her students keep journals to reflect on world events. After observing a semester's worth of remarks in mine, she inscribed a statement that I will never forget. Written in her elegant, Radcliffe-inspired script, she said, "Your prose and interpretation brings one word to my mind: hope."

It follows suit that I quickly fell in love with Bill Clinton, since he made me believe in sappy things like hope and change. President Clinton ushered in change at a time when we needed it; breaking from the Reagan and Bush years to reinvigorate the country. What follows was laudable: a booming, if not irrational, Internet economy; and a general feeling that this country was the best country in the world. When I authored a column for The Daily Free Press while at BU, my last entry discussed the huge crowds that greeted Clinton when he visited Northern Ireland. Citizens there saw him, and the U.S., as a beacon. It's hard to imagine any foreign entity seeing us in such a light today.

At a time when change is once again needed, and for other reasons I detail in this post, today I announce my support for Senator Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. I will vote for Senator Obama this Tuesday in the Massachusetts Democratic primary.

Let me say that for many (also sappy) reasons, I am proud of the way things have transpired this primary season. Turnout in the early primaries has been overwhelming. Younger voters, and many previously uninterested, have come out in large numbers. The country is engaged in a way I have never seen before.

We also benefit from a field of impressive Democratic candidates. As the New York Times led its endorsement of Hillary Clinton: "This generally is the stage of a campaign when Democrats have to work hard to get excited about whichever candidate seems most likely to outlast an uninspiring pack. That is not remotely the case this year."

To be sure, Hillary Clinton and Obama share many overall policy objectives, and among the ones I support:

*Universal Healthcare: The healthcare system in the U.S. is healthcare for the affluent. An excellent way to cut overall cost from the system is to encourage routine care, and routine care has to be available to all. Government has a role to make this happen, since the market favors profit-- and that doesn't necessarily mean healthier people. The problems with the system have also subjected doctors to role players, rather than industry leaders. This is a problem.

*Focus on the environment. Having worked for Al Gore, this is a big deal for me.

*Recognizing that the Al Qaeda that attacked us on September 11 is based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not Iraq.

Given the similarities in positions offered by Clinton and Obama, the choice on paper was difficult for me. But a couple of distinctions between the candidates in recent weeks have provided clarity.

First, Obama believes strongly that everyone should have a seat at the table. He understands that the world is more complicated than "with us or against us", and that there is no harm in asking for help to combat the world's problems. Hillary believes this too, but not enough, in my opinion. Her vote to support designating Iran's politics a part of terror is a case in point. The harder answer-- and more accurate one, in my opinion-- is to keep Iran at the table. Cutting them out of the discussion only emboldens them. And that starts the cycle we all witnessed leading up to the Iraq war.

Senator Edwards impressed me with his commitment to restore America's standing in the eyes of the world. I think Barack Obama is more committed to that than Hillary Clinton.

Second, I think the American political scene needs a refresh. President Bush has so damaged America's stead in the world, that I find it hard to believe any connection to politics as usual will be acceptable in the eyes of our International allies. Hillary Clinton to many in the U.S. and abroad is more of the same. We need a clean break to start over.

Finally, as much as I loved Bill Clinton, I can't figure out why he's involving himself in this race. This is Hillary's campaign, and I was impressed by her ability to run the campaign and not rely on the involvement of her husband. The Onion Magazine ran a headline in this week's issue that read: "Bill Clinton: Screw it, I am Running!" In recent weeks, Bill Clinton has shown me that he will be involved in Hillary's campaign and her presidency. Which brings into question: Which Clinton will call the shots in the White House?

I am very disappointed in Bill's words. The inspiration provided by Hillary as the architect of her own success now seems shallow, or at least hollow. Moreover, to relate Senator Obama's success in South Carolina to Rev. Jesse Jackson's success there is disingenuous at best.

Bill Clinton inspired me in 1992. He did so again in 1996 when he ran for reelection. I volunteered for that campaign. Clinton represented the "Bridge to the 21st Century." Bob Dole was Clinton's opponent then. He could not avoid talking about the past. His service in WWII. His years in the Senate. Everyone admired him but yearned for the future.

Ironically enough, in 2008, part of Hillary's Clinton's message is a return to the past. As much as I liked the Clinton years, I am not a fan of looking back. Not in 1996, and not now.

Thank you, Senator Dodd, Senator Biden, Congressman Kucinich. Thank you Senator Edwards. Thank you Senator Clinton. The primary season was phenomenal. But my choice is Obama.

1 comment:

Kate said...

If the rest of America - or even the rest of our friends - thought this much about who to vote for we'd all be better off. Very good food for thought Ross. Thank you for sharing