"The Long Freakout"

Peggy Noonan wrote an excellent article for today’s Wall Street Journal Opinion page titled “The Man From Nowhere: What Does Barack Obama Believe In?” In her article, Noonan discusses the difficulty in discerning Obama’s positions on anything, because his popularity is based on his charisma, his eloquence, his like-ability, not on his principled stands on the issues of the day. What does Obama really care about? What does he think about any of the questions that heat public debate?

Noonan points out that Obama has earned 100% ratings from the left-liberal groups (note: Hilary Clinton usually gets around a 70%), but indicates that this is because Obama follows the party line, rather than taking new or innovative stands on issues. Can we assume that he firmly believes in the left-wing platform items based on his less than 2 years in the Senate or previous time in state legislature? I’m not sure.

People really like Barack Obama. He’s articulate. He’s young. He’s got a nice family. He hasn’t had time to make enemies. He’s NICE, and by George he’s not Dubya. People like him because they want to believe that he is like them and is reasonable enough to take their positions on the issues when he gets around to it. As Obama says himself, people project their hopes on him. He seems ok with that.

I’m with Noonan: I would really rather know what Obama thinks. Quoting Noonan’s article, “But again, what does he believe? From reading his book I would say he believes in his destiny. He believes in his charisma. He has the confidence of the anointed. He has faith in the magic of the man who meets his moment.”

Cute. Is that enough to be a good president?

Noonan concludes that the last 10 years in American politics have been “The Long Freakout” as voters lurched from disgust at the scandals of the Clinton years, to disgust at the excesses of the Bush years, plus the fears of 9-11 and a volatile economic situation, a war that no one really understands, and so forth. Both parties have responded by running candidates “who can win” because they are “The Anti-Clinton” or “The Anti-Bush.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d really like to see candidates who run on something OTHER than “I’m SOOO not my opponent.” I wish we would see candidates come forward who take strong, principled stands on things like foreign policy, abortion, education, poverty, government spending, entitlement programs, and the like. Of course, by principled stands I mean maybe, just maybe, breaking out of the platform to come up with something new or at least having the guts to come out and say something that will be unpopular with some people. That would be refreshing in an era when both parties play it safe by sticking to the status quo and spouting inane “can’t we all just get along” type rhetoric.

It’s attitudes like this that make me completely unexcited about the 2008 race. Here’s hoping that something changes between now and then. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to read the article, and feel free to leave comments if you care to share what you think.

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