Hating on Obama, Sirota edition
Solomon and I have been saying for a while now that Obama has no real substance to him. Reread his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. It was pretty good but not amazing, a mix of impressive turns of phrase and pablum. Even when it sounds its best it's utterly contentless, demanding no decisions or commitments. I understand why: the speech was intended to pump up John Kerry, and it's very difficult if not impossible to make decisions or commitments on behalf of someone who refuses to make any. (Compare it to Bill Clinton's speech at the same convention, where he lays out a clear philosophy of government.) But since then, whenever we've seen him on TV he's been the epitome of a difference-splitting Senator. What's more, he's taken no strong public stands on anything despite being one of the Democrats' biggest stars.
David Sirota describes clearly the danger for liberals (as distinct from Democrats) of embracing a pretty face with no substance just now:
[D]on't fool yourself: a movement that rushes to embrace a candidate without demanding that candidate actually lead on the issues that the movement is supposed to be about - well, that could be a death blow for what we are working toward. Movements move because leaders lead and because they wield power by forcing politicians to stand up for people. Movements are killed by false prophets, cults of personality and by the unwillingness of those in the movement to wield their power for their agenda.
Look, I'm willing to admit that maybe it's true: maybe in this age of cynicism where people have completely given up on the idea that government can do anything, all the country really wants is a great orator who nebulously "connects" - a talk show host President who makes us feel good when he's on TV, even as he refuses to use his power to actually change anything. But I think now, more than ever, people are looking for a conviction politician - someone who has either done something, or at least used their platform to try to do something through raising taboo issues.
There's no way we should even be discussing Obama as a presidential possibility in 2008.