I have not been impressed with Barack Obama. The theme of his campaign is the cliche that he will remove politics from politics and inject it with "hope." The problem with American politics is not that it is too political or too uncivil but that there is a lack of courage in challenging the power structures. He has become extremely cautious, far removed from the articulate, passionate activist he was. He is overly "receptive" to the approaches of lobbyists, on whom he depends for money. I can even see him adjusting his strong opposition to the Iraq war to a nuanced approach more in line with the "needs" of American power in the region.
I see also a Kennedy-like obsession with appearing stylistically masculine and competent, evident in his love of authoritative-sounding words. When asked about withdrawal from Iraq, for example, he says he will withdraw "about one brigade a month," rather than give a number. After all, how many ordinary people know how much a brigade is? What lingers in my mind is the word "brigade." His clean, handsome face uttering that word impacts the viewer with an image of military professionalism. It recalls Kennedy's ability to "out-hawk" the Republicans in 1960 with jargon such as "missile gap." Such obsession with style undercuts, in my mind, the talk of hope and bipartisanship and idealism. Hope is not about style, my friends. It is about the courage to take on the system.
But today Obama impressed me, for the first time. The New York Times reported his proposal to abolish nuclear weapons from the world. In my opinion, the very existence of these weapons is the greatest immediate danger facing the world. Their exclusive possession by a few powerful countries is hypocritical, spurring smaller nations to attempt to develop them. As for offering protection, they fail in the age of terrorism. In fact, their use is the terrorist's greatest hope: if we can by suckered into wiping out some part of the world seen as threatening to us, we offer them excellent propaganda. We do not deter the terrorists with them, since we do not know who they are. Even if we do know, will we wipe out a city to kill a man? Of course not. Finally, they can be stolen. In short, their existence only helps the terrorists and only threatens us -- and the innocent people of other countries.
I have been amazed at the lack of courage and vision of all the presidential candidates. Have none of them considered these simple points outlined above? Are they all in the pockets of defense lobbyists?
Thank god, Obama has made this statement. The mere fact of bringing the issue to wide public consciousness is important. And along with Clinton's lock-step support of AIPAC and her gullible belief in Israeli "intelligence" about Syria's supposed nuclear program (another step toward greasing the wheels for attacking Iran), this important stand makes me suddenly tilt toward Obama as the compromised candidate with something to redeem him.
Of course, this is not to say I think him a better candidate than Richardson, Kucinich, Gravel, or Edwards. But he is the most obviously positioned to challenge Hillary and the corporate "moderates" of the party (those would be the moderates who supported the moderate attack on Iraq, with all its moderate costs in human life and in money). And with his statement on a nuclear-free world -- something the US committed to long, long ago, during the Cold War -- I find something to praise unique to him. I can begin to forgive him for his stylistic obsessions.