Unlike most of the leading candidates, Obama talks of unifying a troubled nation, speaking eloquently (much like Reagan), of his vision for America, his message of hope and change, resonates with his legends of young fans, and while all the candidates I assume are principled in their beliefs, only Obama seems able to transcend the negative discourse that now dominates the political landscape.
He doesn’t subscribe to the brand of hard-core politics that seems to be prevalent within both parties, he speaks of the issues with passion, yet without recrimination, he’s articulate without seeming pompous or self indulgent, and like President Reagan, he seems to have an unwavering belief that anything is possible.
Of course, I have profound and fundamental differences with Senator Obama. I believe, the war in Iraq was justified, and in all probability saved countless American lives, not to mention perhaps avoiding another 9/11, and I believe that the role of government in the lives of its citizens, should be limited.
Yet, as much as I differ with Obama’s views on how to tackle the issues of the day, one can’t help but admire him. Much like President Reagan, he chooses to be inclusive rather then divisive, he speaks of issues rather then of personalities, he inspires rather then divides, and he speaks of a bright tomorrow.
His detractors have tried (without much success), to marginalize his message of “change”, baiting him and suggesting that he wasn’t a viable contender, hinting at his youthful indiscretions and of course his race. Astoundingly, the “slash and burn” and negative attacks that have dominated much of the debate, seems to have backfired.
Politics aside, Obama like Reagan has mastered the ability to disarm his rivals with grace and style, and while the Clinton campaign has used every trick in the book to discredit him, Obama skillfully deflects the assaults. So much so that Hillary and company have now resorted to theatrics (pouting and shedding tears), in hopes of solidifying her base of young white woman voters, who seem to be slowly moving towards the young Senator from Illinois.
Obama, much like Reagan does not seem to compromise his principles, he’s an ultra liberal who believers that government rather then the private sector can best affect change, he believes strongly in the redistribution of wealth among the more affluent among us, and that corporations and industries should pay higher tax rates.
As much as I admire Senator Obama, the similarities to President Reagan unfortunately does not transcend to Reagan’s views of political reality. Reagan (ever the optimist), understood the role of the presidency and how diplomacy combined with strength, could change the balance of power, without armed conflict, as was the case with the dismantling of the Soviet Union.
He believed in a strong America, ready to meet any challenge, unafraid and deliberate in its approach in dealing with both friend and foe, alike.
However, Obama understands how a moment in time can change the course of a nation. In a recent interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama tried to place his candidacy into a historical context, and compared himself too both JFK, and Ronald Reagan
"I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what is different is the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. They felt like with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."
He continued, "I think Kennedy, 20 years earlier, moved the country in a fundamentally different direction. So I think a lot of it has to do with the times. I think we are in one of those fundamentally different times right now were people think that things, the way they are going, just aren't working."
John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan had the ability to transcend partisan politics, they were able to unite a country with their vision for America, and while Obama I believe has the same qualities, to change America perhaps for the better. I remind myself however, that we live in troubled times, and I truly believe that no matter who’s elected, our enemies (post 9/11), will indeed test our resolve.
If history teaches us anything, it’s that the human condition is a complex and indeed unpredictable entity. While John F. Kennedy much like Senator Obama inspired a nation, Kennedy’s inexperience in dealing with foreign affairs forced us to the brink of war and almost ended his presidency, before it started.
On April 17th, 1961, 1,300 Cuban exiles, trained and armed in the United States, landed at the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Their mission was to overthrow the government of the Cuban Dictator, Fidel Castro. The invasion plan had been proposed by President Nixon, planned by President Eisenhower, and approved by President Kennedy.
However as the battle began to unfold, it was evident that the Cuban exiles were no match for Castro’s well equipped army. Kennedy had promised the Cuban exiles and had the option of using American air power, but decided against it. Consequently, the invasion was stopped by Castro’s army.
Aside from the obvious carnage at the Bay of Pigs, the failure of the invasion and Kennedy’s inexperience, set into motion a series of events that lead up to the Cuban Missile Crises, and brought us to the brink of war with Russia.
Kennedy (a navel hero) understood that his failure to provide air coverage portrayed him as weak and indecisive among our enemies. Russia took his inaction as a lack of resolve, and saw an opportunity to change the balance of power within our Hemosphere, by providing Cuba with medium range missles.
Of course, as history would prove, Russia had miscalculated Kennedy’s ability to react to the provocation, while Obama may indeed be the next “big thing”, the question however needs to be asked, “do we intrust our security to a young, charming, bright, and dare I say inexperienced and untested individual… or not”?
The above illustration was done over 35 years ago, when I was an art student.