I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.
Obama (apparently from a very early stage in his career) has left little paper trail. Decision making means taking risks – of criticism, of results. I don’t see risk-taking but the kind of assurance that comes from not having to live with consequences.
In an early job, I worked the front desk at the university library, filing cards of books checked out, pulling those of ones checked in. (Yes, those were the not so good old days.) One day, our supervisor posted a list of cards incorrectly filed. I had the largest number. To this day, my work has typos, my sentences comma splices, and my blurted out opinions sometimes insubtantial reasoning – I don’t always pay sufficient attentiion. But, my embarrassment was lessened when the head librarian took me aside and observed that of course I had more misfiled cards since I’d done almost all the filing for the last few days. There were about six other people who worked the same number of hours as I did. I learned two things: I should try to be more careful and that you may keep from making mistakes by not doing anything, but neither you nor your boss should see that as the way to go through life.
Few have explored the projects on which Ayers and Obama spent money. The Democratic candidate does not appear to be a “decider” – he blames his campaign staff even when the handwriting is his own, but argues he has “executive” experience because he has run his campaign. This may be fallible human nature, but isn’t what a leader does. Obviously, McCain and Palin live with the consequences of their choices, but they make them (and make them relatively resolutely) anyway. In fact, they seem to love the nitty gritty of living amidst those results- they immerse themselves in life, exuding a heady joy in self-reliance. They may shoot from the hip, but in Obama’s world, the gun and the bullets are speculative. His decision-making comes from a different world, the relatively theoretical and inconclusive world of bull. I listen to the pundits; i enjoy them. But he’s from that world – where most people are wrong most of the time – but they aren’t reallly wrong because they did nothing and nothing happened because of them. That was the difference between my time as a small businesswoman and my time in academia.
When the surge worked, Obama stubbornly kept to his argument that he was right on the great decision of our times – because, if we could just turn back the clock and let him rule the world, well, the surge wouldn’t have worked because we wouldn’t have been there. This is an interesting speculation late at night over beers, but it doesn’t give us much confidence in his ability to face the world as it is.
If he had actually been in a position to make that choice then other choices would have followed. And how would he have made them? What would he have done about the corrupt food-for-oil bribes or the fly-overs to keep the Kurds from devastation? Just because you see bad consequences from one choice doesn’t mean there might not be worse ones from another. You can’t just choose one series of consequences when life clearly promises (or threatens) many. Sure, if Obama gets to define the consequences, he can narrow the variables in the speculative world of bull; in that arena you can obsessively consider the pureness of your uncommitted ideology. We’ve lived through a century in which far too many have remained unaffected by the consequences of applying ideologies (and often ones too close to Obama’s for comfort). American pragmatism helps us appreciate McCain and Palin – I hope it is strong enough to elect them.
Shannon notes the equation of morality and self worth with what are, after all, pragmatic policy decisions. I’m not sure how the circularity started but at some point those on the left began to feel that they were morally superior because they believed in “peace” in foreign relations and government largesse in domestic ones. By weighting these policies so heavily (seeing them not as just pragmatically useful but moral) they became unwilling to acknowledge when they didn’t work (which would make them immmoral – the policies led to misery rather than the good life for others.) Obama’s attitude toward Lott, Gore’s toward Ward Connerley. the constant attack on “self-righteousness” without understanding a worldview that both accepts our fallen nature and attempts to improve it – these all come from a mind set that, among other flaws, is static.
If their choices are the moral ones, then old values needed to be discounted. An argument for self-reliance is inappropriate in a statist society. And old vices were also discounted – envy was no longer a vice but rather the appropriate response of anyone who, in an unjust society, had less than a neighbor (and even at times provided an excuse for acts to even such discrepancies.)
Fortunately, those of that persuasion have not been able to “engineer the souls” of the majority of Americans, but the result of the domestic policy can be seen in the growing dependence of larger and larger groups of Americans and the general misery in the high-rise projects of America. In foreign affairs, the results of such a vision were first battles that the strong threat of a military might have made unnecessary; even worse, “peace” led to the boat people and the killing fields.
The mantra that they “care” for others often seems to be strangely myopic – that is, in their desire to prove that they are the ones that value human life, they tend to undervalue others’ desire to define for themselves the “good life” domestically and, frankly, the remarkable joy in life of those who are independent and self-reliant. (One gets the feeing that Sarah Palin and John McCain arise every morning with energy and real joy in life – that’s what such self-reliance builds.)
In a similar vein, if peace in an abstract way is the highest value then America’s strength abroad is immoral. The old “might makes right” has been turned on its head. If by its nature military strength is wrong the most wrong would be the most powerful. Indeed, given our might, even our ability to defend ourselves is morally wrong. That the Germans and the Japanese are better off because we went to war and some of our forces remain in their countries seems pretty obvious. (I might observe that some of our domestic sins and pains might have been lessened if the North hadn’t wearied of Reconstruction when it did – but that is, I suspect, the kind of thing much more knowledgeable people than I could debate much more intelligently.) What is more obvious, however, is that most Iraqis and Afghanis are likely to be better off because of our military might.
However, when some begin with the belief their vision is not just correct but moral (and it is no accident that so many people with this view have substituted it for traditional spiritual values), acknowledging its failure is admitting not just that their policies don’t work but that their hearts don’t. But I suspect Palin and McCain face the world front on. They accept what is, which makes it easier to posit what could be. That is inspiring and it is also energizing.