Every now and then I start thinking that this blog shouldn’t be my soapbox. This year, however, the stakes are too high. There’s an old saying, if the United States sneezes, Canada catches cold. What goes on down south profoundly affects our country.
As a Canadian, I can’t legally vote for Barack Obama. But I can help change minds, and reinforce others.
I don’t vote for any one party. I vote on issues and conscience and have voted for at least five different national parties here in Canada, so that tells you I’m all over the place. But I only wish I ever have the chance to vote for someone who excites me as much as Obama.
There are those who think he’s too shrewd to be a “good” Democrat. Like, “Ee! Ee! He’ll use his powers for evil! He’s unknown!”
Here’s what I know. This is only an excerpt* of a speech given by Obama on October 2nd, 2002, almost six months before the US invasion of Iraq:
I don’t oppose all wars…
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not — we will not — travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.
I understand the whole Obama-played-it-cool argument against his rather calculated rise from the Chicago streets. I get that. But I also think he’s a man who thought “I can be a great president, and it’s stupid to wait until the end of my life.” I think he’s a man who stood by in horror as his country waged a wrongful war costing tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of lives, shattering its reputation globally, and he saw his plan to work dilligently toward a presidency get moved up quicker because he’s the only guy who stood out their boldly calling that war for everything that it was. In 2002.
When the country needed a leader who would study the facts and launch a war only as the last possible resort, because that’s what war should be, it didn’t have one. And very few voices spoke against the war. I don’t know of any who attacked the political means behind the war as succinctly as he did, as early. Very few understood the issues as he did, and as presciently. Sure, others agreed with him, but they didn’t have the balls to lay it all down in detail. It was unpatriotic and heretical to oppose the war then. Remember the Dixie Chicks?
Obama might have been shrewdly silent on issues that may have painted him in stereotypes future opponents (like in the most significant election of all, a presidential one) might use to paint him as the token black candidate who votes like a black candidate. And it’s too bad he had to play things coy in those regards, but I believe he did it with the intent to be a more action-oriented president. Saving change up for that rainy four-year term, you know?
The thing is, though, when a strong voice of truth needed to be heard, he did speak up. He fought a fight that could have hurt his career, and he fought it rather hard. For six years. I choose to allow that to speak louder than some of the votes that may have been somewhat losing causes that he opted to back tactfully away from to keep his record more neutral. Politics, it’s a tough game and calculations are required no matter how pure your motives. Perhaps even more so with your pure motives.
There are those who may think that, because Obama’s beginning to display master tactician strategies, that he’s somehow hypocritical to his “politics not as usual” message he eschews. You want to make that argument, fine, you could probably give it wings and watch it fly. Whatever. But it’s fucking dumb to think you need to be snow-pure and uncalculated in your handling of spin. Well, sure, if you want to lose elections and sit around being all ethical and pretty on the sidelines while the guys who knew how to calculate in politics took every single election.
Elections aren’t just good guys and bad guys, they’re more complicated and skewed and calculated than the lay person could ever believe. Look at the movie Wag the Dog, which starts out satire, but it’s fuckin’ six years before the Iraq war and looks like it practically wrote the war in advance. God.
Politicking is art and science, and if the good guys are going to win they need players who play the rules as well as they play the games. Obama seems to have a knack for it, and his first election’s proof of that.
I think there’s nothing wrong with getting off sinking ships (ie: not voting for something with no hope in hell of passing, if it means it’s a specific yea or nay is on your record). If it keeps your image a little more enigmatic and hard to pigeon-hole, it may in fact be the only way one can launch a quick rise through the political rankings, a la Kennedy and Obama — meaning Obama’s a would-be junior senator-cum-president, not necessarily the second coming of Christ a la Kennedy.
Be thankful there’s a Democrat who finally knows how to throw down with the best of them, and be grateful his motives seem pure. It’s kind of like Oprah being the queen of manipulation and slickety-slick, but with all the good she does, you think “well, she uses her powers for good, so, whew!” Ditto. Only thing is, he’s a politician, so everyone gets a little skeptical. Understandable.
I get that, but I have the rest of my life to be cynical. For the next five months, I’m gonna believe.
Read the whole speech, and it’s a doozy, here.