the case for

The Case for Barack Obama

Since it is Super Tuesday 2, I thought I would revive my series by making the case for Barack Obama. The case for Obama comes down to one word – optimism.

By this point in the political game, just about everyone has heard the primary criticisms of Senator Obama. He is long on style and short on substance. His rhetoric of “hope” and “change” isn’t coupled with a workable plan to effect change. For all his talk of bipartisan and a “purple America,” his voting record is decidedly blue (especially when compared to the decidedly purple record of John McCain). And when pressed to delineate actual accomplishments, his supporters are simply unable to do so.

So why isn’t Barack Obama a flash in the political pan? The answer is simple – he makes us feel good about being Americans. Americans love to feel good about being Americans. Call it patriotism or a superiority complex, but Americans are drawn in by the characters and stories who reinforce our national pride. The Miracle on Ice. Ronald Reagan. The Dream Team. The First Gulf War that we won in like 14 minutes. Even September 11th. In spite of all of our partisan bickering, deep down, we do really want to come together as one.

Barack Obama is the first politician on the American landscape since Ronald Reagan who has been able to tap into this sentiment. President Bush did so in the aftermath of 9/11, but his obscene inability to repeatedly articulate a compelling vision of American exceptionalism squandered that.

When Senator Obama asks us to believe, when he encourages us with Yes, we can, how can we not hope? Could a video like this be made with a speech by John McCain, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, or Mike Huckabee?

Barack Obama doesn’t just express the greatness of America, he embodies it. In and through him, America can make restitution for her past sins. We can show the world and prove to ourselves that we are great enough to overcome our own past short-sightedness and inconsistencies. Senator Obama gives us the opportunity to close the door on a painful past and begin to look again with optimism to a great future.

If I was going to vote for Barack Obama, it would be because he makes me feel optimistic about my country and proud to be an American.

The Case for Mitt

With his campaign fading fast, I better make the case for Mitt Romney before he is off to pasture with Rudy, Fred, and the other guys who got out so early that we don’t remember their names any more. The case for Mitt Romney comes down to one word – Olympics.

Everything about what Mitt does and who Mitt is can be summed up by looking at his handling of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Think of the connections.

Those Olympics showcased a public face of Mormonism that shattered stereotypes and beat back ignorance. As the world was introduced to Salt Lake City, perceptions about Mormons changed, even as the jokes flew. In the same way, I would be willing to bet that more people known the Mitt Romney is a Mormon than any of his policy positions. I find the way Mitt has handled his faith, particularly his speech on freedom from a couples of month ago, to be a compelling example of what makes America great.

The 2002 Winter Olympics were mired with scandal before Romney took over. He was able to shift public opinion about the Olympics, while also executing a well-run and purposeful plan to make the Olympics successful. He seems to have an innate ability to strategically lead, factoring in both public approval and effectiveness. Bill Clinton seemed obsessed with public approval. George W. Bush seems intent on effecting his plan. Romney seems to me to have the traits to keep these two things in balance.

For instance, a friend of mine from Salt Lake City told me that the stadiums and arenas that were built for the 2002 Olympics were not only paid for completely, but that Romney was able to raise enough money to endow the maintenance of those buildings for decades beyond the Olympics. As a result, the general feeling in Salt Lake City is that the Olympics were a resounding success. I long for a President who can both actually accomplish a well-thought out plan and sell it and resell it to the American people, instead of just assuming we all agree with him.

The Winter Olympics gave Mitt Romney the opportunity to display characteristics I would like to see in a President:

– Compelling and creative communication that actually sways public opinion

– Fiscal and budget understanding

– The ability to lead through change in a broken environment

– Recruitment of volunteers to be a part of something bigger than themselves

– Respect for and experience in the private sector

The downside of Romney is the Ken doll factor. He seems slick and plastic and a little too well suited for the job, like if you were going to cast the part of President in a movie, he would be your guy. Can Mitt overcome that? I am not sure. I do find it interesting, however, that we complain if candidates don’t come off well in the media, ala George W. Bush. And we complain, in Mitt’s case, that they come off too well.

If I was going to vote for Mitt Romney – did I in the Arkansas primary? – I would with one hope in mind – that he would handle America and the challenges we face like he did the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The Case for Hillary

The case for Senator Clinton comes down to one word – triangulation

Triangulation, sometimes called the Third Way, was the governing philosophy of President Clinton during his eight years in the White House. (In fact, I would suggest that triangulation has been the governing philosophy in Washington DC for 20 years now, including both Bush presidencies as well as Clinton’s.) When he triangulated, Bill Clinton would attempt to stay between and above the political fray among conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats. (For those of you who have read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, this sounds suspiciously like Neo’s approach to theology.)

President Clinton was constantly criticized for governing by the polls, for focus grouping everything, and for being more concerned with his own power rather than the advancement of a particular ideology. While these are legitimate criticisms, we have to admit that the practical effect of triangulation wasn’t all bad. It was only half bad, by definition.

Certainly, triangulation brought us a moderate tax increase, don’t ask don’t tell, and a dismal response to Islamic terrorism. But on the other hand, it also brought us:

Welfare Reform
A Balanced Budget
The Surplus
The Defense of Marriage Act
NAFTA

More than anything, the disgust for the Clintons by many people – I think – has more to do with their personalities and scandals than it does with anything they have actually accomplished in elected office.

If Senator Clinton governs like her husband did, I am forced to say that there could be a lot worse. Triangulation provides an opportunity for a strong, conservative leader (like Newt Gingrich was in the Nineties) to actually advance the conservative agenda even with a “liberal” in the White House.

Will she triangulate? I am not sure. Certainly, she supports some very liberal things, not the least of which is her plan to socialize health care. But she also has been supportive of the war against terror (I’m talking here about her actual voting, not her rhetoric). She also is proposing tax cuts on her website. Is that enough to suggest that she will govern by triangulation? I don’t know. I suppose we won’t know until she articulates this philosophy (which won’t happen until the general election with such an ideological opponent in the primary as Senator Obama is) or until she is actually in office and has to govern. It’s a gamble.

So … if I was going to vote for Mrs. Clinton, I would do so for one primary reason – triangulation.

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