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Obama and the Competence Issue


Senator Barack Hussein Obama has led a charmed life even as he has led a charmed campaign in his effort to win the Democratic nomination for President.  A graduate from Columbia and Harvard Law School, he was a community organizer in Chicago, spent seven years in the Illinois Senate, and wrote two best sellers.  After a brief two-year stint as Junior Senator from Illinois, he now finds himself primed to become the Democratic nominee for President and perhaps our first black President. 

If nothing else, his life represents a most unlikely fulfillment of the American dream, an emphatic indication of the inherent goodness of his oft-maligned country.  What is also learned from his success is that the civil rights struggle (in the words of black columnist Walter Williams) “is over”: being black in America is no longer a handicap but a political advantage.  Given his nearly vacant record of achievement, it is hard to imagine he would enjoy his current standing without it. 

Obama's initial appeal was as the post racial candidate; he was the biracial man, a salvific healer and uniter whose ascension to the Presidency would absolve the nation of its racial sins.  But recent revelations and imprudent comments have dimmed his messianic aura. 

Foremost has been the fracas over his long association with his pastor Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ, whose blistering diatribes (“God d*** America”) are by now the stuff of legend, not just in these United States but in the remotest corners of the globe. There was his comment at a San Francisco fundraiser before a distinctly non-blue collar audience when he suggested that the poor rubes of small town Pennsylvania clung to guns and religion because they were “bitter.”  Comments by Obama's wife, Michelle, that Barack's success marked the first time in her adult life that she was “really proud of my country” have been revealing if not unhelpful.  There is also his friendship with Bill Ayres, former member of the leftist Weather Underground who was involved in terrorist bombings.

The cumulative effect of these episodes has been to tarnish the glow that had surrounded Obama's campaign and to raise questions about his integrity and judgment.  Would be voters now wonder who the real Obama is.  Does he actually love his country as he maintains, or do his views and sentiments reflect more the cynicism and disdain of the Harvard faculty with which he spent formative years or, even worse, his former pastor?  The “average” American whom he claims to speak for may understandably entertain doubts.

There remains one further misgiving attaching to Obama's rise, which pertains to the matter of his competence and experience - for he has demonstrated neither in his abbreviated career.  For most individuals, however gifted and attractive, a mere two years in the Senate does not qualify as adequate preparation for the Presidency.  We return inevitably to the issue raised earlier, which is the incredible transformation that has occurred in this country, whereby being black (and liberal) confers not drawbacks but startling preferences over other individuals of similar or greater capacities but differing racial backgrounds. 

To illustrate this point we refer to the words of liberal stalwart, Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton supporter, who, in a candid but impolitic moment months ago stated that “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."  While it is ironic and perhaps enjoyable to see liberals who have imposed the politics of identity on the rest of us thrashing one another over perceived racial inequities, her reflections are accurate. 

Yes, Obama possesses notable rhetorical skills combined with populist and pacifist positions that resonate with many Democrat voters, but so do other Democrats with more impressive resumes (Clinton, Edwards, others).  Race, unquestionably, has played a role.  Indeed, we can think of Obama as our first affirmative action Presidential candidate. 

It again would be entirely proper to genuflect before our benevolent nation, which sees fit to offer unimaginable opportunities (the Presidency!) for any and all of its citizens regardless of class, gender, religion or race.  One may also wonder if liberals who are often obsessed with race are willing to acknowledge some paradigm shift in their country. 

Unfortunately, though, for many liberals, an “honest” discussion of race inevitably defaults to the usual prosaisms of America as endemically racist and blacks as helpless victims desperately in need of government assistance.  But, aside from benefitting a precious few liberal black “leaders” and white counterparts in their careers as tribunes of the underclass, that formula has not been particularly propitious for the black community as its family and social structure fray and crumble before the perverse incentives of the welfare state. 

But, we return to Obama.  Is it fitting to award the highest office in the land to an untested neophyte with questionable core beliefs and alarming prior associations based on soaring oratory, liberal moral preening, and proper complexion?  While the overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to bigotry, they also do not favor conferring special treatment based on an individual's race. 

In summary, in a Democrat year, the left leaning tendencies of Democrats have produced a gift for the Republican Party by materializing a deeply flawed candidate whom the Republican champion, John McCain, has half a chance of defeating.       



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