can hope trump experience?

Posted on August 15, 2007


Will Barack Obama unite the country if he was elected president?

It’s a tempting thought. The country has been through so much for the past six and a half years and there’s no knowing what other damage Bush would wrought until his term is over.

It’s not too difficult to understand the appeal and excitement that has been generated by Obama’s arrival into the game, even though he has only two years of Senate experience under his belt.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Obama built on his argument that the US needs a break from the past and elect him, saying that he would be better positioned to unite the country than other candidates like Hillary Clinton.

“I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can,” Obama told the Post. “I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the ’90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be running.”

Not only is he a new face amongst the “same old, same old” others that are making a bid for their respective parties’ nomination, Obama sings a different tune from them. He is refreshing, and shrewd, in offering a different message from the other presidential hopefuls — Obama has become identified with the message of hope, hope for the country and hope for Americans. It is very seductive and clever, especially coming after the politics of fear that is the trademark of the Bush administration under Karl Rove, to cow the populace and silence opposition.

But it’s also easy to be cynical towards Obama’s words.

An eerie similarity — the last time someone as inexperienced as him came along and claimed to be a uniter, not a divider, we got stuck with Bush.

Although Obama is easily ten times smarter than Bush, Obama’s inexperience could force him to select so-called experienced people to advise him, and just like Bush, become ill-advised.

As other bloggers and commentators have pointed out, Obama is already taking the wrong tack in his campaign — taking shots at the front-runner for the Democratic party’s nomination does not look presidential, it just makes him look snide and envious. His attraction has been his ability to stand out from the rest of the fold with his positive message and mud-slinging isn’t going to help his credibility, it would just make him look like the other candidates.

The truth is, it would be an uphill climb for him to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination, let alone win the presidency. The south would be close to impossible for him to tame, due to his race. We like to think that Americans are progressive but the truth is, we are still mired in racial politics. Just look at what happened to Harold Ford’s campaign in Tennessee during the last congressional elections.

But Obama could be right on many counts about Clinton’s polarizing personality. Nothing would make Republicans turn out to vote as much as Hillary being the Democratic Party’s candidate. Even if she was elected President, it could be like the Clinton years all over again, with the Republican Party busy attacking or investigating everything about her and Bill, and perhaps likely to be even worse than before.

Can Hillary cross party lines and create bi-partisanship? If her record in NY is anything to go by, it suggests that Hillary has the skills and flexibility to win people over, however vilified she might be. A New York Times article last year details how she had won over former enemies such as senator Lindsey Graham and has worked with Republicans on issues as varied as improving the Federal Emergency Management Agency, healthcare and vehicle safety.

On balance, the country is in a worse position after it has been through eight years of the Bush administration — Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, the Middle East, health care, etc. So many things are crying out to be fixed. Obama does not seem to have the political muscle to be able to handle so much. With only two years in the Senate, it would be a stretch for him to be a governor of a large state, let alone president. Obama could make a fine President one day, but for now, he should gather more political experience and hone his skills first. Perhaps a stint as a vice-presidential candidate would be a good start for him.