Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things to Like About Obama

We had a near miss at Christmas. You've all read about the Nigerian with the smuggled explosives trying to blow up an airliner as it approached Detroit. The credit for foiling the plan goes to passengers who got the guy under control before things went boom.
Evidently, some breaks in the intelligence chain allowed the guy to get on the plane despite his being known as a potential terrorist. The question I think we're left with is: given the fact that no one was hurt, and that the plotter is in custody, does this incident go down as a success or a failure? If it's someone else's job to keep us safe before anything blows up, then you could hardly say they succeeded. On the other hand, there were something like 25 plots to kill Hitler, some of which failed just by bad luck, but all of them were spun as successes by NAZI propaganda guys.
I'm not sure what to think here, but I have to think that ONE plot will succeed in killing people if enough plans are put into operation. Does that mean I'm prepared to be sad all over again? No, but it's a big country, and it's impossible to have perfect freedom AND perfect safety.

Now, it's been eleven months since Barack Obama took office. That's not long enough, despite what Right-wing radio might claim, to judge someone as a success or failure in the job. The consequences of a given action often take a long time to play out across the world. But I CAN say that there are several things about Mr. Obama that could/should merit a little praise.
1. He dresses well. He looks good in a suit and manages, within that small range, to avoid looking like a walking cliche.
2. He's good at giving speeches. Some of them have actually made a difference, or at least been remembered for more than a day or two. Speaking casually is a tougher job for any president, mainly because the wrong choice of phrase or term can put whole markets into a tailspin.
3. It's easy to like the First Family's other members. Like Laura Bush, Michelle Obama is a little out of the line of political fire, and most Americans look for reasons to like her instead of combing each utterance looking for things to hate.
4. He's a worker. He's getting around the world while not neglecting the Home agenda. Keeping those two in balance is kind of tricky. People, for instance, used to accuse Nixon of knowing more about Chile than Chicago.
5. He knows big issues shouldn't be handled on the fly. I have expressed doubts about the Afghan decision, but I sure can't say they didn't look at all sides before finally deciding.
6. He lets others do the most partisan operating while appearing to be above the wrangling. You want to stay off that slippery slope and let others point out the other side's goofs and hypocritical stances. Lots of silly accusations, which I refer to as "popgun attacks" just don't deserve responses. At any rate, they'll never stop, regardless of how they're dealt with.
7. He didn't fall for the argument that said EVERYTHING Bush did was bad, and so we must always do the OPPOSITE. It's appealing, but too simple.
8. He hasn't taken premature credit for things that don't yet show real evidence of success. No "Mission Accomplished" banner.
9. He's been able to use the talents of people who might not be natural allies: The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and some others.
10. Just by being president, he gives hope to minorities and people whose lives have featured too much bad luck, that things can be better.


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