guest post at Firedoglake
This is extraordinary. It is also history in the making. Obama has started
an exploratory committee to run for
president. He announced it on the web.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday he is taking the initial step in
a presidential bid that could make him the nation\’s first black to occupy
the White House.
In 1996, he was elected to the Illinois state Senate, where he earned a reputation
as a consensus-building Democrat who was strongly liberal on social and economic
issues. He backed gay rights, abortion rights, gun control, universal health
care and tax breaks for the poor, but set himself apart from others by working
with opponents to resolve policy disagreements and refusing to become a rubber
stamp for his allies.
I don\’t have a dog in the \’08 fight yet, but between Edwards and Obama I\’d
say the Democrats are set to have the most exciting presidential campaign season
we\’ve had in a very long time.
Obama is a brilliant speaker. He does have a challenge in the way he talks
about the war, so we\’ll see how that plays out. That said, he is quite simply
one of the most electrifying political personalities to come around in a very
long time. We saw that through his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.
Right after that I put him on my blog as a serious contender for the vice presidential
nomination. No one thought, least of all Senator Obama, that he\’d be aiming
for the top slot.
Senator Hillary Clinton has to be in shock. Okay, not shock, but certainly she didn\’t expect Obama to rise to fast. No one did.
John Edwards is gaining across this country. His clear stance against the escalation
plans for Iraq have helped him immensely. Now known as \”The McCain Doctrine,\”
John Edwards has catapulted in Iowa, has a very strong base in Nevada, thanks
in part of unions, and is confident enough to take the fight to New York, where
Clinton\’s team made the mistake of responding to his speech up in Harlem.
Now Barack Obama is in. An amazing moment in history, for sure, but is he qualified?
Let me see, look at George W. Bush. He was a chief executive in Texas and look
how badly he\’s bungled the job. Bush had what many thought was the most experienced
team in U.S. history running the war and look how that\’s turned out. Part of
the problem with our current president is that he lacks the basic judgment skills,
as well as a sense of history. His team also believes in a very dangerous philosophy, that is that America can remake the Middle East in our image without diplomacy, using military force alone. It\’s the worst foreign policy we\’ve had in modern times.
One thing still concerns me. I understand Obama is known as a \”consensus-building
Democrat,\” but so is Joe Lieberman. I\’m not comparing the two, but Obama\’s
current stance on escalation is unacceptable, especially considering he had the good judgment
to say no to the Iraq war from the beginning. Is Washington wisdom creeping in to take the place of his obviously point on instincts? Obama\’s continued inference that
we can\’t leave troops stranded in the field by not funding escalation plays
right into Republican talking points about the Democratic Party, as well as an idea that is pregnant with symbolism, but wholly lacking on spine. That\’s troubling
to me. It dovetails into his talk about faith as well, which I\’ve written about
at length. Lecturing fellow Democrats on the importance of faith only confirms
Republican talking points. It\’s also an insult to people like me who have been writing about the importance of faith for a very long time. Not that Democrats don\’t deserve criticism, but any
candidate must do it in a way that doesn\’t hand ammunition to your enemy. But
Obama\’s new to this, so I suspect he\’ll get better at it; not just speaking, but crafting a national security strategy that has depth and offers Democrats a strong image, without playing footsy with Bush and Cheney.
Regardless of these concerns, there is nothing but good news in this announcement.
Senator Barack Obama is as exciting a candidate as comes around. No matter what
happens, I still contend the vice president slot is open to him. Bill Richardson
may have to fight him for it.
As for Senator Clinton, she\’s next. She\’s certainly going to get a run for her
gazillions, that\’s for sure. She\’ll get it from Edwards, who represents where
the country is today on Iraq. She\’ll now also be fighting Obama toe
to toe. This is going to be some fight.
UPDATE: The New York Times blog chimes in on my post.
UPDATE (10:50 a.m.): Clinton cancels Iraq \”newser\” because of illness in the party going to Iraq, not Obama.
UPDATE (9:28 a.m.): On a different subject, though clearly another important Democrat stepping up, if not for the president, then to rebut one.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi today announced that Virginia Senator Jim Webb will deliver the official Democratic response to President Bush\’s State of the Union Address on January 23, 2007.
\”In a call echoed by Americans across this nation, the people of Virginia sent Senator Webb to Congress to help take our country in a new direction,\” said Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi. \”As a combat veteran, he understands personally how crucial it is to find a new direction in Iraq and begin to bring the war to a close. Senator Webb represents the sweeping demand for leaders who will put aside gridlock in Washington to deliver change at home and abroad.\”