Sunday, March 9, 2008

Silent no more

For a long time, I have lurked in the shadows - I read blogs, I sent in my comments occasionally, but for the most part my innermost thoughts on the key issues of the day were confined to my brain --

But enough is enough.

I don't want to live in a country where Hillary Clinton is President. I don't want to live in a country where John McCain is President.

I DO want to live in a country where Barack Obama is President.

It's that simple.

The first election I ever kind of cared about as an adult was 1992. I voted for Bill Clinton, excited but troubled by his already clearly slippery relationship with the truth. Like many, I watched with a kind of shaking-of-the-head sadness as his Presidency frittered away its chances for greatness and, as the country grew fatter and richer, I found my own engagement with the political process wane... so much so that by the time of the 2000 election, I pulled for Al Gore but really couldn't get all that worked up about it when he lost -- (except that how he lost seemed egregious and ghastly and downright illegal) --

Then came 9/11 - we all rallied around George Bush and the flag -- and for a few months, until Tora Bora, we were a United country as never before in my lifetime...

The 'axis of evil' speech changed all that, and as the drumbeats of war grew louder throughout that year, I felt my own engagement wane again -- something felt wrong, but I wasn't really sure what it was -- I knew Iraq had played no part in 9/11, but Saddam was a terror, so maybe I was wrong to think we shouldn't go after him? The Republicans engineered the authorization vote before the midterm elections, and I was disappointed but not surprised that so many Democrats (including my Senator, Hillary Clinton) supported it -- how could anyone really stand up to that kind of pressure in the post 9/11 era? Who could have the courage and wisdom to stand up and say, 'Um - this is stupid'? Who could possibly say 'we've taken our eye off the ball, this is a distraction'?

Well, a lot of people. Not me, to my shame. Not John Edwards, to his. Not Hillary Clinton. But thousands did -- millions, really -- across the globe, people marched and chanted and made sure their voices were heard on this vital issue -- even low level state senators and legislators made speeches against the war --

In February and March, 2003 -- with war all but inevitable -- the marchers and chanters and anti-war protesters were loud and vigilant...

I was silent.

Now, it's five years later. We've lost thousands of lives, and billions of dollars, and it's hard to believe that Iraq is any better off now than it was then. I'm no Middle East expert, but has the region ever been more unstable? Al Qaeda is now in Iraq. And how we get out of this mess will require a greater sense of intelligence and wisdom and flexibility than any American President has shown in decades.

There is no doubt in my mind that Hillary Clinton will not be able to pull it off. Even if so many Americans didn't revile her, her experience - in The White House, in the Senate -- has shown no indication of that kind of mind. In fact, when confronted with intractable problems (like health care), she tends to dig in her heels and become more and more adamant that she knows all the answers.

McCain - I don't think he could pull it off, though to be honest I'm not sure. I am pretty confident this '1000 year' thing is a campaign exaggeration, and I believe him when he says he wants the war to end quickly but successfully. All the same, I don't want to risk it -- he could easily be persuaded that what we really need to do is send MORE troops, spend more time, more lives, more billions of dollars.

Even if I knew nothing about the third remaining candidate in this race, I would be willing to take a risk on him.

But I do know something about Barack Obama.

I have read his first book, which was written before he got into politics. It's an amazing and sensitive memoir, the work of a supple and flexible mind, a mind that can hold several different seemingly contradictory thoughts in at the same time. It's almost impossible to read today without being grateful that an American politician is being so honest and revelatory.

His second book, while much less extraordinary, continues to give the impression that Obama is a man of maturity and wisdom, someone curious and willing to learn, willing to admit mistakes, willing, most important of all, to grow.

Take that -- and throw in his clear ability to inspire people with his speeches, his remarkable touch with young people, the obvious change he will present as America's face to the world -- and you have, at long last, a clear choice.

Obama 2008.

And I am happy at last to be out here in the open. Pretty liberating, these blogs... see you soon.

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