Getting to know Barack Obama
Like him or not, you have to give Barack Obama credit for waging a smart, focused campaign. Destroying the Clinton machine was a major achievement, and so was putting together a successful convention in Denver. Mr. Obama is now firmly a part of U.S. history no matter what happens in the presidential election.
The problem some Americans continue to have with the senator is that he is long on charisma, but short on detail. This frightens some voters. Who the heck is this guy, anyway? So, when Mr. Obama finally agreed to speak to me last week, specifics were on my mind.
First, the man. The Barack Obama I witnessed is self-confident, determined and driven. He was acutely aware of his surroundings from the moment he entered the room. He looks you in the eye and touches your shoulder. He understands how to connect one on one.
As far as philosophy goes, Mr. Obama is convinced that the federal government should be in control of income distribution and, to some extent, should regulate the free marketplace. That is a classic liberal position and he promotes it well.
The senator also believes that poor Americans have a basic right to free health care and monetary supplements from the government with no strings attached. The American substance abuser, for example, would derive the same benefits as would a hard-working, laid- off worker. Again, classic liberalism. No judgments made regarding entitlements.
So, if Mr. Obama does become president, there will definitely be change. His left-wing base will demand it, and he will come through. You can decide whether that’s change we should believe in, but keep in mind that the unintended consequences of government interference in the marketplace are impossible to predict. Free markets have a way of chafing under government imposition.
On the foreign policy front, Mr. Obama has convinced me that he is tough but cautious. He rose quickly because he vehemently opposed the Iraq war. But now, I see a man who understands the victory that has taken place in Iraq. I don’t believe he wants to screw that up. I could be wrong.
After going mano a mano with Mr. Obama on television, I am also persuaded that he is a sincere guy, that he wants the best for all Americans. He’s an ideologue, but not a blind one. He understands that his story is incredible, and I have come to believe he is grateful to the American system for allowing it to happen.
It is true that we don’t know whether Mr. Obama has the ability to solve complex problems, but you can say that about all presidential contenders.
Like most politicians, Mr. Obama has used guile and good luck to accumulate his power. He can be ruthless, kind, unfair and generous. In short, he’s a real person trying to achieve an unreal position, that of the most powerful person in the world.
God help him.