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    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    Obama: Yes, he can, maybe.

    It now looks like Obama has a chance of winning the Democratic nomination and the whole thing is going to go right down to the proverbial wire with the super delegates having the final say. But why is Obama the better choice than Clinton for those of a liberal/social democratic persuasion? Anthony Barnett has a good level headed article which sums up why this fairly pragmatic, centrist, and in some ways conservative man is the best option.

    Two of the obvious reasons are that it would be healthy to break the Bush-Clinton stranglehold on the presidency and to not give the Republicans a chance to rally around their favourite figures of hate - Hil and Bill - Republicans generally find it much harder to hate Obama.

    But Obama is not a liberal. He appears to be in that murky third way territory occupied by Bill Clinton and Blair before him. Tomasky nails it in a review of Obama’s Audacity of Hope calling him a civic republican and quoting Obama:

    ‘The victories that the sixties generation brought about—the admission of minorities and women into full citizenship, the strengthening of individual liberties and the healthy willingness to question authority—have made America a far better place for all its citizens. But what has been lost in the process, and has yet to be replaced, are those shared assumptions—that quality of trust and fellow feeling—that bring us together as Americans.’

    Elsewhere Obama has said:

    “I’m probably more humble now about the speed with which government programs can solve every problem. For example, I think the impact of parents and communities is at least as significant as the amount of money that’s put into education.”

    In a profile of Obama from Larissa MacFarquhar that featured in last years New Yorker - one of the more insightful articles I’ve read about him - she spends a lot of time emphasising Obama’s centrist, consensus seeking tendencies. And his pragmatic nature, she says:

    ‘Obama is deeply conservative. There are moments when he sounds almost Burkean. He distrusts abstractions, generalizations, extrapolations, projections. It’s not just that he thinks revolutions are unlikely: he values continuity and stability for their own sake, sometimes even more than he values change for the good.’

    I think for non-Americans, the biggest reason to hope Obama wins is his stance on International affairs. His views on Iraq make a lot of us hope his presidency would see a more decisive shift away from loopy neoconservatism than Clinton’s would. This quote from Obama in 2002 is a pretty good advertisement for his presidency so.

    "I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

    But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.’

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