Exclusive: Judgment to Lead 21st Century Challenges: Is Obama the One?
by PAM MEISTER
June 23, 2008
Over the last seven years, our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush, has generated a lot of contempt for the way he speaks in public. A whole industry has sprung up (calendars, books, etc.) characterizing his patterns of diction, profiting from how he (mis)pronounces words like "nuclear" and his tendency to create new words like "misunderestimate." The man who has an undergraduate degree from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School is the favorite whipping boy of the liberal elite, who declare he is as dumb as a rock. (They also claim he's an evil genius. Which is it?)
So imagine the thrill that went up the legs of these Bush-bashers when Barack Obama came on the scene. The man whose oratory skills have been likened to those of such American icons as Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King has enthralled thousands, nay, millions of Americans eager for hope, change, and the absolution of sin. (Okay, I made that last part up.)
But the smooth talker isn't quite as smooth when you take away the teleprompter. He may not be mangling words, but he seems to have a lot of trouble getting them out:
"What they'll say is it costs too much money but, you know what? It would cost about...it it it would cost about the same as what we would spend...(unintelligible)...over the course of ten years...it would cost what it would cost us...eh...eh...hehheh....all right...OK...we're going to...the...it would cost us about the same as it would cost for about....hold on one second...."
Or how about this one:
"You know I'm not vetting my VP search committee for their mortgages so you're gonna have to direct...well...you know, I mean...it becomes sort of a...um...ahah I mean this is a game that can be played everybody...ah....y'know who was tangentially related to our campaign I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters I mean at some point...ah...you know...we just asked people to do their assignments...ah...Jim Johnson has a very discreet task as does Eric Coulter and that is simply to gather up information about ...ah...you know...potential vice presidential candidates therefore performing that job well it's an unpaid position...uh...and...they're giving me information and I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I want to select as a vice presidential candidate. So this is...yaknow these aren't folks who are working for me, they're not people who ...yaknow...I have assigned to a particular ...um...job in a future administration...um...and yaknow ultimately ...um... my assumption is that they are visiting this discreet task that they will perform for me over the next two months...."
Now to be fair, public speaking is difficult even when you have notes in front of you. But when it comes to answering challenging questions, is Obama's off-the-teleprompter stumbling what we want to put in front of the likes of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who is so clear and emphatic in what he says about wanting to destroy both America and our key ally in the Middle East, Israel? The stammering above was in response to a simple question to which he should have had a well-rehearsed answer in his front pocket. What will Obama's response be when Ahmadinejad says, "I'm building my nuclear arsenal and to hell with you, Twinkle Toes"? Will Obama say, "I...well...the United States believes...um...yaknow...we have a history of....I can tell you...there ought to be...um...ahah...ultimately...I mean, really? Do you ...um...eh eh...really mean that?"
We can all condemn President Bush for his verbal gaffes but one thing is absolutely certain: he never presented himself to anyone on the subject of America's enemies with one iota of uncertainty or befuddlement. His message was clear, and it also expressed the president's most vitally important duty to his job: tread on America and you will live to regret it, buddy. Period.
Yet it's amazing that Obama's gaffes (including his "57 states" comment) are glossed over by the media, while any glitch in President Bush's public appearances is immediately pounced upon as proof of his unfitness for the office of president.
The old adage says, "You can't judge a book by its cover." You should also not judge the content of a speech by how many big words the speaker manages to pronounce perfectly. For example, in a recent campaign appearance, Obama defended his wish to initiate diplomacy without preconditions with countries like Iran:
"I don't want to just sit there and have tea with them. What I want to do is to explain: Here's the position of the United States. We want you to stop threatening Israel. We want you to stop building nuclear weapons. We want you to stop funding terrorists. And if you do those things, we'll give you incentives and help you with your economy. And if you continue to do them, we will sanction you."
What's wrong with that? Plenty. It doesn't sound like a future president of the most powerful nation on earth speaking. It sounds like a preschool teacher admonishing a toddler, like this:
"Timmy, it's time we discussed the rules. I want you to stop threatening to hit Sally. I want you to stop picking up sticks to use to hit her. I want you to stop offering candy to other boys who will hit Sally for you. If you do that, we'll put a gold star on your chart and give you extra time in the sandbox. If you don't, we'll put you in time out and you won't get graham crackers at snack time."
Tactics like that might work for little Timmy, but for Iran's Ahmadinejad (who believes the Mahdii, the prophesied redeemer of Islam, is hiding out in a nearby well and just needs a little Armageddon to get him to come out from hiding and unite the ummah), well, replacing sticks and stones with positive reinforcement that's more suitable in a nursery school setting just ain't gonna cut it.
This is the kind of naïveté that John F. Kennedy (the kind of man Obama aspires to be) displayed in his rush to meet with then-Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Ignoring prudent advice from senior American statesmen, Kennedy ended up being used as a verbal punching bag by the savvier Khrushchev. In fact, minutes after the meeting ended, Kennedy gave himself a verbal punch:
"He just beat the hell out of me. I've got a terrible problem if he thinks I'm inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won't get anywhere with him."
Many said at the time, and it is common understanding to this day, that this particular triumph of the experienced Khrushchev over the inexperienced Kennedy led ultimately to the Cuban missile crisis due to Khrushchev's thinking he could steamroller Kennedy. I shudder to think what Obama's gaffes would lead to now. "Inexperience and no guts" in the face of fundamentalist Islam is no match: America will lose, and many more Americans will die.
Experience can be a harsh but effective teacher. Does Obama have the kind of experience that would serve him well during tense negotiations with today's nuclear-armed enemy states? Even Kennedy, who had served in the Navy during World War II and served in the House and Senate for much longer than Obama has to date, found that negotiations need more than just a willingness to "talk things over."
The man who occupies the office of the President of the United States is the most powerful man in the world. Other countries may not like that fact; indeed, some of our own citizens don't seem to like it either. But for now, it's true. Therefore, when we go to the polls in November, we are voting for the man whom we believe will best fill that role. When it comes to Barack Obama, he may be able to make great speeches, but what exactly is he saying? Are we really being told the whole story?
Obama has written two books: Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope. The title of the latter was taken from a sermon by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ, where Obama was a member until just recently, when the political waters surrounding the church and its former pastor became too hot for Obama's campaign. Now, Obama and an obedient press have deemed talk of Obama's relationship with Wright (along with his other questionable relationships) a distraction from the issues at hand in this election cycle. But looking into any politician's life can be effective if one wants to judge the character of the man who wants to be the leader of the free world. In fact, one of Obama's campaign slogans is "Judgment to Lead."
Considering the extremely thin resume Obama is offering us to become the most powerful and important man on earth, we as the hiring managers must assume that it's not only fair but prudent to take a peek at the man behind the curtain, and his judgment. Even he has admitted that he is not ready for the presidency, as he said in a shocking admission in this 2004 interview:
"I'm a believer in knowing what you're doing when applying for a job and I think that...if...I were to seriously consider running on a national ticket, I would essentially have to begin now before serving a day in the Senate. Now there might be some people who are comfortable doing that. I'm not one of those people."
As if it were not enough to have Obama himself say he is not ready to assume the presidency, there is more to consider. Obama has had a number of long-standing relationships with individuals that, again, call into question his judgment - a characteristic which today Obama claims qualifies him to lead our nation. To wit:
- Rev. Jeremiah Wright - gave a number of radical sermons that included his "damning" of America and accusing our government for releasing the AIDS virus in order to decimate the black population; he was Obama's pastor for two decades.
- William Ayers - unrepentant domestic terrorist (admitted to bombing the Pentagon and several other locations during the late 1960s and early 1970s but got off on a technicality) who was quoted as saying in recent years that he "didn't do enough"; he was Obama's fellow board member of the Woods Foundation of Chicago and an early supporter of Obama's political career.
- Tony Rezko - well-known political "fixer" in Chicago, recently convicted of fraud including scheming to get kickbacks out of money management firms looking to do business with the state; a major donor to and fundraiser for Obama's campaign.
These connections are considered "distractions" and "old news" by Obama's supporters. But then we have some of the judgment calls Obama has made in recent weeks to consider:
- A member of Obama's VP selection committee, Jim Johnson, resigned because of questions raised regarding the fact that he may have received reduced rates on home loans from Countrywide, one of the mortgage corporations under federal investigation in the subprime mortgage brouhaha.
- Another member of Obama's VP selection committee, Eric Holder, played a major role in the scandalous pardon of billionaire tax fugitive Marc Rich during Bill Clinton's final days in office.
- Last year, Obama made a pledge to accept public election funding if his Republican counterpart agreed to do the same. John McCain agreed, but Obama said yesterday that he decided to forego federal funding because, among other reasons, McCain and the RNC accept lobbyist money. Interestingly enough, so do Obama and the DNC. If he's breaking promises before he's even elected, how can we count on him to keep them once in office?
- A look at some of Obama's votes in the Senate: voted "no" to the confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito to SCOTUS; "yes" to the "Dream" Act which would have given illegal aliens under the age of 30 to remain in the U.S. and legal status if they attended college or joined the military; "no" to a bill that would have extended the capital gains and dividends tax enacted in 2003 to 2010; "no" to the repeal of the so-called "death tax"; and "yes" to a cutoff of Iraq funding proposed by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).
Every election year, Americans are told, "This is the most important election of our lifetime." Yet in 2008 that may very well be true. Here are just a few of the challenges that face us in the coming months and years:
- After much difficulty and a flawed approach, we are poised to win in Iraq. A pullout now would not only be disastrous for Iraq and for the world, but would mar our reputation as a reliable ally and would give our enemies more reason to believe we are the "paper tigers" that Osama bin Laden said we are.
- Iran, whose president has vowed to "wipe Israel off the map" and whose anti-American sentiments are well known, is getting closer to becoming a nuclear power, with nuclear weapons at its disposal.
- A major energy crisis is upon us in the form of outrageous oil prices and oil dependency.
- Al Qaeda may be on the run but the threat from Islamism has not abated; copycat groups and individuals are still operating abroad and even covertly here at home. We must stay on the offensive if we are to defeat them, yet Obama has himself said,
"In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans ... have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging. I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."
That's a nice thought but it is also frighteningly naïve. In the case of Islamism, where denial, deception and dissimulation are key components of the Muslim Brotherhood's infiltration plan to conquer America - the plan known as "The Project" - every case must be treated carefully and every person must be fully vetted before the president of the United States can say in a blanket manner that he will "stand" with anyone.
Despite our political differences, most Americans love their country and want it to remain a strong, sovereign nation accountable to no higher power than that of its electorate, and we need a leader in the White House who will keep that desire first and foremost in his mind.
With that in mind, we must ask ourselves: is Obama the man to lead us through these and other 21st century challenges? Is his reputation as a "healer" and a "lightworker" one that he deserves? And if so, is it really enough to keep America's strength and sovereignty intact? You must make the call.
Pam Meister is the editor for Family Security Matters.