Last night, he almost had me.
I listened carefully as Obama delivered his acceptance speech and finally added substance to style, spelled out for voters policies he would implement as president. Of course, no Obama speech would be complete without inspiring oratory, and last night he did not disappoint those who were looking for another emotional fix.
This morning I was reconsidering my views about Obama. With the significant exception of Iraq, his policies are in line with my values and viewpoint. Like many, I have been and continue to be concerned about his readiness to lead our nation in times of international crises. But I have been ready to say that on balance, Obama is a risk worth taking. The upside is greater than the downside. If he succeeded as president, we Americans would be better off than under a McCain administration in areas such as health care, taxes, jobs, women’s rights, civil rights, and the environment.
As I was mulling this over today, McCain stood in a hall in Dayton, Ohio, and announced his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Like many people, I thought this was vintage McCain, the Maverick McCain that we used to know making a smart personal and political choice. Similarly, I wondered about the background of this newcomer he was bringing onto the national stage.
There’s a lot that Sarah Palin has to prove to voters about her readiness to be vice president – and possibly president if something happens to McCain. But she also deserves our respect for what she has accomplished in her young life. She’s been a reformer, someone who has challenged the status quo. Within the context of her beliefs, she has been “the change.” She is also a mother of five children, and one is on his way to Iraq to serve his country.
I certainly don’t expect the Obama campaign to endorse Sarah Palin. But last night I thought I heard Barack Obama eloquently appeal for a new kind of politics, one that transcended party affiliation and ideology. While Obama was speaking, John McCain ran an ad congratulating Obama for his historic achievement as the first African-American presidential nominee by a major political party. I thought that was a class act from McCain. That was exactly the kind of civility in politics that Obama says we need.
I cannot say the same about Obama’s staff as they immediately tore into Sarah Palin, literally trying to wipe her off the political scene as a nobody. Here’s the first reaction to Palin by Obama spokesman Bill Burton, as reported in the New York Times:
“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said in a statement. “Governor Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies — that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same.”
Doesn’t that sound like more of the same? Doesn’t that sound like the old politics? Does that really sound like the change we need?
There was a fleeting moment for the Obama campaign to show the graciousness to Palin that McCain extended to Obama. “Welcome to the fray, Governor Palin! We look forward to discussing America’s future with you and Senator McCain.”
Instead it was a moment in which the Obama campaign showed its true, ruthless colors — the same doublespeak and nastiness that has given so many of us who supported Hillary Clinton a raw, angry feeling about the real Obama.
There’s a saying in management circles that “the fish rots from the head.” It was Bill Burton speaking, but it was on behalf of Barack Obama. The would-be commander-in-chief has to take responsibility for what his staff says. And while I might have admired Obama last night and considered how on issues we often share the same position, his staff is intent on committing “Obamacide.” Through their ugly comments and partisan attacks, they are actually killing the candidate they are supposed to be championing.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, “Every time they speak or write, they take another vote from Obama and give it to McCain. Is this this politics of change Obama really meant? They are assassinating their own candidate without lifting a gun.”
If Obama actually wins, his campaign staff — people like Burton, Axelrod, Messina, Plouffe — are not going to disappear. They will become the core of Obama’s White House staff. It is the prospect of having these men in charge of my country that gives me the greatest hesitation in supporting Obama. With them on the front lines of our government, you can kiss goodbye “the change,” the civility and non-partisanship that Obama promised last night in his acceptance speech.
For a biography of Sarah Palin, click here.