By Dr.Clive Leeman
I've been supporting Barack Obama since his announcement of candidacy a
year ago on the steps of the Springfield Capitol before 30,000 people
standing in freezing rain. I realized then that he is the kind of gifted leader
who only comes along perhaps once in every 50 years.
He has a superb creative intelligence and gift for empathy. Each one
of his major speeches is different from his other speeches--always original,
graceful, and philosophically challenging, rather like Martin Luther King's.
The best piece on Obama I've read is "Barack Obama's unlikely political
education. The Agitator." by Ryan Lizza, The New Republic, Issue date:
It explores his years as a community organizer in Chicago's South Side,
a job he took instead of one of the $500,000 corporate positions offered top
Harvard Law School graduates.
I came away from reading that article in a state of awe about the man.
It concentrates on his years as a community organizer when he excelled at
inspiring demoralized communities and became the best local grassroots organizer
in living memory. During his successful run for the state senate, he
demonstrated that he had a spine of steel and unerring political instincts.
The South Carolina primary has shown that, in a groundswell, more and
more Americans are recognizing his presidential capacities, even his
authority. I hope and pray he stays safe for our sake and the sake of history.
During the campaign, Obama, a strong supporter of Israel, has spoken
sympathetically about the Palestinians, running the risk of antagonizing the
He has even more directly defied another powerful lobby (anti-Castro
Cubans)to say he will meet with Castro once he's President.
Obama is the only one of the candidates except Kucinich to have spoken
out against the war before the occupation of Iraq. I support him partly
because of my own antiwar principles.
Some of hls more recent statements on the Iraq war and on the Middle
East in general, however, have disappointed me and his health insurance plan
is not as strong as I would like it to be (single payer). And, although he
has refused to take money from corporate lobbyists, raising millions of
dollars from ordinary people online, he does not seem to recognize the criminal
nature of U.S.corporate foreign policy (see John Perkins's Confesssions of an
Economic Hit Man).
But my policy disagreements with Obama have not prevented me from
understanding that he has become an extraordinary presence on the
political landscape, aforce for good; that he has come to us in the
midst of MLK's "fierce urgency
of now"; that his transformative gifts are just what we desperately need after
the dreadful desolation of the Bush years; that, in journalist Laura Flander's
words, he has the capacity to be a "charismatic optimist" as president,just
like FDR, who began as a moderate but, through his sympathetic connection with
the people, was able to carry out the most radically significant legislation
in U.S. history.