Saturday, September 27, 2008

My disappointments with Obama

Let me be clear: I think Obama is the best presidential candidate in my adult lifetime (which doesn't say much -- I'm not that old). Barring disaster, I'll vote for him in November. But he's still a politician, and there are a few things that I've been disappointed with in the course of his campaign, especially in the past month.

First, he has committed his fair share of populist pandering. From dissing NAFTA in the primaries, to promising support for auto manufacturers in Michigan, he has adopted a few economically dubious policies, presumably in order to win votes. This doesn't compare to the utterly misplaced economic priorities of Bush/McCain, but it's not pretty.

Second, he has occasionally allowed himself to get dragged into the mudslinging. Comparatively speaking, Obama has taken the high road in his campaign, but some of his ads and criticisms are deliberately misleading.

Third, he hasn't consistently stood behind some of his less popular positions. One example is his response to the Russia-Georgia conflict. I think he got the initial response right, by arguing that both sides had taken provocative action, by denouncing human rights violations including Russia's incursions into Georgia, and by calling for negotiations. Since that time, a conventional wisdom has developed that says Russia committed unprovoked aggression (anyone miss the Cold War?) that must be "confronted." Illustrated by the debate last night, it seems that Obama has given in to the conventional wisdom.

So I'm a bit disappointed with Obama in these regards. But perhaps I'm too idealistic; maybe I've watched too many West Wing episodes and want to vote for President Bartlet or Santos. Is it possible to win an election without doing some of these things? Probably not.

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