THE BLOG
01/31/2008 01:32 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My Blink: We Need Barack Obama

My "blink" is that we need Barack Obama. We're lucky to have a transformational candidate, and we damn well better take advantage of that luck.

When I look at the biggest problems facing us, I think of

1.) Global Warming/Climate Change
2.) the need for alternative, non-oil-coal energy sources (related clearly)
3.) dealing with Islamic Extremism

When you look at those three issues, imagine how hard it is going to be to a) figure out solutions and b) bring the American public along.

And that's where Obama comes along. He is inspiring. He has a gift for moving people when he speaks. Maybe not everyone in the country, but more than just Democrats.

I don't have children or grandchildren, and I'm hoping to be gone before the out-of-whack weather really whacks us. (Though it's sure happening way faster that anyone expected.)

There's no question we have to decrease our use of oil and replace it, somehow, with something else. And cooperate with the world about it, and try to force China and India to decrease their oil use and switch to some alternative as well. How we do that and changed to what I don't know -- that's why I long for national leadership.

Now imagine the next president dealing with any of this.

If you've watched any of Obama's speeches (I've watched his winning in Iowa speech, and his even better one after winning in South Carolina), you know he can inspire. I have not felt that in a national leader in a very, very long time.

And that ability to inspire and conjure up the bigger picture is what caused Caroline Kennedy's poignant and powerful endorsement.

Senator Hillary Clinton is not inspiring, and never will be. Even those who adore her must realize that. She is good at specifics, she keeps lots of specifics in her brain, and I think she (like Bill, who's turned into her second head lately, or her albatross or something) knows the game of give and take and how to manipulate or massage the senators around you to get some stuff done.

But that's not going to be enough for those problems I mentioned. We need bold action, and an inspiring leader to get us to take the action, make the sacrifice.

And about the third issue -- what to do with the Islamic radicals who kill for religious beliefs, an issue that is crying out for creative solutions, not namby-pamby ones but, Lord God, not more of this sabre-rattling and invading countries that GW Bush and all the Republican candidates except Ron Paul seem so enamored of -- well on that issue, I'm very troubled by Clinton.

She voted to give Bush the blank check to go to war -- and she can try to talk her way out of it, claiming it was only a vote for him to send inspectors back. And yet she also voted against the Levin bill that would have required the President to return to the Congress for another vote before actually going to war.

Here's Tim Russert and Hillary on that issue on Meet the Press on January 13, 2008. (And they had a nearly identical exchange on Meet the Press several months ago.)

MR. RUSSERT: I want to stay with your vote because that same day, Senator Levin offered an amendment, the Levin amendment, and this is how the New York Times reported it. "The [Levin] amendment called ... for the U.N. to pass a new resolution explicitly approving the use of force against Iraq. It also required the president to return to Congress if his U.N. efforts failed." ... Senator Levin said, "Allow Congress to vote only after exhausting all options with the United States." You did not participate in that vote. You voted against Carl Levin, who was saying give diplomacy a chance and yet you said no. You voted to authorize war. The resolution you voted for, Robert Byrd said was a blank check for George Bush. Ted Kennedy says it was a vote for war. James Carville and Paul Begala said anyone who says that vote wasn't a vote for war is bunk.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, if I had a lot of paper in front of me, I could quote people who say something very differently, so I know you're very good at this and I respect it, but let's look at the context here. Number one, the Levin amendment, in my view, gave the Security Council of the United Nations a veto over American presidential power. I don't believe that is an appropriate policy for the United States, no matter who is our president.
[phrase put in bold by me]

Now I object to that argument. The "we can't let the U.N. dictate to us" is a Bush-Republican talking point. And it's a misreading of the Levin amendment, I think; and Hillary shouldn't be parroting it. And if she is, then I judge her for it.

The Levin amendment sounds to me that it was saying that once the president has gone to the U.N. (as he agreed), if the U.N. didn't agree with his position that the danger from Iraq was imminent and required preemptive attack, that the president then must RETURN TO THE CONGRESS so that they then can reassess, and either say "yes go to war" or "no, don't go to war." That thing that supposedly the Congress has the right to do -- to declare war.

I understood this as a private citizen back at the time, and I don't buy that Hillary didn't.

So she either agreed with Bush, which worries me; or she was busy concocting her "I must seem strong on national defense for when I run for president" stance.

During the build-up to the war, it was clear to me (again as a citizen) that Bush, Cheney, Condoleeza, Rumsfeld were trying to convince us, indeed sell us, on this war.

I mean, the inspectors were in there. I didn't believe for a second that Saddam was going to suddenly attack the United States while the inspectors were there, while the whole world was watching.

So I was very bothered by the "blank check" authorization that was passed.

And it was clear to me that a lot of Democrats voted for that because they were afraid not to -- Bush still had strong popularity, and his administration's television assault of going "Danger! Danger! Danger!" worked with much of the public.

So many Democrats were afraid to seem weak on defense -- an issue that keeps dogging them, and they should move on from to more creative ways to respond to the Islamic threat.

[Hostile language or action that humiliates Muslims is innately self-destructive, it makes them furious. It doesn't make them go: "Oh, I'm scared of the United States." It makes them go: "Oh yeah? Now I want to kill you even more."]

But what was Hillary's motivation for voting for the authorization? Mostly she keeps saying her vote was to encourage Bush to use diplomacy. But listen to how Russert rebutted that argument, after she insisted she didn't vote for going to war:

MR. RUSSERT: The title of the act was The Authorization For Use of Military Force Against Iraq resolution.

Pretty good rebuttal, huh?

Listen to what Obama said about the decision to invade Iraq the same week as the authorization (quoted from the same Meet the Press link as above):

Obama: "I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors. ... I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that ... invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale... without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the 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."

That statement is pretty damn smart, and seems to see what was ahead for us, and what we're now mired in.

I'm getting bogged down talking about Hillary. I will vote for her over McCain or Romney.

(McCain has authenticity, but he is also authentically in favor of our continued use of warfare in the Middle East, and I think that's dangerous and hopeless. And if people find Hillary calculating, I find Romney nightmarishly a Stepford candidate. Not a thing he says sounds real (especially when he chatters on about The Family), and he has indeed changed positions in an unconvincing manner.)

But though I will vote for Hillary if she's the nominee, I so hope my fellow citizens will choose Obama who offers real change, and who can inspire.

Obama does only okay in sound bytes, so if you haven't seen a full speech by him, please seek one out online. (Here are links to the Iowa speech and the South Carolina speech.) I especially liked the South Carolina win speech, which I saw live.

I know I've left out "what are the solutions to our problems" because that would make this posting endless, and the solutions are hard to pin down.

But I know what we're doing now isn't working. We need creative thoughts about energy and oil and climate change (and we have to work with people in the world, unlike the Decider who's wasted 7 years).

And we need cleverness in dealing with the Islamic threat -- we can't just threaten all the time. We have to work with (and strengthen?) the moderates. And the moderate Islamists must help to counter the ideology of the extremists -- they need our support in that task. Young Muslims growing up must hear other interpretations of Islam. Just attacking and humiliating the Muslim world does not create the space for alternative religious interpretation.

But, again if you have children or grandchildren, think seriously how these problems can be addressed and made better.

I urge you to think about Barack Obama's ability to lead by the clarity and stirring nature of his communication.

We haven't had a leader who can lead by inspiration since I was 12 (when John F. Kennedy was killed).

Don't lose this opportunity.