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I Can't Believe I'm Standing Up for Obama... But I Am

03/02/2008 03:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I am not a devotee or disciple. I am a skeptic, and remain somewhat skeptical. Still, over the past few weeks I have become convinced that Barack Obama is the better choice for the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. And, well... God help us all if that's not enough to make him president.

My conclusion is based on several components, but coheres around one theme. Besides what I have experienced as his superior demonstrations of strength, composure, restraint, and reasoning during their last two one-on-one debates, Senator Obama has structured his campaign around what I feel is an irrefutable truth: the United States government will never again function efficiently unless United States citizens force it to do so. His insistence that the U.S. government must serve its citizenry, and his acknowledgment that it will do so only if the citizenry once again holds its government accountable is a statement so simplistic that it is, for some, dismissible. It also happens to be a truism so profound that it might, I have come to hope, be unstoppable.

I don't agree with everything he says, and even find some of Senator Clinton's policy positions to be superior. (I'm sorry, but "If you make healthcare affordable enough, no one will choose not to buy it" doesn't hold water in my world. That's like saying if you made auto insurance cheap enough, no one would drive without it. They would. They do.) Still, I find his positions, and his explanations of those positions, to be equal to or superior to hers on nearly all other counts.

Furthermore -- and it's an important furthermore, since I defy anyone to be able to accurately decipher and predict whose "plans" are actually going to prove more effective in the real time of the real world -- I find him to be a more sincere proponent of his positions. I do not doubt Senator Clinton's heartfelt desire to do well for the American people. The crucial difference is she continues to insist she knows what's best for those people even as they reject her insistence, while Senator Obama states over and over that what he wants is to assist the American people in doing well for themselves. The most crucial way they can help themselves, he stresses, is to create a government that works for them in the ways they want it to, and to exercise oversight to ensure it achieves its missions. There must be accountability in order to have success, he says. To have accountability, there must be transparency. He encourages us to insist upon both, and once the view has been cleared, to keep our eyes peeled.

Some insist that's all he's saying, though I don't see that to be the case. What he is doing that might make it appear that way is repeatedly relating every idea and policy position back to that central theme. But he doesn't seem to be doing that solely out of a desire to stay "on message." He seems to be doing it as a result of his understanding that without those conditions of transparency and accountability being met, nothing else is possible. At least nothing other than what we've seen for the past seven, fifteen, twenty-three, or forty-odd years.

A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It's not a revolutionary thought -- at least not like it was when the notion was first conceived. It is, however, a stunningly unusual platform for a contemporary presidential candidate. With increasing consistency, each of our more recent candidates has stressed what he is going to provide to the populace, either as an entitlement program, or as a tax break. Concurrently, we've recently endured a nearly decade-long period of previously unthinkable power grabbing and consolidation by the executive branch of our government. Of even greater concern than the power grabbing has been the purposeful erosion of the divisions between the executive, the judicial, and the legislative braches. Attorneys General refusing not only to indict, but even to testify truthfully; Justice Department employees enforcing executive branch vendettas, then refusing to appear in answer to subpoenas; Supreme Court justices ordering an end to the counting of votes. Senator Obama is not raising his flagship position out of the ether, or, as far as I can see, out of excessive opportunism or ambition. He's speaking out about a very real crisis -- one of existential proportions -- in the history, health, and wellbeing of our republic. And he's doing so without histrionics, with tremendous grace and understatement. He seems increasingly to me to be a man of vast insight, both in terms of what he's trying to accomplish, and in terms of his methods of attempting to accomplish it.

Contrast that with Senator Clinton's more recent methods. I took a great deal from the moment during their last debate when Senator Obama questioned Senator Clinton's belief that the best way to accomplish things was to be willing to fight for them. A combative stance, he suggested, is not necessarily the strongest position from which to maneuver. His point is absolutely correct. And the increasing emergence recently of her anger toward him, toward the press, and toward those who've voted against her -- and the ways it has backfired on her -- seems to bear Senator Obama's truth out.

But those are my more minor qualms with her recent behavior. We've now come to the most cynical stage of this particular campaign, with Senator Clinton participating in an advertisement that calls into question the safety of children sleeping in their homes in the Unites States. The ad suggests that of the two candidates, one can provide protection from unnamed threats in superior fashion to the other. It's an absurd argument. Not because, as her campaign suggests, anyone who questions it is questioning the legitimacy of a debate about national security. It's an absurd and ugly advertisement because it says nothing whatsoever about national security. It discusses no policy, and makes no comparisons other than one: I am to be trusted, he is not.

I'd suggest the ad indicates just the opposite. Not merely because it is repulsive, but because it is destructive -- knowingly so and purposefully so -- in pursuit of personal ambition. I make the charge because I do not believe Senator Clinton herself believes that children, or any other U.S. citizens, will actually be safer under an administration headed by herself, as opposed to Senator Obama. That's why I find the defense of the ads, and the pretense that they illustrate any kind of personally held belief, to be terribly sad. Because the choice Senator Clinton has now made with her advertising campaign has the potential, should she succeed in damaging Senator Obama's standing, to prove tragic for the nation come November.

As I've said, I have had no doubts as to the sincerity of Senator Clinton's wish to do well for the American people and their interests. I just no longer believe she has the wisdom or good judgment to know when her own private wishes have come into conflict with the interests of the rest of us. One doesn't have to look far or remember hard to know we've seen too much of that syndrome over the past seven years already.

Senators Clinton and Obama were asked during their most recent debate whether they'd come to regret any votes they've cast while holding public office. I have a regret to confess to. When I voted in the California primary less than four weeks ago, I pulled the lever for Senator Clinton. I now believe I was wrong. If Senator Obama had carried California the contest might be over by now. I hope the people of Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont will make better choices than I did last month, and settle the race decisively -- before Senator Clinton has the chance to do more damage in her quest to protect us while we sleep. I've come to trust the candidate who's encouraging us to wake up, and to protect ourselves - even, if need be, from our own government.

I hope I get the chance to vote for Senator Obama again. I am not a devotee or disciple. I am a skeptic, and remain somewhat skeptical. Still, over the past few weeks I have become convinced that Barack Obama is the better choice for the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. And, well...God help us all if that's not enough to make him president.