The Talking Dog

August 26, 2006, The other Democratic rock star

Yes, everyone is well aware who the uncharismatic-but-nose-to-the-grindstone frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is... none other than my own state's Junior Senator (with whom I share a birth day). Ah, but it seems that at least in some circles, especially in the land of his fathers (Kenya) my college class-mate (and Illinois's Junior Senator) Barack Obama... is the man.

Urging citizens of HIV-ravaged Kenya to get themselves tested for AIDS and HIV, Obama gave what amounted to a victory lap of Kenya, including visits to the village from which hailed his late father and grandfather, Obama was greeted with the acclaim of a head of state and rock star rolled in one.

And there you have it. Obama gave one of the great political speeches of all time at the 2004 Democratic national convention, to wit, urging ostensibly that we are all Americans, and therefore, that we can-- as he has-- transcend parochial matters such as race that have divided us and build a new future based on, well, that transcending thing. Really great stuff, when you think about it-- a real shot in the mouth to an opposition party who espouses similar rhetoric (mostly of the "personal responsibility" variety), but still seeks out-- and gets-- the support of racists.

No, let me go somewhere else. Obama, and his fellow Democratic senatorial rock star Hillary Cliinton, have been criticized for their reticence-- their refusal to cash in on their rock star status to actually take a leadership role in national issues, such as national security for example (to name one). It seems, for example, that an Obama (or Hillary Clinton) press conference or even a statement might get the kind of coverage that only the President (or at least, the Vice-President) might get... whereas no one will pay much attention to Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, by contrast (let alone any other Democrat.)

Both Hillary and Obama have been content to relish their roles as relatively new senators "learning the ropes", hanging back and, well, not doing that rhetorical leader thing. Both (well, Obama, anyway) have been accused thereby of being "careerists", i.e., valuing their potentially vaunted places in the senate and collegiality with their Republican colleagues over partisan pissing contests.

Well, let's consider what it is that Hillary and Obama are supposed to be saying. And that's kind of the problem. While we have Joe Lieberman standing ready to undermine any message by any Democrat at any time... we're not quite sure what that message is! So... we were kind of hoping that Hillary and Obama did, but they're disappointing us by not coming up with it! So...

We'll start with the issue with which the President is beating Democrats over the head with, the simple question... of... "Should we get out of Iraq?" Simple as that. The Unseen Editor chides me for my own lack of clarity on this point, although the answer of "how the hell do I know?" seems to smack too much of... well, Democrats. I do agree that a weaselly timetable (such as that proposed by Congressman Murtha) really is wholly unsatisfactory, just as what I really do suspect is the wholly unsatisfying nature of "the answer" (i.e. we broke it, we bought it; we have now introduced instability in the region that good old Saddam was keeping in check for us for free, and now, we have to go do his job at our expense, lest the sectarian chaos spill over into Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other Gulf States, and drive oil prices to the stratosphere which would do severe damage to the world's-- not to mention our own-- economic outlooks... and therefore, we should hold over the possibility of pulling out as leverage from our European and Japanese friends so that they will contribute men, money and materiel to the mess we have created, lest we actually do unilaterally withdraw leaving Iraq to its fate, etc.)

So... that's the question. We'll forget the bygone and irreversible past of "should we have gone to war in Iraq?" because that egg has been broken and can't be undone. We'll go on with "should we stay..." the course, or whatever, i.e. continue a large military presence in Iraq. The inevitable consequences are outlined in the paragraph above: $6/gallon gasoline, or worse; we won't even talk about what might happen, for example, to Israel or the matter of terrorism, as we can expect a cascade of failed states in the heart of the world's oil patch...

Not to say, btw, that it might well be a perfectly rational decision to say: "Fine. Let's get out-- damn the consequences. Sure, oil prices go up. This will cause some disruption in the short term, but it's the only way we will get down to the serious business of conservation and developing long term viable resources, and maintaining a world-wide military supply line to keep our ever more tenuous oil routes open and the black stuff flowing is just too expensive and exposes us to too much lunacy like Islamist terrorists... best leave them back in their own hornets nests undisturbed, and the Asians and Europeans can deal with them to get their oil, while we move on to more reliable sources from less unstable places." We will save the blood and treasure costs of the Iraq war, and in my view (which, I admit, may be wrong) dramatically improve our own security by disengaging from parts of the world where we're not welcome, and frankly, have only exposed us to ill-feeling that we wouldn't be exposed to if we weren't there.

But pullout... at what cost? The reality is, oil prices really will go to the moon if we pull out of Iraq... on a timetable or otherwise. If we want an economy based on our people driving to their exurban McMansions in their SUVs to go on... we simply need to be in Iraq... period. Probably forever, or at least until we move past the need for Middle Eastern oil (i.e. forever.) In my view, that's political reality: we're stuck there. And while we didn't have to be, we are.

So... it would be nice if Hillary and Obama could lay these choices out for us (Bush will be campaigning as "all fear all the time"), but it's certainly understandable why they'd just as well stay away from them. And, given the Hobson's choice the issue presents, that may be the best idea of all.


News flash: I'm listening to NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me" right now, and they just quoted (with attribution to The Talking Dog) your remark about Ahmadinejad's reply to the UN: "Go Cheney Itself."

It's 50 minutes or so into the hour; the caller is a guy named Charlie, who's a middle-school teacher in Springfield Va.

Posted by Linkmeister at August 26, 2006 5:50 PM

Thanks, Steve! skippy has John Stewart, and now, I have "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!"

Anyone who wants can listen to the show here, in particular, go to the second "Whose Carl, this Week" segment near the end...

Art imitates blogs imitating life. Or something...

Posted by the talking dog at August 26, 2006 7:15 PM

If he's so smart, why didn't he change his name to Joe? With the name Obama, he just joins the ranks of the future also rans.

Posted by Odumba at August 26, 2006 8:35 PM

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama sounds like the Democratic pairing for 2008.
Unless of course they decide to run as independents.
What? It could happen.

Posted by Stanford Matthews at August 26, 2006 11:53 PM