The High Priest of Hope, the self-proclaimed Champion of Change Senator Barack Obama, is long overdue for a good vetting.
I was enormously impressed by his 2004 Democratic Convention Keynote Address, as were most other Americans. Obama demonstrated an amazing oratory excellence, and the ability to speak to the hearts of Americans as few people can. Sadly, in my view at least, evangelism has become a common denominator in political races. Whether the candidate is pounding the table for a return to the moral integrity of times past, or putting himself out there as the one mortal capable of reshaping Washington -- a naive assumption at best -- many lean and gravitate towards the candidate whose charisma and demeanor is most convincing and dazzling.
The underlying integrity and true grit of the individual is usually masked by the slogans and simple-minded reduction of platforms to pithy platitudes like "hope" and "change." Even Mitt Romney is now proclaiming himself a champion of change, which isn't surprising given his propensity for shape-shifting his position according to his political whim-du jour.
So with Barack Obama's meteoric rise to the top of the Democratic heap in the 2008 Democratic Presidential race, which lasted all of six days, the process has now begun to (try) to take him seriously as a Presidential contender, and to determine exactly where the rhetoric ends and the qualifications and experience begins.
To wit are the words of Juan Gonzales, who proclaims "I Smell Barack Baloney":
There was Sen. Barack Obama the other night, surrounded by his legions of young supporters, proclaiming the Iowa primary a "defining moment in history."
Maybe I'm getting old, or have watched too many silver-tongued politicians promise heaven on Earth only to shatter our hopes, but count me a doubter of the Obama revolution.
Anyone who delves past his soaring speeches and mesmerizing gaze and follows the money trail will find plenty to question.
The Democratic candidate of "change," for example, has raised nearly $100 million in campaign contributions, nearly as much as the Hillary Clinton money machine. Three of his four largest group of bankrollers are executives of Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and JPMorgan Chase.
What kind of change is that?
Chump Change perhaps? You have to ask yourselves what Wall Street sees in Barack, and exactly how big money plays into the "Change" equation. Gonzalez offers this clue:
Among his other top contributors are executives of Exelon Corp., the largest nuclear power operator in the nation. In 2005, Obama talked in a Senate hearing of leaving "on the table" the building of new nuclear power plants - the kind of change that has Exelon ecstatic.
Energy Corporations backing a candidate. Judging from this fact, so far "change" appears to be a switch from Oil Companies driving U.S. policy to Nuclear Power interests driving policy instead? Wow, I'm impressed. What vision -- sell America to the highest bidder -- as if that hasn't been done before.
But if Obama is light on experience and qualifications, and offers little in the way of concrete proposals that are truly suggestive of "change," what exactly is driving Obamamites to support this candidate with such fervor?
David Greenberg at the Washington Post suggests:
The most obvious explanation is Obama's stirring oratory, with its notes of generational change and unity. The key to his seduction, though, resides not just in what he says but in what remains unsaid. It lies in the tacit offer -- a promise about overcoming America's shameful racial history -- that his particular candidacy offers to his enthusiasts, and to us all.
Obama's allure differs from the infatuations of past election cycles because it can't be traced to what he has done or will do. In his legislative career, Obama has produced few concrete policy changes, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a rank-and-file fan who can cite one. Not since 1896 -- when another rousing speechmaker, William Jennings Bryan, sought the White House -- has the zeal for a candidate corresponded so little to a record of hard accomplishment. But merely asking if Obama has done enough for us to expect he'd be a good president misses the point, because that measures the past rather than imagining the future.
Yet if Obama charms us by pointing to tomorrow, he doesn't come bearing a new ideological vision. In the 1980 primaries, the insurgent Ronald Reagan won on his robust, pro-military, anti-government conservatism, a philosophy that until then had languished even within the GOP. Similarly, in 1992, Bill Clinton triumphed because he was the first Democrat since the 1960s to formulate a viable and vital new liberalism -- one rooted in years of policy wonkery, a frank reckoning with his party's failures and an early recognition of the importance of globalization.
But where Clinton converted voters to his philosophy with binder-thick proposals, from AmeriCorps to welfare reform to the earned-income tax credit, Obama fans rarely tout his specific ideas. No one claims his agenda entails radical innovation or differs much from Hillary Clinton's. On the contrary, Obama's ideology, insofar as he has articulated it, seems to be a familiar, mainstream liberalism, heavy on communitarianism. High-minded and process-oriented, in the Mugwump tradition that runs from Adlai Stevenson to Bill Bradley, it is pitched less to the Democratic Party's working-class base than to upscale professionals.
There is already evidence that Obama's endorsement by the powerful Culinary union in Nevada is more an instance of support by powerful union bosses rather than rank-and-file union members, so we can add Labor movement power-brokers to the nuclear power and Wall Street interests who are backing Obama.
So if "Obama-style" change amounts to a shift from Exxon to Exelon, from Haliburton to Wall Street, and from Big Business to Big Labor, where's the hope in that?
UPDATE: Could the mortgage crisis lend a clue as to why Wall Street is interested in backing Obama? Is Big Wall Street Money trying to buy a little influence in the White House when it comes to dealing with the money crisis?
Authorities in New York and Connecticut are investigating whether Wall Street banks hid crucial information about high-risk loans bundled into securities that were sold to investors, Connecticut's Attorney General said Saturday.
The investigations, first reported Sunday by The New York Times, center around "no-doc" or "exception" loans, that did not even meet even subprime standards, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.
"The loans were made to people who did not have any documents to verify their income or other verification for key requirements normally applied to mortgage borrowers," he said. "Many of the lenders made large amounts of loans, so that the exception swallowed the rule, or became the rule."
The loans were sold by subprime lenders to Wall Street firms that bundled them with other, less risky, loans into securities.
Investigators want to find out whether the banks properly disclosed the high risk of default on those loans when selling those securities to investors in Connecticut and elsewhere, Blumenthal said.
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