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WHO THOUGHT WE WERE ELECTING A LIBERAL?

Just like their counterparts on the far right, liberals are crying crocodile tears over the policies of a guy who is not even the president yet. Barack Obama is still and month and half from being sworn in as our 44th president, yet many left wing voices are expressing disappointment in his presidency because the people he picked to help him run the government are not liberal enough. Others say there are not enough black faces and some claim he is betraying his electoral mandate by keeping Bush The Younger’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the job. 

Who thought Mr. Obama was a liberal? The guy’s personality and career are practically billboards announcing his pragmatism and adaptability. His calm and even demeanor, his intelligence and quiet confidence is what appealed to voters, not any promise of delivering a leftist agenda. Most of what he wants to do is politically neutral, neither leftist nor rightist. Fix the economy? Outside of nationalizing everything and making 5 year plans, is there a leftist way to do that? The far right way of having zero regulation just blew up in our faces so look for Obama to seek a middle ground.  Restore integrity and competence to government? That’s pretty much the minimum standard we ought to expect from any president, left, right or center. Get America out of Iraq? That’s a sanity issue, another thing that ought to be a given in any sort of president, and a quality many Americans miss having in the White House

In Iraq, the morally proper thing would probably be to withdraw immediately, publicly apologize for invading their country for no reason at all and pay billions in reparations to their nation for destroyed infrastructure and to families as compensation for the hundred thousand Iraqi civilians killed. Mr. Obama has no such plans for immediately getting out of the country he voted as a Senator not to invade. He recognizes the truth in Colin Powell”s statement: “If you break it, you buy it.” He knows Iraq is broken and vulnerable to surrounding predatory nations and global realities dictate a longer and gradual removal of U.S. troops. What you hope for in his presidency is that does not make any similar bonehead decisions with so many obviously terrible future repercussions. Meanwhile, he’s got to deal with this particular fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, courtesy of Bush The Younger and a spineless Congress, as carefully and responsibly as he can.

What about health care? Is it liberal or conservative to want to provide health care for a country’s citizens? If that’s liberal, then conservatives really need to examine their consciences, as well as weigh the reduced cost of preventative medicine versus the government’s huge financial obligations for caring for the financially deprived when they become catastrophically ill. And energy independence? That’s a no-brainer for anybody, but a goal that’s probably impossible until somebody invents a substitute for petroleum. We can drill offshore or in Alaska all we want but that still won’t amount to a hill of beans. So is it liberal or merely practical to oppose wasting our time and resources looking for vast seas of buried oil that simply do not exist?

As far as Civil Rights, part of the liberal agenda is gay marriage, and Obama never supported anything but legal civil union for homosexuals during his campaign. Whether or not he thinks it is wrong to deny 5% of our population the same rights as the other 95%, the man  knows how to get elected, and coming out in favor of gay marriage would certainly have put his election in jeopardy. And he turned out to be right, at least in practical if not in ideological terms, when you consider that 3 states voted to ban gay marriage on the same day they elected the first black man to ever be their president. So chalk up another point to Obama’s pragmatism and political instincts. Politics is, after all, the art of the practical and the doable. A wise politician sets the tone but realizes that some fights will have to be won farther down the line. To do anything at all, one first must get oneself elected.

Once elected, a smart man surrounds himself with other very smart people, those who can be effective in implementing his policies. Liberals in the highest echelons of national politics are in short supply in America, beginning and ending with Ted Kennedy, an admirable man in many ways but a problematic ally at best with his personal baggage and one who is now dying. Gone are the Muskies, the McGoverns and the Humphries in a nation turned sharply to the right since the traumas of the Vietnam War, Watergate and wearing the bullseye that comes with being the last man standing in the superpower showdown that was the Cold War. None of this is lost on the very bright man we just elected to clean up the mess created by Bush The Younger, who understood nothing. 

But just maybe we can give the guy a few months to govern to see what his policies will be before we write him off. Whether you are a liberal or a conservative, he will be your president for at least 4 years. He will alternately delight and disappoint and most probably surprise us often, because what we have here in Barack Obama is an interesting guy. Also a guy who pulled off what many thought was the impossible by getting himself elected in the first place, so he is definitely not someone to underestimate. Ask Hillary Clinton, heiress apparent to the throne and now Obama’s Secretary of State. Ask our remaining racists, still many in number. Ask a whole lot of people who never thought they’d live to see a black President of The United States. 

Odds are he’s going to do what he thinks is best for America, no matter what the expectations and pressures from liberals or conservatives. What we have here is an American original, and there’s no telling what such a person might do until they do it. Even he is probably not all that certain of what he will do until he knows exactly what he’s dealing with, knowledge he won’t have until he’s actually in the Oval Office getting information only a sitting president receives and making decisions only a president can make. Of course he won’t be able to do a damned thing until January 20th, 2009. Before that, we’re just guessing and that’s all good harmless fun with no actual policies to praise or criticize. After that, he’s on the job doing what presidents do and is wide open to criticism and second guessing, just like any other president. Just don’t expect the ultra-left liberal that some people consider him to be, for whatever odd reasons they might have for holding that curious opinion.

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