If you’re following the Democratic nomination horse race as closely as I am, there’s one blogger out there who is continually scooping every news reporter out there, who is constantly crushing the competition on analysis, and who happens to write with a flair and elan that puts everyone else in conventional reportage to shame.
His name is Al Giordano. His blog is called “The Field”
Giordano was the guy in December 2003 who was telling anyone who was listening that John Kerry–then polling single digits and running 5th–was going to win Iowa and New Hampshire. This cycle, Giordano was the first guy reporting on how the Obama ground game was going to create an incredible momentum that Camp Clinton was unprepared for; Al was talking about it before Super Tuesday; today it’s the meme-du-jour among reporters on the scene in Texas.
At any rate, read The Field. Check the archives. Giordano is immensely entertaining, even when he reads as if he’s drunk off his ass–his style a sort of gonzo cross of Hunter Thompson and Bill James in that respect. Al will let you know what the score on March 4th will be before anyone else does.
I suppose I should come completely clean here: like much of the folks you’ll find on the internet, I happen to be utterly smitten by Barack Obama. You’ve heard all about how inspirational he is, and how incredible a presence he can be on the campaign trail. That’s all well and good.
You also hear a lot about two major knocks against him. The first revolves around his “experience”, or lack thereof. I get that, I really do. As a country, we voters are very hesitant to turn the car-keys over to a complete neophyte. It only makes sense by human nature.
This human nature, however, is ignorant of history. In historical survey after historical survey, the President who tops the list of “Greatest ever” is Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln served a single term as a US Congressman, and did some time in the Illinois legislature, but his eloquence and the respect he commanded put him on the Republican ticket in 1860. Sound familiar? If you look at the careers of folks like Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower, you’ll see folks who were sold short because of a lack of experience who rose to meet the challenge of being president. If you like, you can be more succinct, though. As Jon Stewart put it on the Daily Show yesterday (and I’ll have to paraphrase), being Governor of Arkansas doesn’t really imply an incredible depth of experience, either.
The second criticism frequently leveled at Senator Obama is his perceived lack of detail-oriented policy white papers to be enacted upon his election. If you go to Senator Clinton’s site, you can read until your eyes swim a variety of positions and concrete proposals she hopes to go forward with when elected. That’s all great…but at this point I think we’re all savvy enough as voters to understand that pre-election policy promises are a pretty bad bet to base electing a candidate on. I dug out my dog-eared copy of the Clinton-Gore Economic Plan from 1992 (yep, I bought a copy…I’m a geek, sue me). In it, I was able to find maybe 2-3 specific things (out of about 50) that Clinton managed in 8 years. Policy initiatives are great and everything, but a smart candidate for president has to realize that it’ll be Congress and current events that will occupy most of the new president’s time.
And so in Barack Obama I’m not voting for policy and I’m not voting for experience. I’m voting for the best leader in the group of current candidates, the guy who seems smart enough and seems to have good enough judgment and who is clearly inspirational enough to maybe get this country out of some awful messes it faces at home and abroad.
Having said that, I must admit that I’m rather baffled by fellow liberals and Democrats who aren’t moving Obama’s direction. With Republicans, I can understand–Obama is likley too liberal for their tastes. But Democrats? Come on! Win or lose, it seems certain that Obama’s candidacy will be historic in nature, a movement more than it ever was a campaign. I read about Bobby Kennedy, and think about what a tragic, stolen moment in American History that was, and I have to believe that the Obama movement feels much the same as the RFK movement in ’68 felt. For a liberal, I cannot imagine willingly standing at the station, watching this onrushing train go by, and not wanting to get on instead of left behind.
Finally: they say a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture below was snapped at a Saturday afternoon rally in Columbia, South Carolina before the polls closed. It shows people knocking over a fence and climbing over one another to embrace Barack Obama, and in the photo you’ll see a lot of young people…but also older folks too, and blacks and whites together. Look at this photo and try to imagine any politician in the last 30 years drawing a similar response.