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I attended the Barack Obama campaign rally yesterday afternoon at the Beeghly Center at Youngstown State University. The house was filled to capacity and the crowd was enthusiastic, though there was no swooning or fainting (consequently, larry d, I was unable to determine if the Reverend was in attendance). The crowd consisted predominantly of young people, no surprise, since the event was held on a weekday afternoon at a university. The Obama keyword, 'change', appeared on banners and signs throughout the gymnasium. I didn't record the event, so when I quote Obama, I might not be 100% word for word accurate. Please grant me that small indulgence.
Predictably, the biggest cheer from the crowd came when Obama promised to end the Iraq war in 2009, but Obama did not come across as a pacifist in this speech. He promised to strike against those who would do us harm. He promised to pursue the terrorists, and advocated for a strong, well-equipped military. Another of the biggest cheers Obama received was when he proclaimed outright that he would end the genocide in Darfur, which, presumably, would involve U.S. military action in that country (if asking nicely would stop it, it would have already stopped). I think the crowd might have reacted differently if Obama had yelled out "I'm going to invade the Sudan !", but whatever. Obama has also mentioned redeploying troops to Afghanistan, and has said he would strike Pakistan if he had actionable intelligence on terrorists in that country. To take Obama at his word, there is a separation between him and the 'Department Of Peace' Dennis Kucinich, or the non-interventionist foreign policy of Ron Paul. Obama again promised to negotiate with our enemies as well as our friends, and he quoted JFK by saying "never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate". Take that, Hillary.
Obama correctly claimed that leadership involves "telling people the things they don't want to hear", but ironically, nearly everyhthing this populist presidential contender told the crowd was EXACTLY what it wanted to hear. Nary a word was said about the coming fiscal tsunami of Medicare debt as the baby boomers retire, for instance, or an empty Social Security Trust Fund full of worthless IOU's for those same boomers. Addressing those issues involves very hard choices. In other words, they are a bummer, and what Obama peddles is H-O-P-E. He must have said that word 50 times, along with many intonations of the word 'change', naturally.
Obama played to the crowd for another big cheer when, in a 'master of the obvious' moment, he mentioned that George Bush wouldn't be president after 2008. He also said he was embarassed to find out he was a distant relative of VP Dick Cheney, lamenting that he'd rather be related to "someone cool" instead. (Hey, since when isn't Darth Vader cool ?).
Obama peddles hope, but like many politicians before him, he has to tell you how screwed up everything is first, so there will be: 1) somebody to blame (Republicans), 2) something to hope for (an Obama presidency), and 3) something to change into (liberal policies). His litany of american problems was long indeed. Among those he mentioned were: the Iraq war, expensive health care, lack of health care insurance, jobs going overseas, failing schools, inadequate veteran benefits, low teacher pay, CEO's making too much money, disappearing pensions, predatory lending, high cost college loans, tax cuts for the wealthy, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture, special interests, unfair trade agreements, tax breaks for corporations, an unfair tax system, melting polar ice caps (actually, only one is melting. The other is expanding), dependence on foreign oil, corporate profits (this is a problem ?), and excessive greenhouse gases. I'm sure I'm leaving several other problems off this list.
Like most liberals, Obama's solutions to problems invariably involve government intervention, which translate specifically to two things: 1) Tax, and 2) Spend. Obama proposes tax increases (but only for the rich). He actually proposed a $1,000 tax rebate for everyone making $75,000 and under. He also proposed tax breaks for companies that keep jobs in the United States, and tax penalties for those who don't (I like that idea, but I don't really believe Obama about the 'tax breaks' part. It flies in the face of other parts of his rhetoric regarding corporations, as you shall soon see). As for spending, Barack Obama has proposed approximately $874 billion in new spending, according to people who keep track of those things (link to the Obama Spendometer). When it comes to federal spending, Barack Obama has a whole lot in common with the big spending George W. Bush, which makes Obama's claim to "fiscal responsibility" ring hollow to a fiscal conservative like myself. The federal budget has expanded by roughly a trillion dollars in 8 short years during the Bush reign (this is what I call 'THE PROBLEM'). Obama appears determined to easily match or exceed that number if he takes the helm (what I call 'MAKING THE PROBLEM WORSE').
Now for Obama's scariest comments of the day, which were regarding corporate america. First, Obama said "I like capitalism, but when CEO's make so much more than workers, something's not right" (this is a paraphrase of what Obama actually said. I can't decipher my own scribbled notes here). Later, Obama said, "It won't be easy to take all those profits away from Exxon-Mobil". Obama also talked about "economic fairness and equality".
Is anyone catching the drift here ? Under what system is Obama allowed to take Exxon's profits away ? Under what system is he allowed to control who earns what wages ? Under what system is there "economic fairness and equality ?". It sure isn't the free market capitalist system. No wonder Obama said "I like capitalism, but...". Judge for yourself what level of government control would be necessary to implement Obama's wishes. This is why I said I didn't believe in Obama's statement about cutting taxes for corporations. Five minutes later, he is talking about practically taking them over.
I'm probably sounding like a harsher Obama critic than I actually am. I liked some of what he had to say. He stressed individual responsibility (which sounds weird to me coming from such a big government advocate, but at least he said it), and he said change cannot come from him alone, but must come from the bottom up, from the people themselves, who must get involved.
He also proposed a $4,000 college tuition credit in return for a year of some type of national service, but I was thinking, couldn't college kids earn a whole lot more than $4,000 by just working in a regular job to payoff their college loans ? That proposal didn't make much sense to me. Other Obama solutions to problems were: $10 million fund to avoid home foreclosures, adjust minimum wage every year for inflation, give everyone access to the same health care as congress with subsidies for those who can't afford it by the end of his first term, reduce greenhouse gases by 80%, raise car mileage to 40-50mpg, invest in alternative energy...
It was also apparent that Obama is hearing his critics, who accuse him of being too inexperienced and too non-specific. He said he makes no apologies for being able to "speak good" (rimshot), claimed that "the right judgement is what counts" (take that again, Hillary), and that his twenty years of experience as an organizer, civil rights lawyer, and legislator counts as well.
Well, that's about all I've got. This reporter is over and out. Back to you, Katie.
Oh, I should add that when Obama left the building, his feet WERE touching the ground. The second coming of the messiah may still be a ways off.