Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama: Closing Arguments

Richard Brookhiser:

There are many questions in this election: gay marriage, immigration, taxes, abortion, the financial crisis. But the question of our time is the war waged on us since the 1990s, which had its Pearl Harbor on 9/11. Charity will prevent us from feeling contempt for those who don’t realize this, but survival requires us to realize it ourselves.

The Iraq war records of the two candidates show that John McCain realizes it and Barack Obama doesn’t. McCain joined the Bush administration and most of Congress in the war to bring down Saddam, as poisonous and low-hanging fruit. McCain continued to support the war as congressional Democrats and much of the public lost heart. He saw earlier than almost anyone that the post-war strategy the coalition was pursuing would end in failure, and urged that it be changed. The change came, and success proved him right.

As a state legislator, then a freshman senator, Barack Obama opposed the war, and resisted fighting it to win. His policies would have left Saddam in power, then let his followers murder their way back to it. McCain owed his position to military experience; his grasp of such issues over a long career; and his character. Obama’s position shows a lack of the first two qualities. It is no bad reflection on his character—he had to buck the political climate to take his initial anti-war stand—but it shows that he was bold in a bad cause.

Obama’s failure is more conspicuous because it is the only significant public act of his life. His candidacy is not a disgrace, like those of the amateurs who have infested the process for twenty years—Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan. Obama knows the political game from the inside, and he has held positions of responsibility. He has moved through them, however, without a trace—except for his early opposition to the Iraq war. He did one thing in his career, and he did the wrong thing.