The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. The President-elect ran a brilliant campaign that captured the imagination of the majority of American voters. As the first person of color to be elected to our highest office, Obama eloquently stated:
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

Indeed. His election is a historic first.

Our country is faced with enormous challenges. At home, a deep recession, tied to a historic market collapse demands an economic reboot—no easy task for any administration. Internationally, rogue regimes and transnational Islamic terrorists will undoubtedly test the new Obama administration in ways that may not be easy to predict.

In thinking about the coming Obama presidency, I can’t seem to shake the image of Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama poster. You know, the red and blue posterized image of Barack Obama staring out into the mid distance with a single word under his face—HOPE.

I HOPE that Obama does well and that my reservations about him were overblown and incorrect. Nothing would please me more than to see him address the problems we face with intelligence and good judgment. The country needs that.

I HOPE that he’ll select advisors who are wise before they are ideological. Because wisdom is the only way we’ll be able to navigate the obstacles that are ahead of us. Ideology, on the other hand, is a lot like a rip current. It will drag us in the wrong direction, and the harder we fight it, the more dire our situation will become.

I HOPE that he’ll mature very quickly as he takes office, recognizing that government cannot and will not solve all of our problems. The strength of our country does not come from government, it comes from individual initiative, personal responsibility, and community. Big government tends to stifle those things, even as it offers a security blanket that is very enticing to some.

I HOPE that he’ll recognize that wealth in America is NOT a zero sum game. Millions of now successful children of lower middle class families are proof of that. We didn’t ask for or receive the redistributed wealth of the rich. Instead we studied and worked very hard, saved and took risks, made our own way, and as a consequence, created some small measure of wealth on our own. In our success we created the opportunities for others that big government cannot create—real jobs with real potential that are “funded” not by taxpayers but by individual initiative.

I HOPE he’ll recognize that just as force is not necessarily a strength, talk is not necessarily a solution. There are some who use talk as a weapon of misdirection. They meet, and talk, and smile, and talk, and promise, and talk, and then talk some more. But behind the scenes, they’re doing more than talk and most of what they’re doing is duplicitous. Talk is okay, but sometimes, action is the only path that will avoid disaster.

I HOPE that he’ll come to understand that the United States of America is NOT the cause of Islamofascism, or the genocide in Darfur, or African starvation, or global warming, or corruption in South America or any of the hundreds of ills that pervade the planet. And more important, since we are not the cause, we are also not the sole cure.

I HOPE that he’ll learn that our country’s interests do not always align with those of our allies and trading partners and that as President of the United States, his first priority is to protect our national interests, even if that upsets others.

I HOPE that he’ll avoid appeasement at all cost. It will NOT mollify those who hate us or wish us ill. It will only project weakness and lack of resolve. And the perception of weakness is how wars start and people die.

I did not vote for Barack Obama, but I wish him well. As a person who believes that the center of politics offers the best road forward, I will hope that his promises of bipartisanship will be kept. That his claims of good judgment will be verified as the months and years pass. That his charisma will morph into effective leadership for all Americans. If those things happen, his election will have been a good thing, maybe even (as Colin Powell remarked) a “transformative” event.

Today, Barack Obama remains a cipher—we have elected an image rather than a person with a lifetime of accomplishments. In the months and years ahead, we’ll know whether the image is reality or just a mirage. All we can do is hope.