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Column: Obama Not Perfect, But Voters Should Still Choose Him

This story was written by Neal Coleman,


What's in a name? Not much, but every once in a while, you can tell something about a person. "Barack Hussein Obama." In some circles, you will see Sen. Obama's name written as "B. Hussein Obama," presumably to inspire fear and xenophobic loathing at the prospect of someone so un-American getting into office, as well as to subtly hint at what must be connections between the senator and terrorist, Arab, un-American factions.But what could be more quintessentially American thanObama's story? His father, a Kenyan Muslim who came to the United States as a student, fell in love with Obama's mother -- an atheist from Kansas -- and soon Obama was born in Hawaii. When he was 2, his parents separated, and he was raised by his mother; between the ages of four and 10, he lived in Indonesia. At 10, he moved back to Hawaii and was raised by his grandparents. He went to Columbia University and studied political science with an emphasis in foreign relations. He then moved to Chicago and worked as a community organizer. After three years, he attended Harvard's law school, where he worked his way to the top of his class and became the president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating magna cum laude he returned to Chicago, where he practiced law, married his wife and kicked off his political career. The rest is well-known history.Obama, the child of a foreign student, has lived out the American Dream: He has earned his fortune, his political career is the result of hard work and he is a self-made man. Now he is running for the office of president of the United States.What is his platform? If you have ever heard the man speak (and if you haven't, I encourage you to do so; he is a very good rhetorician), you will hear recurrent themes: hope, change, a new direction. If you visit his Web site, you can read his campaign's detailed policy proposals.Such policy proposals are important, but more important, I think, is the philosophy underlying those proposals. Economically, Obama is certainly not neo-liberal, but neither is he a full-blown Socialist. Unlike proponents of laissez-faire economics, who see the economy simply as a tool to generate aggregate wealth, Obama has a more nuanced view: The economy is a tool to make all members of society at least somewhat better off. Therefore, he proposes to make taxes more progressive -- back to what they were under Clinton -- and increase government reinvestment in the economy, as a sort of Keynesian stimulant.Part of that is his view on energy: Heavily invest in alternative energy to wean ourselves from OPEC's teat. When it comes to free trade, Obama generally cautiously supports it while maintaining that sometimes human rights concerns outweigh the potential income to our economy.On foreign policy, Obama has been labeled as "naive" and "inexperienced" for espousing diplomacy and negotiations as an option -- for, in essence, eschewing the "hegemon" school of foreign relations thought, which maintains that America can accomplish all of its goals unilaterally with relatively few consequences. Obama would restore America's international integrity by embracing a responsible foreign policy, one of diplomacy, negotiation and compromise. To his credit, he possessed the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq from the start and would hasten to finish our job there, thus increasing America's strategic flexibility.Socially, Obama is relatively libertarian. He supports abortion rights and gay rights, a welcome step away from the way the religious right has dominated those issues for the past two decades.How does Obama compare to McCain? Obama is a calm, confident and inspiring leader; he is moreover a brilliant manager who knows how to find competent and confident subordinates (witness his campaign's efficiency). By contrast, McCain is an erratic, hot-headed gambler, whose inability to choose competent advisers is evident by the bumbling, inept campaign hehas run. Obama is a Harvard-educated law professor; McCain graduated at the bottom of his class.Obama stands for a more conservative, equitable economic approach; McCain stands for continuing growth-at-all-costs, laissez-faire policies. Obama would engage our allies and negotiate with our rivals; McCain would spurn them and pursue unilateralism.Is Obama perfect? I don't think so. I disagree with his blanket support for Israel, his vote for the FISA surveillance act, his support of the employer-based health insurance system and some portions of his record on abortion. But he is clearly a step in the right direction: back toward the political center, away from the neoconservative, neo-liberal and religious right policies of the Reagan Republican Party.That, my friends, is why I am voting for Barack Hussein Obama -- and it's why you should vote for him, too.
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