I am delighted and excited by Barack Obama's decision to form a presidential exploratory committee.
There are many reasons that I embrace this opportunity for our country, but here are just a few. First, Barack Obama is the voice within the Democratic Party that consistently makes sense when talking about the mess in Iraq. He was making sense when he courageously opposed the invasion as a little known candidate for the Senate in 2002, and this gives him the authority and clarity needed today to call this misadventure what it is: "a tragic and costly war that should never have been waged." His opposition to the war in Iraq is nonetheless informed by a realistic and constructive approach. While Vice-President Cheney casually lies about a lack of options presented by Democrats, Senator Obama (amongst others) presents a flexible, pragmatic and militarily sound suggestion regarding strategic re-deployment of our troops in the region. Consistently and clearly Barack Obama speaks about the importance of safeguarding the security and welfare of the brave men and women in our military who are currently at risk in Iraq. President Bush is escalating the American presence in Iraq with no evidence that this will in any way reduce the ongoing carnage, never mind deliver some ill-defined substitute for victory. He must be constrained, politely but firmly, and guided to a reconsideration of more grounded and productive courses of action, precisely to secure the safety and effectiveness of our troops and, coincidentally, move the region towards peace. Senator Obama is leading the effort to do this, and as our next president I believe that he will do the best job possible of rectifying the current president's mistaken, calamitous policy.
Second, and looking to a larger picture, it has been a very long time, too long, since our country was led by an appeal to our better instincts. Senator Obama describes the problem well when he speaks of the greatest challenge not being "the magnitude of our problems" but "the smallness of our politics". Politics has always included the petty. Our founding fathers indulged, as did Lincoln and his contemporaries, and so did those who led the country through World War II. Yet in all those periods petty politics yielded on the central and critical issues of the time to inspired visions of what our country could be, of who we could be. We are again in an era in which grave matters are at stake and yet we seem almost inextricably mired in the politics of misrepresentation and personal destruction, of name-calling and blame-casting. Senator Obama's life of public service is a story of unyielding commitment to the common good, his record is one of discovering approaches to challenging problems that bridge political differences rather than enlarging them, and his voice is consistently and eloquently raised in a call to the notion that we can do better as a nation, as a society, and as individuals.
Third, we elect our presidents based as much on our assessment of their character as on their policy proposals. Our long and arduous election process inevitably peels back the layers of campaign artifice until, like it or not, we know the candidates well. Here are some of the things that I think America will discover about Barack Obama in the coming months. He is witty and intelligent. He is perceptive and he drives to the core of an issue rather than playing with distracting superficialities. He is self-possessed rather than arrogant. He is sophisticated and he understands the world as it is, yet he is naturally optimistic. He laughs at life's absurdities and he grapples with its complexities. He is idealistic without indulging in ideological dogmatism. His religious faith informs and inspires his political ideas rather than replacing them. He listens to opposing ideas, he challenges assumptions, and he is intellectually curious about every facet of an idea. He is impatient with the cynical, the self-serving and the corrupt.
These are not platitudes arranged for political convenience. This is the portrait of a man of remarkable talents and great strengths. Barack Obama is very unusual in the contemporary political landscape, but we all know someone, somewhere in our lives, a bit like him, an inspiring but accessible figure. How refreshing, particularly now. When was the last time America had the opportunity to consider a candidate of this caliber?
I believe Barack Obama should run, and I believe we should elect him.
Owen Jones, born in 1960, currently lives in Bucks County, PA, near where he grew up. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy from St. John's College, Santa Fe, NM and work experience in environmental management, viticulture and wine (more...)