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Sarah Miller Asks Obama Exactly What I Would If I Could
Photo of crowd at Los Angeles debate in January by shredded77 via Flickr
Last Friday, Sarah Miller's Open Letter to Barack Obama in the LA Times Opinion section caught my eye. Got me thinking. Had me nodding my head. I'm not the only one, as the comments on her letter are getting heated. As an Obama supporter, she raised some concerns about his seeming inability to be concrete and clear about how he is different from Hillary Clinton. In short, Sarah Miller asked Obama to be specific so that people could know why they were behind him, other than wanting radical change in how our country is run.
Hope is an empty diversion without substantive, original arguments on issues. When will you discuss rebuilding New Orleans? Can you offer creative thinking on the Iraq war as it currently exists, instead of just reminding people you opposed it years ago? Why don't you demonstrate a respectful, nuanced view of the Middle East instead of referring to the "the terrorists," as you did in a recent debate? How do you envision the United States' role in Africa's many dire problems and conflicts? How do you plan to fix our decrepit infrastructure and invigorate the economy in just and environmentally responsible ways? Will you argue for the value of a well-regulated, domestically produced food supply, favoring produce over commodity crops, for our safety and environmental health? What are your positions on international trade agreements? Do you have creative ideas for generating more affordable housing in our cities? And how will you handle the responsibilities of the presidency when you can't unite and persuade, as will inevitably happen sometimes?
I agreed with Miller's points. Bravo! I thought. This is exactly the kind of letter I would have written to Obama if I'd thought of it first. She asks him the very questions I would ask him if I had the chance. I was sure, though, that last night's debate would change all that, rendering her letter both effective and no longer needed. I fully expected Obama to lay it all out there and be clear on his big plans, rather than just seducing with big speeches. I was wrong. After watching Obama and Clinton debate last night in Austin, Miller's letter came to mind. It's quite clear that Obama never read it. Or if he did, he didn't take it to heart. He was still pretty vague on some of the big issues and led with style rather than specifics.
If you've followed this primary season at all, you know that Obama is increasingly criticized for not being specific. For not outlining concrete plans, as Clinton has done. I am an Obama supporter through and through. I've even said on occaision that I "bleed Obama blood", so strong is my conviction that his leadership is what this country needs. I, too, have worried right along with Sarah Miller about Obama's lack of specificity, about his inability to paint a picture of how he'd run the country that goes beyond his rhetoric of hope and unity.
I see the logic behind Clinton's campaign of "being ready on day one" because she's been in the system longer and knows how to get things done. But you know what? I don't really care anymore about Obama's lack of specificity. About his shorter senate career. About his supposed inexperience with "the system" and "how things are done." I don't want a president who is overly familiar with how "things are done" now because they've been done horribly for years. It is time for new thinking, new ways of looking at old problems.
If I were to write a letter to Obama now, a whole seven days after Sarah Miller's letter and the day after the debate in Texas, I would tell him this: You are a smart man and show all the qualities of the kind of leader this country needs to not only get us back on track here at home, but to begin changing the world's perception of what this country can become.
I wonder about the Senate votes you didn't make because it would be hard to defend them on the campaign trail. I wonder if you will be able to handle the craziness that will rain down upon you if you secure the Democratic nomination and become subject to the right wing spin machine and smear campaigns. Are there skeletons in your closet that we'll only learn about then? What do I not know that I should be worried about?
You're a smart man and I'm crossing my fingers that you'll get specific when you need to. For now, your ability to inspire the masses for change seems to be enough. For now.
Please don't make me regret voting for you by remaining vague should you one day take office. We do need hope, but we need action, not rhetoric, to feed that hope.