The Problem With Obama

There are a number of weaknesses in the Obama candidacy that make his effort seem both inadequate and even perilous for the Democratic Party and ultimately for the country.

First is the effort by the candidate to portray himself foremost as a conciliator. What Democrats want today is a fighter, not simply a mediator. They have suffered enough from the vicious blows of President Bush and the Republicans. What the party needs is a nominee who will take the battle directly to the opposition. Come the fall contest, a candidacy of "friendly persuasion" will be swiftboated into oblivion.

In addition, Senator Obama claims to be setting forth new ideas and fresh thinking. Yet the most startling fact today is that he is running to the right of the other leading Democratic contender, Senator Hillary Clinton. For example, Obama's health care plan does not cover all Americans while Clinton's plan does. Obama also insists on focusing his concerns on Social Security, which does not need fixing rather than Medicare, which does.

Then Mr. Obama has depicted himself as a global strategist with great instincts on international issues as shown by his opposition to the Iraq war. Yet he is the same individual who said in July 2004 that, had he been in the Senate (rather than at the time in the Illinois legislature), he wasn't sure how he would have voted on the resolution on Iraq; and, once in the Senate, he chaired a subcommittee on Europe and never held a hearing (except on two ambassadorial nominations) and never made any visits to Europe except for a brief flyover stop in London; and finally during one of the presidential debates, he said he would invade Pakistan to nab Osama Bin Laden without first getting the permission of the Pakistani government -- a direct violation of international law. This is a vapid sort of multilateralism.

He has also insisted that he is a strong, activist leader; yet, according to a recent article in The New York Times, he ducked dozens of important votes in the Illinois legislature by voting "present." Senator Obama is a bold rhetorician but immature in action. On this entire checklist, his stances contrast directly with those of Senator Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton has proven to be the feistier and more informed leader, a serious internationalist, a talented legislator and more truly the embodiment of the party's historic FDR/JFK traditions. The choice between the two seems to me one between an individual who can govern immediately and one who still needs years more of grooming before he is ready.