Is there anything new to say about Barack Obama?

I, for one, have nothing new to say about Barack Obama, even though I am exposed to more news about him than any other single person.  I wish I did, but I don’t.

Do you?  Does anyone?  Comments are open, the stipulation is that you must believe what you write about him genuinely represents new insight; it’s OK if it’s already appeared on your blog, provided it is not a major one, or you can link to the thoughts of others.  Please respect our usual standards of politeness.

Will anyone have anything to say?  Should I hope you do or don’t have anything new to say about him? 


Not surprising that you don't really have much left to say. Obama is typical Democratic candidate for president, something we see every four years. The only novelty is his race, and that has already been noted.

the fact that you can call race a novelty and live in the U.S. is astounding

Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.

In 2000 he lost the Democratic Primary for a U.S. House seat to sitting congressman and former Black Panther Bobby Rush.

The thing I'm most curious about is whether he has truly as self-sufficient as he claims. Many politicians like to claim that they paid their own way through college and got to where they are on merit alone. But me, being such a cynic, doubts that most people in the upper echelons of government really have managed to get there on merit alone. Indeed, when you look beneath the surface, most such politicians had a large inheritance, rich uncle, rich marriage, or other source of capital that helped cover their costs as they built their political career- Just look at McCain, Kerry, etc for classic examples.

A brief look online seems to show no major signs that Barack had such a source of capital. True, there are some parts to his history to indicate some hidden source of wealth/power in his family. For one, his father was a government official in Kenya, though the nature of his powers there are not easy to determine. Also, his father's ability to leave Africa might indicate some source of family wealth back in Kenya.

However, it does appear, based on the very limited record that we have on these questions, that Barack may indeed have attained his achievements on merit alone and does not have such a source of wealth. This would be very unusual and quite extrordinary for a politician at his level. it wrong, though, that I still harbor some doubts about this? Anyone else have an opinion on this?

His brother in law is the coach of the Oregon State Men's basketball team. Also, he went to high school at the most prestigious private school in Hawaii so that suggests he was not strapped for cash in his youth.

Right- I find it hard to reconcile attending that private school in Hawaii and his mom being on welfare, as we've heard repeated frequently.

Not that they couldn't be reconciled- These may have been in different periods in his mother's life with a perfectly reasonable explanation. I would just like to hear that explanation (sadly, we may get a warped reconciliation of these facts from a right-wing 527 instead of getting one from a more objective person first)

Two (healthy) trends in the US related to POTUS:
1) to have served as a state governor
2) to NOT be trained as an attorney

It shocks me that B.H.O. might be elected to the highest and most powerful EXECUTIVE office on the planet, given his experience, training, and worldview.

I can open my "Rolodex" and list the names of 100+ colleagues with better management training and experience [character and "fitness for office" too, but that is another debate...]

I know this blog is read by legion, who -- deep inside -- feel the same way.

All of us -- in school, in business, or in the world of not-for-profit -- have encountered those who are good talkers, good at showing up at meetings, but who have few TRUE personal accomplishments or contributions to show for it.

Not new anymore, but at least different: Christopher Hitchens' vituperative attack in Slate, March 23

It's not new, but there was a nice piece yesterday in the NYT documenting Obama's very close ties to big agriculture. Despite his talk of "Change", he's still in favor of passing out corporate welfare in order to get votes.


Bush having an MBA did not make him a better president. On the contrary I think it hurt him more than it helped. Say what you want about Obama's policies but he ran a campaign that was focused on the long term goal (winning the primary), had low turnover, short on leaks, and effective. If you judge a president by his ability to manage - Obama wins hands down here. But when someone becomes president - you hire people to manage and I think management capability is less important.

I think the new insight into Barack Obama is that he is precisely what Democrats accused Reagan and George HW Bush of being: a puppet, rather than his own man. Look at his political choices over the years, especially his votes in the Illinois Legislature. Look at his major supporters and ask-- who would somebody like Soros pick? Take Obama at his word about how vehemently he disagrees with Jeremiah Wright and ask what kind of coward could never get up and leave a church like that?

There is no leadership in this man. None.

Obama is too intelligent and well educated to have any fixed principles. He has fixed inclinations and preferences, nut not principles.

Therefor it doesn't matter all that much what he is for, issue or promise-wise. The democratic party congressional leaders who do have fixed principles are the ones who get their way, so what they want is what matters.

I don't see any contradiction between poverty and prep school attendance -- in fact the administration at the prep school where I taught lamented that most of the kids on financial aid were desperately poor, instead of there being a continuum between poor and rich students (and I am led to believe that many prep schools have this economic distribution). There are a lot of programs out there to identify, support, and sometimes fund disadvantaged kids of many stripes on their way to prep school.

Perhaps I can offer a different perspective on him, one that comes from being on the outside, since I am Canadian. I am not invested in being "Democrat", "Republican", or in anything else American. Think of it as the "Giftie gie us".

Barack Obama may just be the last chance for the American system of government. Sounds a bit grandiose, I know, but I think it may be true.

When the US Supreme Court staged a coup d'etat in 2000 by ignoring the fundamental issue of counting votes in a democracy in favour of meeting some arbitrary deadline (which they obviously did only because they wanted to get their guy in power), I wondered what this bode for the future of the Grand American Experiment. It didn't look good.

As that election and the ones that followed were analyzed, I heard a very similar theme from people across America both personally and in the media, regardless of which party they supported: the elections are stolen using dirty tricks. Who cares whether you vote or not, the election will be stolen anyway. And anyway, the politicians are all the same, buying into the same broken system because that is what got them elected in the first place.

When they entered the race for president, both Obama and McCain seemed to offer the message that they were going to change things. I found that a very heartening message, because only if the system is fundamentally changed could you get people believing that their vote mattered, that it was worth participating in, and therefore preserving, democracy.

As the race ground on, however, McCain has sounded less and less like a maverick and more and more like any other politician kowtowing to the Republican base. It has been very sad to watch. It doesn't look like there will be much of a shakeup of the existing system if McCain wins the election.

Obama, however, continues not just delivering his message of change but following his words with actions. And in doing so, he is reinvigorating a whole population that had given up on the electoral process. I'm not saying his changes will stop the perception of election fraud, but it will open up the possibility that someone delivering change can get elected, which means that others that follow may be successful where he is not.

Against him, of course, is the deep-seated racism of America. Most of us watching from the outside would never have believed that America was capable of nominating a black person to be leader of one of the major parties. Those I've talked to are all incredibly impressed. But then we see people getting bent out of shape by knuckle touching and calling it some kind of "terrorist fist jab" and we can see that racism is still alive and well within American culture.

And then there is the whispering campaign that Obama is a radical Muslim in sheep's clothing. You can point people to all the debunking web sites you want to that tear this particular piece of hateful gossip to shreds, but believing it makes it easier to be a racist in your heart without admitting it to your head. And so a great many Americans cover their ears and shout "la-la-la" when presented with evidence contrary to what they want to believe.

Is that take on Obama original? I have no idea, but hopefully the external perspective makes it a bit original.

Two (healthy) trends in the US related to POTUS:
1) to have served as a state governor
2) to NOT be trained as an attorney

These are good rules. That's why we remember Jimmy Carter as a great president and Abraham Lincoln as a disaster.

At 21, he changed his name (in practice) from Barry to Barack.

Hawaii is a very very different state and Punahou is a very different school. Hawaii was a kingdom, then a republic, then a territory and a state. Lots of people from different places, lots of cultural cross-currents--everyone is a minority, but blacks are a real small minority. Because of Hawaii's history, Punahou holds a place in the society that differs from that held by any other private school in the country. With its missionary heritage, it used to struggle between WASPy prep school and noblesse oblige (Sun Yat-sen attended for a semester). (My freshman roommate at college attended Punahou, class of '59--as a Chinese-American he had ambivalent feelings towards it. Google can find you an interesting document prepared by the class of '57.) I suspect in 1971 Punahou was anxious to get a black student who was as well-prepared as Obama appears to have been, just to polish its diversity credit. I think Obama has said he benefited from affirmative action. Or it may have been his mother--she seems to have been a very determined character. Punahou meant the best and she wanted the best for her son.

For all of those wondering how Obama attended the Punahou -- most expensive school in Hawaii -- and then Occidental (tres expensive private school), then Columbia (expensive but with more aid dollars) then Harvard, you should be looking at his grandmother.

I remember reading that she personally footed his high school bills. She may have had some money because she was a bank vice president (Bank of Hawaii) in the mid-1970s when vice presidents were rarer than they are today.

From the bios is seems she was the family force and the bread winner compared to her husband (Barack's maternal grandfather).

It seems the other open secret is that he broke from his mother. When he developed an independent mind he made his own decision to leave Indonesia and move in with his grandmother in Hawaii. It would be interesting if some one asked him what impact his step father (Lolo Soetoro) had on his outlook and views.

Obama can't follow blog post instructions any worse than this set of commenters

He has a speaking style that appears to have been polished at the William Shatner school of elocution and colloquy.

That said, I plan to vote for him, for many of the reasons our anonymous Canadian friend mentioned.

How come we don't see the "Biraq Hussein Osama" meme more?

He seems like a nice guy and all, but he lost me when he brought up the windfall profits tax.

Insights regarding Obama? As time goes on, I'm less impressed with his horse sense and level of knowledge of the world. For example, declaring Jerusalem to be the eternal capitol of Israel betrays a serious ignorance about the Middle East. And this wasn't some offhand, accidental comment. I don't get it.

My initial take on Obama was -- incredibly capable guy (politically and intellectually), but worried about many of his proposed policies.

Well...I'm still worried about the policies but am growing less convinced of his political genius.

Obama this, Obama that. Doesn't matter. What matters is ending the 8 year long republican disaster.

1. When McCain and Clinton proposed cutting gas taxes, an idea so bad no economist could ever support it, Obama stuck to his guns and opposed it despite the fact that it would have helped him in Indiana, a state he HAD to do well in.
2. After the Reverend Wright scandal, he gave a speech that should be read by EVERYONE. He actually tried to have a conversation on race with the American people, but of course, the media wouldn't really let that happen.
3. Watch him with his wife sometime. He is the only politician I've seen in a long time that seems to have a legitimate relationship. What does it say about him that the person closest to him seems to both respect and love him.
4. One of the biggest jobs of the President is to be the face of the United States. In this day in age of increased globalization and the Iraq and Afghanistan War, we need the rest of the world to like us. Obama will do that better than any other person we could chose.
Maybe these aren't entirely new, but I think they all are important and aren't talked about enough.

In a 2004 interview with the Chicago Tribune Obama was asked if he believed in sin and if so how he defined it. His answer was yes he believed in sin and that his definition was "being out of alignment with my values". I am not strongly religious but to me this is an extremely ego centric and relativistic definition of sin and is a strong indication of what his moral and ideologica compass really is - what ever he needs it to be at a given point in time to get what he wants.

This is also the same interview in which he specifically identifies Wright and Pfleger as two of his most important advisors and Wright as a close fried. People who he later denied. Again an very strong propensity for situational morality and rationality. These traits when combined with very high intelligence and ambition (as he has) tends toward the manipulative, narcisisitc and dictatorial personality.

Not my personal ideal for the leader of this nation.

I was an Senate intern in DC in 2005. Our intern coordinator scheduled a picture with Senator Obama. He introduced himself to each of us and shook all of our hands. Without question, he has the softest hands I have ever felt. The handshake was firm, but the actual hands were incredibly soft.

Hey Tyler, was wondering if you wanted to "communitize" the blog for microfinance at

I know that we will have the fourth highest marginal tax rate in the industrialized world behind only France Sweden and Denmark if Obama has his way. All three of these countries are in the process of lowereing their marginal rates because of the adverse effect on their economies and we will soon have the highest. That cannot be a good thing.

Having read all comments I've learned a few new things about Obama.

I don't know what you foreigners are talking about. I live in the South, US and I have not heard word one about Obama's race except that it might be an issue, or that racism will eventually appear.

Of course there is racism. People outside the US lecturing us on it is hilarious. We are the most diverse country on the planet. We deal with it. Not great sometimes, horribly other times, but not as bad as a lot of places. I'd vote for any black man or woman that espoused libertarian values to a greater degree than their opponent. This black man doesn't seem to be.

At worst the guy is going to come in 2nd place in the national popularity contest. Rampant racism? We like him, we really like him!

Why follow the rules? Obama isn't very interesting. That's the point. Haven't learned much about Obama, but learned a lot about the people who comment and the (silly?) things people base their vote on. These are the important things I'd like to know about Obama or any candidate.

1. Who he chooses for key positions.
2. Which factions of the left are his supporters and which his enemies (helps with 1).
3. What his big picture policy stances are, and why.
4. Which policy pronouncements he seems to actually believe versus which is just pandering to his base (helps with 3, discounting for 2).
5. What sides does he seem to take in foreign affairs questions.
6. What his overall worldview is, considering all the above (helps to know how he will address future problems)

I care most that the president actually has a philosophy and is not just a politician "marshaling hatreds." To what extent is he/she open about this versus trying to hide it. The more open one is more likely to get my vote.

What I DON'T find important: Gaffes, personal relationships, endorsements, anything easily faked, hobbies, embarrassing relatives, military record, etc. In other words, things that measure the ability of the media to dig dirt rather than measures of the man. I tend (try) not to make interpretations of tiny facts. These could be cherry-picked by the people providing the information (i.e., easily faked).

These people are just people. Marginally impressive, sure. I don't care about what he's like as a person. I hope I never get a chance to meet any of them.

"But his eyes really lit up when I mentioned I had a blog. He was tremendously interested in the medium, and curious about the directions in which it might be evolving."

A weekly fireside blog would be awesome.

"Obama's better grasp of the idiosyncracies of economic policy issues"

You're talking about a guy who supports comparable worth, is critical of trade (at least when he thinks he's talking to people who are critical of trade), and supports every boondoggle that's ever been aimed at the agricultural sector.

Gappy said: "Third thing: from recent WSJ editorials I learned that his economic policies are more liberal than I thought. I am not sure at all these will be the real policies."

That is really funny, I read those same editorials and had the exact same response -- that those frightening tax policies sound more like idle campaign promises to get the Democrat vote rather than what he's really going to do. I want to think Obama is smarter than that. Maybe I'm in denial though.

I think that Obama has helped expose how the rest of the world views American race relations. Based on some of this blog's post comments and my recent travels abroad, I have come to realize that the rest of the world views America as much more racist than we are, and they view themselves as much less racist than they actually are. In a related story, and to answer one of the comment questions from above, I think that having a president who is internationally popular will be a great advantage for the U.S. Try chatting up foreigners next time you are abroad. I have and 0% of my sample like president Bush. Tyler -was that your experience in Japan?

CBS News has a 'wonderful' piece on this.

You can never vote for someone that doesn't like Scrabble...

Not sure why all the focus is on Obama in what is a two-man race.

Those asking the questions like Andrew, e.g.:

"1. Who he chooses for key positions.
2. Which factions of the left are his supporters and which his enemies (helps with 1).
3. What his big picture policy stances are, and why."

Are you asking the same questions of McCain, or does he get a pass because he's Republican, ergo it's assumed his economic policies are more business-friendly and that's all that matters?

Even if the latter is true, I wouldn't make such an assumption especially in light of recent comments re: commodities speculators and how oil companies are treated tax-wise:

In response to the oil price rise Obama repeatedly states that his primary goal is to reduce demand -- ie to impoverish average Americans.

Otherwise he's a typical anti-American leftist, with all the perverted morals of the average Progressive.

Mike Smithson of put money on his winning the nomination at 50/1, back in 2005.

I made a mistake. McCain was a Congressman before he was a senator. My bad. But it is true he had help from prominent local Republicans in his first bid.

Someone posted this in Matt Yglesias's thread but I thought it was fascinating:

The New Republic

Deconstructing Barry
by Andrew Delbanco
A literary critic reads Obama.
Post Date Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Obama's father did not come from a moneyed background. He was a recipient of the 'Airlift Africa' program which was started by the Kennedy Foundation and Tom Mboya of Kenya to finance passage to America for the brightest students Africa had to offer, who had secured scholarships to American Universities. Kenya was not independent when the program started and part of the aim for the Africans was not only to prove to the British that American education was at par with British education, it was also as a way for the Africans to prepare for the eventual demise of British colonial rule by preparing the brightest to run the civil service. This was in response to the disaster that was the Congo after the end of colonial rule. The requirements for being part of the program were: 1) The student secured a scholarship 2) the student raise at least $1000 to help pay for their upkeep when in the US. It took the entire community to come up with the money since these people were seen as the great hope. I once met a man who was part of the Airlift Program as well and he was of the opinion that Kenya, being one of the most stable countries in Africa - except for a couple of days in 1982 and about a month after the botched 2007 election - is eternally grateful to the USA because it helped the Kenyans prepare for self rule by educating a lot of those who would initally run the civil service.

Obama is the uber Rorschach test, all see what they need too, to keep chugging allong in delusions delight

Interesting international fact related to US politics (with an Obama aspect):

During the US primaries, the party leaders of all parties represented in Parliament were asked to endorse a US presidential candidate. The result:

Socialist Parties: Clinton 2 Obama 0 Others 0
Non-Socialist Parties: Clinton 3 Obama 1 Others 0

The only one to voice his support for Obama was Prime Minister F Reinfeldt, who said that "our policies and Obama's policies are very similar." Reinfeldt's party (the Moderate Party) is usually considered to be the most "right wing" of Sweden's mainstream parties.

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