When it became clear that Barack Obama was to become a serious candidate for President, even before he declared, I decided it would be a good idea to read his book Audacity of Hope. If you want to know what a person is thinking, where better to find out than in his handwritten thoughts about the world.
You may ask why I would want to spend my time reading over 362 pages of rhetoric from someone I would probably never support. There is a very good reason. It casts back to 1992. I was at my first Republican National Convention and I spent my free time reading Earth in the Balance by Al Gore. I sensed that if this gentleman was the Vice-Presidential nominee, what he thought would bring some value to our campaign.
Now flash forward seven years. It is early 1999. I am in Washington and a friend takes me with him to meet Grover Norquist. I was mostly the third wheel in the room so believe it or not I spent most of our half- hour-plus meeting just listening. The two of them lurched into a discussion of the upcoming presidential election. I asked Grover if he had read Gore’s book. He stated no. I told him he needed to read it. You could go page by page and build a case against Al Gore as he lays out all of his plans and thoughts right there. Interestingly in the beginning of 2000 I saw Grover on a national news show and he was referring to comments made by Gore in Earth in the Balance.
On this basis I picked up Obama’s book hoping to learn what this new “rock star” of the Democratic Party was thinking. I must say I was left nearly empty. It wasn’t until page 162 where he states his first real policy initiative and it had to do with education. He spoke of merit pay and new advancement for teachers based on performance. These are policies I certainly can cheer for if he were to be serious about them. But when reading it I doubted he was really serious. I felt no Democratic presidential candidate would take on the National Education Association (NEA) regarding these issues. Sure enough, when delivering a speech to them this year, he backed down from those issues and they are nowhere to be found on his website. In fact, his positions on education on his website are straight out of the Democratic handbook and probably right out of the NEA’s also.
The book served to baffle me more than anything else. Maybe Obama wanted it that way. It is a series of contradictions. For example, he has a 34-page chapter entitled “Faith.” After reading the chapter I cannot begin to tell you what his faith is. He appears to be a Christian, but I cannot tell you what denomination. I don’t believe he is Catholic. But is he Protestant, Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian – I don’t know. I don’t believe he ever mentions either Jesus Christ or God. It took until page 32 of this 34-page chapter for him to define something he clearly believes in and that is the Golden Rule.
He speaks of the burden that his office (U.S. Senator) puts upon him and his family. He talks of the long hours and how it strains his relationship with his wife. Of course, he refers to missing time with his kids. So how does he remedy this? He runs for president. Now that’s guaranteed to free up your time. Between his day job and his extracurricular activities, I am sure he is seeing a lot of the wife and kids.
Obama fancies himself as a bi-partisan type of politician -- someone who can reach across the aisle. He certainly does not come across that way in this book. He has a formula he repeats over and over again. The Republicans (Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43 and/or various members of Congress) have created policies that are anathema. Then he says the Democrats have not done much better themselves without ever identifying anyone so as to not offend someone. Then he states we can do better. He does not state how, but he leads you to believe he is the person to make the change. Except for his short excursion into educational policy that was not party line, he leaves you with the impression that he is a very liberal soul.
From certain standpoints, he does leave a good impression. He is smart; that is clear. He is well educated and well written; that is clear also. But for the most part the book would be good for an eighth grader to read as a primer on our form of government. It is certainly not a serious book written by a serious person who should be considered for higher office. I have read many a book written by politicos from both sides of the aisle and this can only be classified as lightweight. That is something I would have never said about Earth in the Balance.
So since I read this book eight months ago, I have been mystified as to how the Democrats have become so enamored with Obama. Every time I hear one of his speeches or watch a debate he again appears to lurch into platitudes. If you go onto his website you will see that he has now stated some policies since he cannot totally avoid making some kind of policy statement. Having read this over, it is a mirror image of most of the other Democrats on almost every issue.
So much for Obama being a new kind of Democrat who is going to toss aside the politics or partisanship. If his tax policy is any indication of him being a new kind of Democrat he has failed the test. He starts by injecting class warfare again. Since the 50% of people at the lowest end of income pay virtually no income taxes already, he now wants to give them back the monies they pay toward social security. He has proposed payroll tax cuts and credits reducing the lower income individual’s payments by $500 to $1,500 per year.
Someone needs to ask Obama if this is a social security or a retirement plan or a tax. If it is a retirement plan, why should we as a country give back to anyone their payments into the plan? If it is just another tax, then admit it is and then we can constructively move forward to fix the social security problem. We already have a potentially destructive situation where 50% of our population can vote to raise income taxes on the other 50% because they are almost exempt. Now Obama wants to encourage that 50% to vote to have the other 50% pay their government insured pension plan (social security) for them also. That is quintessential Democratic class warfare.
When I finished reading Audacity of Hope and as I watch him, I have two thoughts that come to mind. First, have the Democrats become so shallow that they can fall for such an inexperienced, undefined candidate? The answer is yes because this is the same party that is being led around by the nose by an organization run by a 27-year-old (Eli Pariser of MoveOn.Org.)
The other thought I had is that I never thought I would see an election where Hillary Clinton actually looks like an attractive candidate to me. Obama and Edwards make Hillary look like the responsible adult.