Tuesday, July 22, 2008


“I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” - Obama {Scroll down to see Barack's Senate "Experience"]

Hard to Be Humble
July 22, 2008
Posted by TOM BEVAN

For a while now, one of the strongest narratives working against Barack Obama has been the notion that he is an elitist and too full of himself. Hillary Clinton exploited this angle to the best of her ability in the primaries, and the narrative has only strengthened in the general election as the Obama campaign has made move after move that display varying degrees of arrogance: the faux seal, the move to Invesco stadium, the aborted attempt to speak at Brandenburg Gate, etc.

Knowing that Americans tend not to like candidates who are too full of themselves, you would think Obama and his surrogates would be focused on trying to muster at least a modicum of humility in their dealings with the public and the press. But apparently not.

Jim Geraghty highlights another small but telling example of the Obama campaign's self regard, this time by foreign policy advisor Susan Rice in an interview with Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: "Critics say the trip is nothing but a PR stunt to strengthen his foreign-policy credentials and that he has only rarely been to Europe before.

Rice: Senator Obama has travelled to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia many times before. He lived in Asia. He bows to nobody in his understanding of this world."

Intentional or not, the phrase "he bows to nobody" is the kind of tone deaf rhetoric that reinforces the narrative about Obama's arrogance.Far more telling than what a surrogate says publicly, however, is what the candidate himself says privately. And the Der Spiegel item reminded me of this post by Netscape founder and internet wunderkind Marc Andreessen. The post is dated March 3, 2008, but in it Andreessen recounts a conversation he had with Senator Obama in early 2007 as he was gearing up to run for President.

Near the end, Andreessen asked Obama directly about his lack of foreign policy experience, and this is how Obama responded:We then asked, well, what about foreign policy -- should we be concerned that you just don't have much experience there?

He said, directly, two things.First, he said, I'm on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I serve with a number of Senators who are widely regarded as leading experts on foreign policy -- and I can tell you that I know as much about foreign policy at this point as most of them.

Just who is Obama comparing himself to with this remark? Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee who would fit the description of "widely regarded as leading experts on foreign policy" include Joe Biden (34 years on the Committee), Dick Lugar (28 years), Chris Dodd (26 years), and Chuck Hagel (10 years). Together those gentlemen have nearly 100 years worth of experience on the Foreign Relations Committee, compared to Obama's three.

Notice that Obama didn't say "I'm a quick study" or "I have real world foreign policy experience," or any of the hundreds of other things he might have said to impart to Andreessen that he was a smart, capable guy when it came to foreign affairs while still maintaining some humility.

The second half of Obama's response to Andreessen was equally telling:He said -- and I'm going to paraphrase a little here: think about who I am -- my father was Kenyan; I have close relatives in a small rural village in Kenya to this day; and I spent several years of my childhood living in Jakarta, Indonesia. Think about what it's going to mean in many parts of the world -- parts of the world that we really care about -- when I show up as the President of the United States. I'll be fundamentally changing the world's perception of what the United States is all about.Put another way,

Obama responded to a question about concerns over his lack of foreign policy experience by saying, "it's not what I've done but who I am that matters."

Taken together, this response smacks of an unusually high self regard. As Charles Krauthammer wrote on Friday, "For the first few months of the campaign, the question about Obama was: Who is he? The question now is: Who does he think he is?"

Humility is a virtue not always consistent with running for President. It is one thing to be confident in one's abilities, and another thing to be overbearing to the point of arrogance. This is one of the traits that many of George W. Bush's critics find most grating.

But Obama and his campaign appear to be deliberately taking things to a whole new level. Given his defeat of Hillary in the primary and his current small but steady lead over McCain, you have to say it's a strategy that has worked well for them on balance thus far. Whether the same attitude and approach continues to help or begins to hurt between now and November remains to be seen.

Barack's Senate Experience a Little Thin . . .

Obama’s Senate Experience: 143 days

Barack Obama logged exactly 143 days of experience in the U.S. Senate before setting his sights on winning the White House.

Obama was sworn in as a senator on Jan. 4, 2005, and he announced that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee on Jan. 16, 2007. In that interval, the Senate was in session and working for 143 days, according to GOPUSA’s blog The Loft.

That’s the equivalent of less than 21 seven-day weeks.

“After 143 days of work experience, Obama believed he was ready to be commander in chief, leader of the free world, and fill the shoes of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan,” Cheri Jacobus writes on the blog.

In contrast, presidential rival John McCain’s resume includes 26 years in Congress and 22 years of military service, including his 1,966 days as a POW in Vietnam.

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