29 August 2008

Watching US Politics from the Sidelines

It's a fascinating spectacle to watch what's happening south of the border this week. I'm sure next week will also be fascinating, but in a scarier, foreboding kind of way. I can't help but point out, however, the things I find completely bizarre from the perspective of someone living outside that reality.

Michelle Obama speaks very well, and I have to say that seeing and hearing her makes me like her. I can't help but wonder why the spouse of a candidate who is not running for office herself has such a prominent place in the political process. That doesn't strike me as being pertinent.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (and I did notice that on Thursday night that Obama added the Rodham back into her name) is also a good speaker, even if she talked a little too much about herself in promoting support for Obama. And the crowd just happened to have 'Unity' signs to wave amongst the 'Hillary' signs. How spontaneous! She did have a good line about the coincidence of Bush and McCain being in the Twin Cities next week, which was a good dig.

Bill Clinton may have had the best line of them all, which I will probably misquote (as I did earlier this evening on the phone with a friend): America should lead by the strength of its example and not by the example of its strength. I liked that one.

Joe Biden kind of scared me with all his military talk. He sounded ready to invade - er, send to troops to support the government of - Georgia. Isn't getting into wars part of the problem we're all hoping to fix in this election? What happened to the diplomacy talk that we have been hearing from Obama all this time?

On the militarism angle again, I was horrified by the line up of (admittedly retired) generals, admirals, etc. trooped out on stage to show their support for Obama. I thought the military only got involved in politics in countries on the edge of a coup. This kind of scared me, too. Not only that, but the general who spoke was really quite wooden and seemed to be very obviously reading from a teleprompter.

I'm going to have to recuse myself from commenting on the incessant flag-waving, since I do come from a rather flag-wavy part (for now) of Canada. Somehow the striped starry ones scare me more, but that is probably a function of history tainted by recent and mid-term memory.

The 'real' people they brought up to speak about their own experiences were okay. Certainly most 'ordinary' people wouldn't be able to speak quite so smoothly in from of a crowd of many thousands, so I'm not sure how many people in the audience thought this was anything other than staged and coached (and probably written for them). Not that it would be a good idea to just send some regular folk up on stage to say whatever they wanted, but still… The best line among them, of course, was Barney Smith, who wants a President who will put Barney Smith ahead of Smith Barney. Again, funny and clever, but who really wrote it?

Barack Obama is an inspiring speaker. I remember thinking 'this guy will be back' when I heard him address the Democratic National Convention four years ago, and many of his speeches over the course of this campaign so far have been really good. Of course, when he spoke four years ago, he actually spoke up for Muslim Americans, while he spends more time trying to distance himself from them now. (On a side note, the whole religion thing is quite strange to me. In Canada, politicians get treated with a degree of suspicion if they mention 'faith' or their religion, while it seems to be a required element in the US.)

I hope that we all get to find out that Obama is as inspiring at leading every day as he is at speaking now.

And a quick swipe at his opponent… Why is it that you get to be a war hero when the most notable thing you did was to get caught and imprisoned by the people whose country you were bombing? I would think the ones who didn't get caught would be the heroes, even if they were doing unspeakable things that in a just world would have been prosecuted as war crimes. I'm sure I'll have more to say about him after next week.

No comments: