Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Barack Obama needs to be more than charming and African American to receive serious consideration as a candidate for the presidency. His opponents, however, also need to find better reasons than "inexperience" for people not to support him.
Generally, a 45-year-old freshman senator receives very little attention as a possible presidential candidate. Perhaps they show up on lists of people to watch in the future, and maybe they even float the idea of running to gain some name recognition, but they don't become serious candidates.
Obama, however, has a national profile because of liberal America's desperate desire to show how inclusive they are. Instead of seeing Obama as a young rising star, the way a white charismatic freshman senator would be viewed, they see Obama as a symbol of their party's racial tolerance.
Of course, viewing a young black man differently than his white counterpart essentially makes you a racist - albeit a well-intentioned one. Any eloquent black politician always gets pushed to the head of the line because the old rich white people who hold nearly all of the political power desperately need a black friend to make them look tolerant.
It happened with Jesse Jackson, who has shown he possesses few skills beyond eloquence, and it happened with Colin Powell, who had no intention of seeking the White House. Obama may show himself to be a visionary leader, but he has to prove that during the campaign, it can't be stipulated as fact simply because of his wit and skin color.
Obama should not be kept out of the White House, however, based solely on the idea that he lacks experience. Politicians who have been around the block always throw out this argument, but lack of Washington experience is not necessarily a negative for an incoming president.
It's not as if the President of the United States runs the country alone. President Obama would have an army of advisors helping him navigate the political and procedural parts of his job, while his ideas - whatever they may be - set the course for the country.
The same liberals who profess their love for Obama because it validates their professed vision for a "party of inclusion" are also the ones who do little to silence the inexperience argument. In fact, a cynic would suggest that the liberal establishment views Obama as the perfect candidate because his age and lack of time in politics allow him to be easily dismissed.
They get to pretend that they considered nominating a black man, but after careful consideration, decided he didn't have the years in Washington needed to handle the job. Instead of fresh air, the Democrats get another recycled party insider as their nominee, while acting as if they possess a higher level of understanding than the Republicans.
Obama might be a viable candidate. American politics needs new voices, and a younger president with a background unlike that of his predecessors may very well help erase the tarnish George Bush brought to the office.
We can't, however, judge Obama based on the color of his skin, no matter how much many Americans hope for a worthy black candidate. Neither experience nor race should send Obama to the White House. Instead, he must be judged based on what he would bring to the job and how he would lead the nation.
Daniel B. Kline's book, "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do," is available in bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.