It is safe to say that “Obamania” has swept Georgetown. From Copley Hall to Harbin to Southwest Quad, residence hall windows across campus bear “Obama ’08” signs. With typically inactive young voters favoring him by wide margins in many of his victories – he has won 24 of the 37 contests to date – Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is well positioned to beat out Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) for the Democratic nomination.
Obama is, without a doubt, an agent of “change,” his campaign’s central focus. The fact that for the first time in our nation’s history a black man could very well be a major party’s presidential nominee, and perhaps even president, is a profound and wonderful change. But the fact that Obama is that man is more frightening than wonderful. With rights come responsibilities, and youth voters have a responsibility to look beyond the hype and select the candidate who is best prepared for the presidency. Hoyas and students everywhere must get past Obama’s image and his heightened rhetoric – they must examine the few things he has done before they make the tragic mistake of crowning him the Democratic nominee.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Fox News focus group conducted by pollster Frank Luntz. In one segment, Frank asked each of us for a word or phrase that came to mind when he said “Barack Obama.” One student replied “John Kennedy” and explained that he sees Obama as the John F. Kennedy of our generation. While the two certainly share the attributes of youthfulness and charisma, it is certainly not an apt comparison. The fact remains that Obama is simply too inexperienced to take America’s helm in these troubled times. JFK was a war hero who had served six years in the House of Representatives and eight in the Senate when he took the Oath of Office in 1961. Obama, on the other hand, was a community organizer and state legislator before he came to the U.S. Senate in 2005.
Obama has been a U.S. Senator for a little over three years, most of which he spent campaigning for the presidency. He claims that he will unite Democrats, Republicans and Independents to bring about “change” if they will just “hope” for it. But deep down even the most ardent Obama fans must realize that it takes more than wishes to solve the real problems Americans face. The best way for us to judge what someone is capable of achieving is to examine what he or she has already accomplished. So what does Obama’s Senate record say about his ability to transcend partisanship and change America? Not much at all.
Obama has been the lead sponsor of only one bill that has become law, S. 2125, the intent of which is to “promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” He loves to remind us that he did not vote to authorize the war in Iraq six years ago, but we must remember that in 2002 he was a state legislator and had no capacity to decide on the matter. A man with a record of voting “present” (if at all) on controversial issues while a state legislator, Obama has “transcended partisanship” by taking no stands on the tough issues and fighting for no real causes. Thus it is easy for him to be more attractive to Independents and Republicans than it is for Clinton. Obama calls her divisive simply because she has actually articulated her convictions and battles for them every day, working hard to bring about real change. While he has not yet been vocal about the liberal causes he will surely advocate if elected, something he can start to do once he no longer needs the support of those outside his party, the National Journal ranks him the most liberal member of the Senate in 2007 based on his voting record (that is, when he actually did vote). A liberal with no real record claims he will solve big, controversial problems while uniting America? Not so fast.
Another student at the focus group made a comparison I like better, calling Obama “Jimmy Carter.” It is very much 1976 again: Americans have grown tired of a Republican administration and are just looking for change. But we must remind ourselves that we are at a crucial juncture in our nation’s history. Healthcare, immigration and Social Security are just a few of the issues that will need to be addressed by the newly-elected president. We are at war in Afghanistan and in Iraq, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and we are constantly facing the threat of a terrorist attack. In these times of uncertainty, we need to make an informed decision about who can best lead America. We must avoid a repeat of the inexperienced Jimmy Carter, propelled to the White House by a blind desire for something new. Obama’s youthfulness and charisma have generated a lot of excitement, a hype to which many a Hoya has fallen prey. There is nothing wrong with being hopeful, but one also needs to be pragmatic. America faces real problems that require real leadership and real experience. It would be a mistake to entrust the leadership of the free world to a man who emerged on the national scene just three years ago and has yet to prove himself capable. As President Jed Bartlet on “The West Wing” once said, “the devil you know beats the devil you don’t. And I like the devil I got.”
Hillary Clinton may not excite us the way Obama does, but we know her and can trust her. We must embrace her and her substance instead of Obama’s vapid platitudes, or we risk harming America. Of the Democrats, she’s our best “hope” for “change.”
Paul Courtney is a freshman in the College and a member of the Georgetown University College Republicans.