Like many Americans, I have found the Democratic presidential frontrunner to be a captivating individual. He comes across as a warm, likable guy. While watching him for a moment (perhaps longer for those wishing to see more in him than is actually there), we believe there is some substance to his engaging presence. As if soaring rhetoric merely because it moves us must needs contain substantive ideas.
But, the more I explore Senator Barack Obama’s words, the less substance I find to them. And what substance there is is little more than a repackaging of the traditional liberal agenda. University of Virginia Professor James Ceaser (via Powerline finds that “in Obama’s eloquence,” the “conventional litany of liberal Democratic programs . . . achieves almost a moral and spiritual dimension.”
Last night, I read the Illinois Senator’s 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention and found it remarkably devoid of substance. Contrast that with another speech which helped secure a politician’s rise to national prominence–Ronald Reagan’s October 1964 speech backing Barry Goldwater’s presidential bid. Each speech served (ostensibly) to promote a candidate challenging an incumbent president of the United States.
Where Reagan made specific criticisms of the ever-growing power of the state and offered an antidote–containing the size of government, Obama offered his own biography and vague notions about what John Kerry believed. The Gipper hardly addressed his own biography except to say that he was a “former Democrat.”
To be sure, Senator Obama has a compelling personal story. But, that story does not show how he has gained the qualifications — or the ideas — to lead the free world. To be sure, it does show how he developed his sense of optimism, why he has so much hope for our nation and its future.
As I look at Democrats becoming all googly-eyed over the man, I wonder yet again what so many on the left seem to mistake charisma for substance. Back in 1960, John Kennedy offered little more than a more eloquent restatement of the ideas of Cold War liberalism. Before he became president, Jimmy Carter actually did have an engaging presence. Bill Clinton wowed audience with his charm.
Senator Obama is an optimistic man and a compelling public speaker. But, scratch the surface and we see little more than hopeful platitudes and traditional liberal ideas.
Post-partisan Obama may claim to be, but Mitt Romney, his potential rival this fall, defined by the editors of the National Review as a “full-spectrum conservative,” has actually accomplished “landmark” bipartisan reform. Together with the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature of Massachusetts, he enacted speaking health care reform, an issue near and dear to the heart of many on the left. This is not to endorse the merits of this policy, but merely to note that he has done something in a bi-partisan manner. But, the media does not treat Governor Romney is as glowing terms as it does Senator Obama.
But, that’s because Romney is not a Democrat. And Obama is. While that good man has a compelling personal story, an engaging presence and a gift with words, he has not accomplished all that much in his political career (beyond winning elections and delivering eloquent speeches) nor has promoted many new ideas. And yet the Democrats are enamored with him. Just as those on the left have been enamored in the past with other charismatic candidates and leaders, believing their charisma alone makes them agents of change.
And I wonder why.