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My conversation with “Harry”*

Just a few moments ago, I had a conversation with a close friend of my Dad, the kind of conversation I kind of hoped this blog — and all such political discourse — might inspire.

Like me, my Dad has a lot of Democratic friends–though he may well have more Republican friends than I.  Over the years, this particular friend has become close to our family, so much so that he’s like an uncle to my siblings and myself.  And when I consider someone avuncular, I mean that as high praise, given the importance I attach to that role in my life.

Anyway, he stopped by the house and we talked about politics.  Knowing my partisan leanings, he asked me what I thought about McCain.  I told him that while Rudy had been my man at the outset of the campaign, I thought our party’s presumptive nominee has turned out to be a better candidate than I had expected and acknowledge he is doing much better as the GOP’s standard bearer than the former New York Mayor would have done.

When Harry criticized Bush, he did not insult the man’s character or intelligence, but claimed he had been poorly served by his advisors.  In this regard, I was harsher on the Republican president than he, saying he had a tendency to hire cronies for certain important posts (naming former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as an example) and faulting him for not removing Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary until right after his reelection.

While offering a harsher assessment of the former Defense Secretary than I, Harry agreed that while he was a decent man, but was misguided on our national security needs.  And I wondered, why do other Democrats have to demonize the man?

I asked him if her were supporting Obama even though the presumptive Democratic nominee had surrounded himself with foreign policy advisors who were overly critical of Israel.  He said he had talked to some prominent Jewish Democrats close to the campaign who had said their man was solid on Israel.

While we had a difference of views on Bush’s record and the presidential contest, we didn’t resort to insult or innuendo (about each other or our respective party’s leaders) to make our points.  Perhaps, our civil exchange so struck me because just moments before Harry passed by, I had read this in a post which neoneocon highlighted on her blog:

So it came as a true shock to me when I began to “come out”—which to the best of my recollection happened in the summer of 2004, around the time the Presidential campaign was heating up—-and discovered the magnitude of the anger in the reactions I got.

While all too many react in anger when learning their friends are Republicans or support Republican candidates and ideas from time to time, this man seemed legitimately interested in my views (and those of my Republican brothers and nephews) even as he disagreed with them.

And I hope he was similarly impressed with my interest in his views.

*not his real name.

Belated Thoughts on Obama’s Presumptuous Berlin Speech

Given my penchant for long essayistic posts, I have delayed posting on this notion that popped into my head when pondering Obama’s recent “fact-finding” trip to the Middle East and Europe. I didn’t really have much more to say that to offer a simple observation on his July 24 speech in Berlin.  

I guess I thought in letting the idea “steep” as I drove across Nevada, Utah and Colorado, something more substantive might come to me.  Nothing really has.

Given the speed with which bloggers and pundits now react and consider events, offering my thoughts now would be like providing commentary on ancient history, but still the thought has stayed with me (even I can’t build upon it).  It should figure in my next post on the shifting dynamics in the presidential race in the past two weeks — which has shown a decline in the standing of the presumptive Democratic nominee.

I have read a lot of great commentary on that speech, most of it critical — and not just from conservatives. Should I get a moment, I’ll try to track down and link the most insightful pieces I have read. Perhaps, it was some of those essays which influenced my own observation.

I offer this observation in the form of several questions: If Senator Obama was traveling abroad on a fact-finding mission, what was he doing delivering a campaign-style speech to an audience most of whom could not vote for him? While other presidential candidates have traveled abroad to burnish their diplomatic credentials, has any ever delivered such a speech?

For rhetorical purposes, I rephrase that first question–how does such a speech facilitate the candidate’s fact-finding? What did he expect to learn by delivering it? What did it accomplish?