Two weeks ago, as presidential candidate hopeful Barack Obama visited Pittsburgh, the word seemingly at the tip of Obama supporters’ tongues was “change.” As he spoke at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, kicking off his “Road to Change” tour, Obama said, “The only way change is going to happen is if we change how business is done in Washington. It’s not enough just to change political parties in the White House, we’ve gotta change how business is done.” While this language sounds promising, his speech was sorely lacking on specific plans to promote such change. Obama’s supporters don’t seem to actually know what would be changed were he elected president.
The word “change” alone means nothing until backed by policies that will truly institute change. Here, Obama is lacking. His eloquent but empty calls for change are persuasive and inspiring, but I implore his supporters to look beyond his rhetoric.
The only thing worse than hearing the word “change” a superfluous amount of times in Obama’s speeches is his ability to skirt around actual issues. Obama’s argument that there are no Democratic or Republican solutions — just American ones — is, stripped down, a great way to say nothing. When one looks beyond the fact that he is skilled orator, Obama’s presidential platform becomes a lot less impressive.
Take health care. Like he insists presidential platforms should be, Obama’s plan is neither Democratic nor Republican; it is best characterized as unlikely to work. He wants the government to help, but not force, citizens to buy health care coverage. That means that a healthy person could theoretically avoid paying into the system until becoming sick, then buy in and use the resources of other citizens who have been contributing all along to subsidize their medical care. Obama’s health care plan is a setup for failure. Is this the kind of “change” our country needs?
It takes more than a persuasive rhetoric to be president. My question to Obama supporters is, What qualifies Barack Obama to be commander-in-chief? Is it his two years in the Senate? Or is it the seven years he spent in the political hotbed of the Illinois State Senate?
A candidate must have accomplished something before getting my vote for president. Barack Obama has not accomplished anything substantial in the Senate, has not sponsored a major piece of legislation, and has no executive experience. This is a problem, considering that he’s running for the office of the chief executive of our country. Experience is needed before assuming this role, as the office of the president is not somewhere to be learning on the job, but rather, to be employing already-learned knowledge. I fear that the former is exactly what Obama would be doing.
When Obama speaks, it’s easy to see why people like him. He is a skilled orator, and he has written two New York Times bestsellers. When he speaks, we listen. However, I’m just not sure we’re hearing anything worth listening to.
Tarun Bhan, H&SS 2009