||[Feb. 14th, 2008|08:08 am]
I noticed that the pro-Hillary people criticize Barack Obama for being 'vague'. This article from Salon, titled 'Nouvelle Vague'* that discusses his 'vague-ness.' It isn't a hatchet job but it commits the fallacy that all these vague-sayers commit -- no research.|
I actually did some research. Guess what? Barack's position are described his on his web site and are every bit as detailed as Hillary's. Furthermore, my son Sean worked the phones and door-to-door canvassing for Barack in Iowa, and he said in e-mail "When I was working for the campaign, they had a database of 300 different 2 page policy papers explaining his positions on any number of VERY obscure issues, from global warming to biofuels to asian and pacific islanders indigenous rights (serious... i'm not making that up). Not to mention, he has a book of policy ideas 60 pages long publicly available if you are smart enough to [...] open .pdf files..."
Am I wrong to think that people complaining about Barack's vagueness haven't actually looked anywhere to find out specifics about what he's proposing? Can people distinguish between a policy paper and a stump speech?
Stump speeches are what they are. They're usually not specifics on policy -- they're meant to inspire and persuade. I've watched Hillary's stump speech, and I've watched Barack's. Hillary's speech is a laundry list of things she's going to do for people, 90% of which will probably never come to pass, some of which she as President doesn't even have any authority to
accomplish. Barack's speech is a lot more about the way he wants to change the political process, how he wants to restore a government and politics that people can believe in. He touches on the issues, but he doesn't pretend to be Santa Claus the way she does.
Hillary's speeches are in my opinion, tepid, windy, and insincere. Barack's are riveting. To say he's not specific is to criticize him for being good at public speaking, and focusing (properly) on persuasion and inspiration. Most people don't give a flying fuck about the specifics of policy statements, and a president's policy positions go out the window once hey're elected anyway. The only thing you can hope to get out of seeing a few speeches is a gut feeling about the content of the candidate's character.
Which is a long way of saying the 'vague' argument against Obama is bullshit. It's seeking to punish him for effectively calibrating his stump speech, and being really good at delivering it. It also points out the laziness some people approach political decisions. President Bush, with his mendaciousness and unerring instinct for choosing disastrous courses of action, has taught Americans an important lesson: politics matter. It's about time people took their politics seriously.
*Nouvell Vague is a misused phrase in this context. 'Nouvelle Vague' is the French term for the cinematic New Wave, and has nothing to do with how an English speaker understands 'vague.' Yet more gratuitous imprecision.