View from the center


By Lynn McKeown


Five reasons why Obama will make a good president


Though anything can happen in politics, it appears that Barack Obama is headed toward election as the  next president of the United States. Here are some  reasons why that would be a  good thing:

Obama has a first class mind. Even many of his “conservative” critics have noted that Obama has outstanding intellectual capability. He has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a graduate degree from Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. Later he was, for a time, a teacher of constitutional law. Intellect isn’t the only important thing for a president, but over the last eight years we’ve seen the problems that come when a president doesn’t have it.

Obama is a moderate liberal democrat with skill at achieving consensus. In recent years we’ve had a situation in American politics where political culture warfare and ideological posturing have led to near paralysis in Congress and American political discussion. Obama has apparently always been someone who worked for consensus and cooperation in any organization, including his work as a community organizer for a group of Chicago churches. The American public, especially that 40% who are “moderate” or “independent,” are sick of the ideological battles and  “wedge issues” that have characterized recent American politics. That is largely the reason why the candidates of both parties, Obama and McCain, turned out to be individuals with reputations for moderation and bipartisan cooperation. (This was also true, to a great extent, of Hillary Clinton.)

Obama is especially suited to lead the U.S. in foreign policy. In his years at Columbia, Obama studied international relations, and anyone listening to him discuss foreign policy issues quickly realizes he is at home in this area, which is of great importance for any president. Again, we have seen over the last eight years the problems that come from a president who does not have a grasp of international affairs (or the wisdom to pick advisors who do). McCain, also, would surely have a better grasp of foreign affairs than Bush, but he has at times (as in his apparent failure to grasp Sunni and Shiite ethnic realities in Iraq) shown vagueness about foreign problems. Some aspects of Obama’s background – his childhood in multicultural Hawaii and Muslim Indonesia, as well as his family ties to Africa and the reality of his color – could be an asset.

Obama is in the great liberal democratic – and Judeo-Christian – tradition of being our brother’s keeper and seeking social justice for all. Though some opponents have tried to make something sinister from Obama’s Arabic-sounding name (he was never a Muslim), he has been a Christian for many years and believes in the Christian tradition of helping the less fortunate. As a wise student of human nature, he seems to see the goodness in everyone but also has an awareness of everyone’s imperfections, including his  own. That awareness also may contribute to the lively sense of humor he often shows. His religious and liberal democratic heritage may also contribute to the air of calmness, hope and optimism he  projects.

Obama comes from a mixed racial background. It’s sometimes said that, if elected, Obama will be the “first black president.” That’s not quite accurate. Obama is the son of a mother of European (white) ancestry and a father who was African (black). He is biracial and grew up in multicultural Hawaii with a few childhood years in Indonesia and subsequent years in a variety of settings in the continental U.S. He seems to have an ability to relate to people of diverse racial, social and ethnic backgrounds. We have had an unhappy past in the U.S. in race  relations. Obama won’t solve all those problems, but his election and his abilities could be a positive factor in that area.

These are a few of the positive qualities Obama could bring to the presidency. He won’t be perfect, won’t solve all our problems and won’t satisfy everyone. But his great popularity is not a fluke. He has qualities, such as those mentioned above, that have struck a chord in the American public. Here’s hoping for the best.