Sunday, November 02, 2008

Let me buy the next round (or why I am voting for Obama).

If you read Thomas Friedman in the NYT this morning, you know that, in keeping with the editorial principles of the paper, he is not offering an endorsement. Rather he lays out three things to look for in a candidate:

1. We need a president who can speak English and deconstruct and navigate complex issues so Americans can make informed choices.

2. We need a president who can energize, inspire and hold the country together during what will be a very stressful recovery.

3. We need a president who can rally the world to our side.

I agree with him, though I expect that the opinions page editors are probably savvy enough to read between the lines of his "non-endorsement."

But then he says something else: "Please do not vote for the candidate you most want to have a beer with (unless it’s to get stone cold drunk so you don’t have to think about this mess we’re in). Vote for the person you’d most like at your side when you ask your bank manager for an extension on your mortgage."

I started out agreeing with this too, but as I read it aloud to the PP, I changed my mind about the first sentence. The more I thought about it, the more I really, really, really wanted to sit down over pints with Barack Obama. After all, he is an incredibly smart man, and what is more fun than talking about complicated issues with intelligent people? Who really know their stuff? And are very articulate? Furthermore, I expect he'd have one of those wry senses of humor that recognizes what a remarkable mess we find ourselves in, but still retains a glimmer of optimism that there is a way out. And I imagine that talking college hoops with him would be a blast, even if he is not a Heels fan.

Which is to say that we love to imagine the entire electorate as uninformed, uneducated, and afraid of smart people. (Certainly this is not entirely wrong, or the Karl Roves and Sarah Palins of the world would not be so successful.) But if Thomas Jefferson is right that democracy needs an informed electorate, then can't those of us who are trying our darnedest have our little pub-crawling fantasies? In mine, Barack Obama blends into Ciaran Carson, the Belfast poet who I had drinks with this summer (I know--cool, isn't it?) and who, late in the evening, sang two traditional Irish ballads, silencing the pub. And also, Obama is no more able than I am to refuse the increasingly rhetorical arguments of my drinking mates, who have been known to claim, after several rounds of Midleton, that if we do not have one more 15-year-old Bushmills, then we will be undoing the hard work of the Protestant Reformation. And when people get going reciting poetry, Obama listens attentively, and applauds his compatriots, and then when it is his turn he lets loose with some Philip Larkin or Ai or Robert Hass or Lucille Clifton or Sherman Alexie. From time to time he checks the scores on the TVs in the bar, but not at the expense of the banter around him.

In other words, yes, I want the smartest people possible leading our country--regardless of whether I think they would be interesting to know personally. In this case, though, I am not sure these categories are mutually exclusive. And is it so much to ask that there be smart people around to talk to, hang out with, end sentences with prepositions about? I would hate to distract Obama from the issues of state by keeping him out late at the pubs, but from time to time, I would sure love to buy him a pint.


estaminet said...

Amen. And Amen again. May it be so!

Tony Austin said...

Besides wanting a President who could form a sentence without excessive pauses, smirks, and Texas slang, there were these items on George Bush's resume that really annoyed me:

1) 2 Wars
2) Torture of prisoners
3) Guantanamo bay
4) Warrantless wiretaps
5) A housing collapse
6) A financial collapse
7) His veto of stem cell research
8) Ethanol: Feed cars, not people
9) Karl Rove
10) Dick!

Isis said...

I agree, Tony. And when you list it out like that it reminds me what a dud he has been, to put it lightly.