Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why Isn't Obama Telling People What They Want to Hear?

If you look back at popular leaders they seem to have common attributes: charm, charisma, communicative skills and the ability to please most seem to be necessary prerequisites for political success. But, unlike these leaders, Senator Barack Obama is usually characterized as being somber, frank and forthright. He seems to have very little interest in tapering his approach. Many believe this might just cost him the election.

Obama himself has said that many of his speeches and policies are less “…applause lines… and more of an eat your spinach approach.” At times this approach is so frank that he leaves many in his audience uncomfortable. But after four years of dissatisfaction with the current administration, which has led to a rather disenchanted population and increased political lethargy, Obama’s straightforward approach might be exactly what is necessary.

Some of the most popular issues of the 2008 election are the defense budget, the environment and education reform. On all of these issues Obama, while he may not be telling people what they want to hear, still maintains typical popular “American” ideology.

He’s a supporter of increased defense spending as a means of replacing equipment that has been depleted by the war and the rebuilding of the active force. Additionally he proposes expanding TRICARE eligibility and the reduction of TRICARE premiums to improve access to health care.

While making a speech in front of the Detroit Economic Club he did not help his chances of winning endorsement from the big unions as he audaciously stated that any aid Washington gives the auto makers for their soaring health care costs should be tied to improving fuel efficiency. Obama seems to be very stern when it comes to the environment irrespective of audience. Some of his main policies regarding the environment include measures to reduce the greenhouse effect (Climate Stewartship Act, Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act). His Healthy Community Act and Healthy Places Act are a testament to his experience working in lower income communities and his understanding of their needs.

Obama also is a supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act, which proposes that schools that fail to show progress face cut-offs in public funding, and an absurd $800 increase in federal aid to college students—The HOPE Act—that increases the Pell Grant from $4, 300 to $5,100. Nevertheless Obama agrees that while NCLB “left the money behind” in some aspects it increases accountability and as such should be continued but in a modified version. He proposes grants to schools that show innovation in educational approach and increased pay (10-20%) of high-performing teachers.

Obama is quoted as saying “there’s got to be some element of truth-telling in this years campaign…the problems we face are too tough to try to finesse. If we do that, then we may win an election but we won’t solve the problems.” We can’t help but wonder if America is ready for such honesty.

- Nadja Briscoe

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