Facing Facts

/ 7 September 2008

An email exchange got me rolling this morning and I thought I’d share it here. It started when Mary quoted the Wikipedia to illuminate Barak Obama’s community organizing accomplishments.

After four years in New York City, Obama moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer for three years from June 1985 to May 1988 as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization originally comprising eight Catholic parishes in Greater Roseland (Roseland, West Pullman, and Riverdale) on Chicago’s far South Side.[12][14] During his three years as the DCP’s director, its staff grew from 1 to 13 and its annual budget grew from $70,000 to $400,000, with accomplishments including helping set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organization in Altgeld Gardens.[15]

Her respondent replied…

Thank you for your response by sending the info from Wikipedia. I will make an attempt to look into it. As you know, Wikipedia, is kind of a community organized “encyclopedia” is not the last word on anything because anybody who reads it can make changes in its content. There is no final word in Wikipedia. I’m sure that you have other more reliable sources that you could send me. In the meantime I will assume that what you sent me is accurate.

As far as your other remark about “executive experience” is concerned, perhaps we should have an understanding of the definition of terms. An executive is someone who makes decisions and is ultimately responsible for those decisions which effect numerous people. The ultimate executive in the country is the president; in a state is the governor; in a city is the mayor. Every executive has a sign on his desk, whether he or she likes it or not, THE BUCK STOPS HERE. Obama has not had that kind of experience yet. Obama has a public voting record of what he did as a state senator. We all know how he voted on 130 occasions. An executive does not have that luxury.

The commander of a large air wing does have to make executive decisions on a daily basis.

Actually, I’d suggest that the Wikipedia is one of the most reliable sources you can reference. It is well “policed” by it’s community and has strict rules on citation. Especially controversial articles, like the Obama article, get especially good attention.

The passage Mary quoted includes citations for all its facts from Who’s Who in America, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the New Republic, the Boston Globe, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, to name just a few. You are welcome to indulge in “data free research” (as my mom calls it) to form your opinions, but if you want a bit of data, the Wikipedia is not a bad place to start, as long as you don’t allow it to become your exclusive source.

As to executive ability: I’d agree, the good executives have a sign like “the buck stops here” on there desks. The better execs even mean it. But I’d say that one of the most “experienced” execs in the country would be George Bush, and he is anything but a buck-stops-here kind of guy. He’s more a blame-the-other-guy kind of executive. His excuses range from “poor intelligence” to “evil left wing media” and he wriggles out of any blame for any mistake. No decent exec is going to avoid making mistakes, but the best seek out strong insight into the reality of the situation around them and own their errors when they make them, adjusting strategy as required. “Experience” does not tell you much about how one will perform in an office like the presidency. Besides which, McCain has no more executive “experience” than Obama, so the point is rather moot. In fact, in the one executive role we can compare side by side, how they run their presidential campaigns, it is pretty clear that Obama is by far the more gifted executive.

I believe the more urgent point is which candidate is really willing to look at the world as it really is and find the best course for America in that world. The Bush administration has operated as though the lies it tells itself and us will become truth through repetition. Then they make decisions based on those lies which end up being incredibly wrong-headed. Fiction does not become truth through repetition. McCain seems happy to do the same, and his latest decision (Palin) is just more of the same. He can repeat as often as he like that she is qualified to be president, but you have to have pretty big blinders on to buy that fiction. If you like living in a fairy tale world where America is always number one and the rest of the world always bends to our will even if the message is being carried by a gifted hockey-mom who believes we are on a mission from God, by all means, vote McCain, he’s your man.

But if you think we need to adjust our world-view a bit, to consult real experts in foreign policy, to be nimble on our feet when dealing with real foreign power, ready to adjust strategy and consider alternatives, then you should be considering the qualities Obama has displayed during this long campaign and career. He is not afraid to face the real world, he is not afraid to draw the “best and brightest” around him, he is not even afraid to change is mind and choose the best path that presents itself at a given time. He will build a real “administration” not just a White House desperately managing a message. He will bring new blood to Washington that will help guide our government to a wiser course. He does not propose to do this alone, this campaign is not about him or McCain: it is about us and how ready we are to roll up our sleeves, face the real world, and work to change the course of our country.

We can start by facing facts, like those in the Wikipedia.

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