Monday, March 31, 2008

The comment that made me support Barack

I was driving home from campus one day back in January and NPR was covering the stories coming from the recent democratic debate in Nevada. One news story of the day was a debate question which asked the candidates to comment on their biggest weakness. It's a question we have all gotten in a job interview and the conundrum is how one should answer it. Do you expose something real about yourself or spin it around by highlighting a "weakness" that is really some desirable trait.

I'm always in favor of a real answer. Why not share some of your faults? We are all human and we all have some shortcomings. What's important is to recognize them and find people who can compliment your own skills and fill in any gaps you might have. Worse is the person who can't recognize their own mistakes or see their own faults. For me, I'm less concerned about the weakness than how he chose to answer the question and, later, deal with the criticism.

On the radio story Barack addressed head on the weakness he admitted in the debate. He has "a messy desk "and "can loose track of details" and "needs good people" to help him. His opponents "get impatient...frustrated when people don't understand...we can do so much more to help each other" and "I sometimes have a powerful emotional response to pain of those around me." When asked about this, Barack stood by his answer and suggested "one of the hallmarks of our campaign is that I actually answer questions honestly and try not to engage in too much spin".

If you want to listen to the clip, the audio from is available here. The core part of the story begins at 3 minutes but the specific section that won me came at 4:50 into the story. The transcript of the key section is attached below.

Also below is a YouTube video from the debate. Listen to the original comments and decide for yourself.

Quoted from NPR website:

Perceived Weakness Obama takes another jab at his rivals when asked about a response he gave to a question at a
recent Democratic debate.

At a debate in Nevada, Obama was asked about his weaknesses. He
confessed that his greatest weakness is a lack of organization — a messy desk
and office. At the debate, Obama answered the question first, followed by
Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC).

"I think Sen. Edwards said he was too passionate about
helping poor people, and Sen. Clinton said she was too impatient to move the
country forward," Obama tells NPR. "I was trying to answer the question
'What's your greatest weakness?' as opposed to 'What's your greatest
strength disguised as a weakness?'"

"I should have said I like to help old ladies across the street," he says.

But Obama says he would not want to redo his response.

"I think one of the hallmarks of our campaign is that I actually answer
questions honestly and try not to engage in too much spin," he says.

This clip is from the debate. If you want to hear Barack's answer and those of the other candidates, fast forward to the 5:40 mark.

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Honey, this guy just started his campaign for president

"Honey, this guy just started his campaign for president...."

I still remember watching the 2004 convention. Barack Obama just finished speaking. I turned to my wife and said the words at the top of this post. No way did I think it would be four years later, but here we are!

I've linked to the video of Barack's speech at the convention. It really captures a big part of why I am supporting him now. Here's just a two of the reasons:

1. He's inspiring
Listen...really take time to listen to him talk. Even if you don't always agree, you can't help but be energized. Do any other candidates offer inspiration like this? Sure, a president needs more than this, but it's a huge start. Rhetoric is the primary tool a president has in interacting with the country and the world. Mastery of this tool can only be a benefit.

2. He wants to do away with the talk of division
Go to the 3 minute mark of the 2nd video and listen to his comments on this issue of divisive politics. He does not engage in the politics of "us" vs. "them" and "me" vs. "you". Save that for any other time you hear him speak. Do you ever here him pit his ideas and opinions against some other labeled group? He won't do it and this is an important first step towards a political environment where we can develop solutions more than 50.1% of the country can agree on.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Why blog on this topic?

Four years ago I spent more time than I care to remember supporting John Kerry's run for president. He lost and I wrote off any further involvement in politics. As the 2008 campaign began - what was it, two maybe three days after the 2004 election - I vowed to keep my time and treasure out of the next race. The money part was easy. In the time since 2004 I've gone back to school to pursue a PhD in management. While the stipend is quite generous compared to many other fields of study, lets just say it doesn't leave much room for me to come anywhere near the campaign donation limits.

But something kept tugging at me. As I listened to the news and read stories on the Internet, I began to see a difference in one of the candidates. A candidate that seemed to represent a different way of thinking than most of those I have seen in my lifetime. This blog will be about highlighting those differences. I will touch on basic things like honesty and straight talk. I will touch on more complex issues such as campaign finance and international relations. I will also address misinformation. I will attempt to support my views with fact, excerpts, and other material. My hope is that you will read the material and form your own conclusions.

I welcome comments and debate on any topic - as that is how our process should work. However, offensive comments, rants, or any other material that doesn't rise to the level of intelligent debate will be deleted.