I just finished watching what was billed as a “major foreign policy speech” by Senator Obama. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t intended to watch the speech, preferring instead to read the transcripts anytime either candidate, but particularly Obama, delivers a speech. Reading the text of the speech seems to be more satisfying and enlightening than watching the actual delivery. It’s also part of my survival strategy.
I worry about falling under Obama’s spell if I spend too much time actually gazing at him while he talks. It’s an irrational fear I suppose, but I’m afraid that if I watch too many of his speeches, one day I’ll wake up and be one of those Obamatrons that I currently spend all my daylight hours trying to avoid.
Once that happens I’ll be doomed to walk the Earth muttering about change and new political landscapes. I’ll spend hours each day attending reeducation camp where I’ll realize the evils of free markets and personal responsibility and extol the glories of big government. My evenings will be spent writing a liberal blog with a hip name like crunchypolitiking.org and editing my Facebook page, adding other Obamatrons as friends til’ my social network exceeds the population of China.
As with all good zombie scenarios, we Obamatrons will feed off of the Unchanged, those who, for reasons unknown to science and pollsters, are immune to Obama’s incantations. I suspect that someone, possibly looking a lot like the late Charlton Heston, will eventually discover an antidote allowing Obamatrons to become human again. Each Obamatron will have to receive a series of painful shots of reality, administered over a period of four years… but eventually the zombie nation will be defeated. That is my nightmare.
But back to the beginning. I watched this morning’s major foreign policy speech by Obama because it was the only thing playing on the little seatback television on my airline flight to New York City. Other passengers, really lucky passengers, had some 36 channels to choose from and spent the flight surfing from Spongebob to ESPN to the History Channel. My television on the other hand refused to play anything other than a news channel which at that moment was busy showing Obama’s speech.
Lucky for me, after the speech came a panel of experts who excitedly dissected the speech, explaining to my simple mind what it was that had been said and how I should feel about it. This completely removed the need for me to do any thinking, which of course feeds right into my zombie theory.
Life kept getting better as, after the panel, I was treated to a Democratic Senator extolling the virtues of Obama’s speech, followed by a Republican Senator who explained we would all go to hell in a handbasket if we left foreign policy up to Obama.
Finally, because God has quite the sense of humor, the only working channel on my television replayed a highlights reel of the speech while a pollster quizzed a roomful of Obamatrons about their reactions to his statements. I’m not sure when I actively started wishing for an emergency water landing, but it was sometime during the pollster’s segment.
Never has a flight seemed so long. On the positive side though, I now have a better understanding of what Obama will do for us during his first term as president. I have this understanding because I made a list of things that he said he’ll do during his first four years. Let’s review:
1. End the war in Iraq.
2. Ensure the Iraqi army and police can take care of things on their own.
3. Bring together all of Iraq’s neighbors in a coalition to help Iraq.
4. Get all the Arab nations to open embassies in Baghdad.
5. Defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
6. Make the Pakistani Government take responsibility for extremism and clean up the mess along the border.
7. Take care of Bin Ladin if we find him in Pakistan, by golly.
8. Increase non-military aid to Pakistan but only if they clean up the mess.
9. Increase aid to Afghanistan so they can be happy.
10. Double U.S. foreign assistance by the year 2012 to make Africa, the Middle East and Asia happy.
11. Solve the Iran situation.
12. Make the U.N. “more perfect.”
13. Get China to work with us on important issues.
14. Improve relations with all the people of the world.
15. Gather up all the loose and non-secured nuclear materials around the world to keep them away from evil-doers.
16. End U.S. dependence on oil.
17. Save the world by preventing the dangerous effects of climate change.
I may, or may not, have included all the really big ticket items, I was having a hard time focusing as the speech went on. Honestly, at first I was skeptical… lot’s of promises to do really difficult things and no explanation as to how they would be accomplished, except for occasionally mentioning a billion here or there in additional spending.
Of course, promising to make the world an excellent place and to solve all the messy problems is what politicians do. Obama shouldn’t be held to a different standard just because he and the Obamatrons position him as a new kind of guy devoid of the usual political grandstanding. You know, I was just about to type 'What a load of crap,' when something kept me from reaching for the PWB’s trademark phrase. Odd.
So as I watched the senator’s Christmas list to Santa grow during the course of his speech, I found myself thinking “huh, that’s some list.” I have deep thoughts like that on occasion. But instead of my usual scoffing, which in all honesty can sometimes be a little irritating according to people in my scoff zone, I admit to being somewhat impressed with the sheer scope of the promise-a-thon I was watching.
This wasn’t the usual litany of items that we’re accustomed to seeing like “If elected I’ll work with our allies to resolve crisis X” or “In my first term I’ll announce an initiative to develop Project Y." By the way, while I can’t provide specific details, there really is a crisis X and it’s not good.
No, Obama was delivering something else entirely. Item #17 above is a good example… I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a candidate say he would save the planet during his first term. That’s some pretty cool stuff, especially if he wears a cape and some boots while stopping the impact of climate change. I’ll stop short of saying he should wear his underpants outside his trousers. It is the office of the President after all.
Item #16, ending our dependence on oil…excellent. I may be mistaken, but I thought I heard him say that “I’ll” end the tyranny of oil and break the kung-fu grip of OPEC on us all. Part of that plan is to spend $15 billion dollars a year on an initiative to develop alternative fuel sources. And I thought I heard him say we’d reduce our emissions by 80 percent at some point. How can you not get behind that kind of emissions reduction?
He almost lost me for a moment with item #12. He called the U.N. “imperfect” but then said he’d work to make it “more perfect." Personally, if I was the candidate, I’d simply say I’d work to make it less of an ineffective, fraud-ridden, radical leaning tool of countries that actively dislike the U.S. But “more perfect” is another way to put it I suppose.
It all started making sense to me round about the third time I watched the highlights from the speech. I’m not sure what I was thinking before, but you can’t argue with a list of planned achievements like that. I mean, who doesn’t want peace in the Middle East, a happy Afghanistan, a Pakistan that really takes the extremist problem seriously, freedom from the tyranny of oil, a safe world free of loose nukes, the love and respect of the global community and polar bears.
I know I do. Change, that’s what I’m talking about. Living in a new political landscape where red and blue states disappear and we all pull together for the common good. It’s all coming together now. Not sure why I couldn’t see it before.
I’d write more but me and some of my new friends are late for our camp class on socialized medicine.
Till next week, stay safe.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant, writer and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures and two new BBC drama series finishing production in the U.K.