Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Foolish Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of US Politics

With Mike Gravel off the radar now even on left-liberal media, I'm pretty much firmly in the Obama camp. Clinton's advantage in being able to keep America on a steady course amounts to the captain's promising to steer the Titanic steadily on a downwards course.

If all I wanted was more of the same old same old, with a makeover, I would vote for McCain and send him a Judith Leiber handbag.

As it stands, Obama's arrogance and bible-flavored oratory may well land the nation in a pile of shit, but, after eight years of W, at least this shit will be fresh.

What I don't get is the talk about consistency.

For instance, it's been noted that Obama has been inconsistent in statements about his relationship with his pastor or in his own views about the state of Israel--I ask you, at what point precisely has criticism of Israel's policies been equivalent to anti-Semitism? and at what point did we vote to include "guilt by association" as valid logical proof?

And where then is the admiration for George W. Bush's consistency? He's consistently been wrong every day he has served as President.

And if Obama is as big a liar as Bush ... or Clinton or McCain, I just don't see it. That case has yet to be made. But nitpicking over changes in wording or emphasis is inadequate support for such a charge.

Inconsistency is bad when its purpose is to deceive, to obfuscate, to defy logic and reason, or merely to butter up a skeptical audience.

But what intelligent person does not occasionally change his or her mind--when new evidence is presented? or when past decisions prove to be wrong? or when the present course of action is no longer feasible?

American politics is supposed to be based on compromise and collaboration--between balanced powers of government--to work out syntheses through (ideally) fair argument or (realistically) political pressure.

What Senator has been consistent ... ever? The ability to compromise and collaborate is what usually makes a Senator or other member of Congress a better leader of the nation than experience as a CEO, governor, or military officer--where unilateral orders are given and meant to be obeyed unquestioningly, and mistakes are resolved by asking subordinates to fall on their swords.

A Senator supposedly is someone who understands strategy and diplomacy, who respects and values differences of opinion, who has mastered rhetoric, who makes judgments based on consideration of the best opinions and evidence available--whose whole career has been to represent and benefit a constituency.

In the current campaign, Obama shows the most strengths in these areas. His so-called "inconsistencies" are a combination of some real, troubling self-contradictions, to be sure, together with an honest, responsible willingness to compromise, openness and responsiveness to criticism, and flexibility.

So, by all means, question Obama's and the other candidates' judgment, experience, vision, honesty, and administrative abilities, but, unless it clearly affects one of these--or raises points of concern strongly established on other forms of evidence, let's leave the candidates' little inconsistencies out of the argument.

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