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Obama: Speeches or Solutions?, posted February 15, 2008 at 11:15 AM

Senator Clinton's latest attack on Obama is that he's all speeches and she's all solutions. In effect, she's pulling out the "empty suit" idea which is very easy to paste onto an opponent who is not well known by the electorate. You simply use the unfamiliarity of the candidate as proof that their words are empty and their thoughts meaningless. She says,

Thats the difference between me and my opponent, Clinton said, I offer solutions. Its one thing to get people excited, I want to empower you to live your dreams so we can all go forward together.

Clinton added, Now, over the years, youve heard plenty of promises from plenty of people in plenty of speeches. And some of those speeches were probably pretty good. But speeches dont put food on the table. Speeches dont fill up your tank, or fill your prescription or do anything about that stack of bills that keeps you up at night.

For those who want to get to know Obama better, this fascinating 1995 article in the Chicago Reader shows that Obama's success as a politician is due in large part to the fierce intellect and philosophical ponderings that underlie his speeches. He has built his electoral successes and his legislative successes on a never-wavering grassroots concept of progressive values. He believes in bottom-up democracy, whereby the power lies in the local communities of constituents, not in the elected officials who are supposed to be serving them.

"What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer," he wondered, "as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them? As an elected public official, for instance, I could bring church and community leaders together easier than I could as a community organizer or lawyer. We would come together to form concrete economic development strategies, take advantage of existing laws and structures, and create bridges and bonds within all sectors of the community. We must form grass-root structures that would hold me and other elected officials more accountable for their actions.

"The right wing, the Christian right, has done a good job of building these organizations of accountability, much better than the left or progressive forces have. But it's always easier to organize around intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and false nostalgia. And they also have hijacked the higher moral ground with this language of family values and moral responsibility.

"Now we have to take this same language--these same values that are encouraged within our families--of looking out for one another, of sharing, of sacrificing for each other--and apply them to a larger society. Let's talk about creating a society, not just individual families, based on these values. Right now we have a society that talks about the irresponsibility of teens getting pregnant, not the irresponsibility of a society that fails to educate them to aspire for more."

For those who want policy specifics, you can read this PDF of Obama's positions and policies, and of course take a look at this page of his website. But for those looking for a sense of "who this guy is," for those looking to see past Clinton's "empty suit" rhetoric, for those looking to get a sense of how deeply committed Obama is to progressive values, please take a minute to go to the Chicago Reader and read this 1995 article in its entirety. Short of actually reading his own books, it's the best portrait of the man I've found easily available.


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