Reader Essequibo (of Bougie Black Boy and Travlin All Alone) wondered how Obama's career might fare if he spoke out as forcefully as this at home. When I consider Obama's career and public rhetoric so far, I'd say that he has often spoken out, sometimes on very high-profile issues, such as when he was one of the first US Senators to speak out forcefully on the Hurricane Katrina disaster. He has also repeatedly and publicly criticized the Bush administration's Iraq policies, and was one of the first among the Senate Democrats in opposing the awful Social Security privatization scheme. At the same time, it's apparent to me that since taking his seat Obama has tended to be cautious and somewhat calculating, which I think arises out of his desire to maintain his national stature and popularity, which continues in spite of a few rough patches, and his high popularity and political influence in Illinois, which hasn't diminished at all. Despite public displeasure with Congress, Obama still has one of the highest approval ratings (70%) of any member of the Senate of either party, and his statewide appeal has held even outside the left-leaning Chicagoland metropolitan area. He has also been careful, despite criticisms of the Bush administration, to publicly maintain working relationships with Republican colleagues, much more so than Illinois's other Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin (who has been frequently reviled on the right), in order to have influence despite the Democrats' lack of power, and in order to craft useful bipartisan legislation, such as the recent bill he cosponsored with ultraconservative Senator Dr. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would allow public scrutiny of federal spending. This progressive legislation proved so threatening that two senior senators, Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, put secret blocks on it (Byrd relented and admitted he'd done so, after Stevens was unmasked).
If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, which is looking a bit dicey but not improbable, I foresee Obama becoming even more outspoken as he takes a high-profile leadership position. This would prime his way for a national run, perhaps for 2012. But if the Senate ends up with a closer margin, say 51-49 or 50-50, then Obama's public moderation and bipartisan cast would still mean considerable power and influence, especially with moderate Republicans, in thwarting the right wing of that legislative body's and the Bush administration's regular excesses. So all in all, I think he knows what he's doing, and his recent performance in Kenya was of a piece with this. I say this not cynically, but in appreciation for his skill as a politician.
Here's the post from the comment section:
Government Of Kenya said...
Senator Barack Obama indicated that he was visiting Africa to help nurture relations between the continent and the United States. His mission, therefore, was warmly welcomed by the Government and the people of Kenya. The fact that he has roots in Kenya endeared him to the people of this country.
However, during his public address at the University of Nairobi, Senator Obama made extremely disturbing statements on issues which it is clear, he was very poorly informed, and on which he chose to lecture the Government and the people of Kenya on how to manage our country.
We would like to make the following facts clear:
a) Kenya is no less vulnerable to terrorism than the United States or any other country. Kenya has in the past suffered incidents of terrorism because of our friendship with the United States and not because as a people, we are less efficient in the management of our security. Indeed, his own country and other countries with higher levels of development, have had more incidences of terrorism despite their sophisticated security systems. Therefore, blaming terrorist attacks in Kenya on possible corruption is highly misplaced and insincere. Using his logic, then, it follows that the terrorist attacks in the United States and other countries are as a result of corrupt border and customs police in his own country and other countries which have experienced incidents of terrorism.
b) The allegation that wanted Rwandese genocide fugitive Felicen Kabuga may have purchased safe haven in Kenya is an insult to the people of this country and negates the fact that Kenya, Rwanda and the United Nations have an excellent track record in collaboration in the search and apprehending of Rwandese suspects. This country has turned over to the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda the highest number of genocidal suspects for trial. For that reason also, this country cannot be a safe haven for any genocide suspect and especially Kabuga. If it was an issue of corruption money, as Senator Obama states, then the bounty of US$5 million (Kshs 365 million) being offered by the United States for the apprehension of Kabuga, would be irresistible to the alleged corrupt police. If anybody knows where Kabuga is, this Government would like to know so that we can apprehend him immediately and hand him over to the tribunal.
c) Senator Obama enjoyed the vibrant freedom of expression and wide democratic space existing in this country, during his tour. Instead of acknowledging this big leap in this country, he chose to dwell on none issues as far as the governance of this country is concerned. He ignored the fact that strengthening of democracy and institutions of Governance has been the strongest thrust of this Government. Today, every Kenyan can openly talk about and address issues of corruption without fear and associate himself or herself to any political party he or she chooses. Bold decisions have made to bring down the rate of corruption with great success. For example, the success in our fighting corruption is evidenced by the fact that Kenya is one of the best performing countries in Africa in the collection of public revenue and the economy has had a turn-around from near zero percent (0%), three years ago, to about six percent (6%) economic growth today. This cannot be achieved in a country, which Senator Obama says, is experiencing a “corruption crisis.”
d) Senator Obama also trivialized the harmony and peaceful co-existence that exists between different ethnic groups and races that live in this country, and chose to magnify tribalism as a major problem in this country.
During Senator Obama’s visit, the Government spared no effort in making his stay and travel all over the country enjoyable and fulfilling. Senator Barack Obama is welcome to come again to learn more about the country, the Government and the people of this country.