A New American Face
Monday, January 19, 2009
The CBS/New York Times poll released last week said that 58 percent of respondents who voted for John McCain have an optimistic feeling about Barack Obama -- and are hopeful that he will have a successful presidency. I share the sentiment myself as one of the so-called Obama-cons. In a previous life in the political world, I worked for the Republican National Committee and was also a staffer for former Speaker Newt Gingrich. For a variety of reasons, I became disaffected with the Bush administration.
There are even more complicated reasons for why I ended up deciding to vote for Barack Obama. It's certainly more personal than ideological. We traveled parallel paths growing up: He is only a couple years older than I am. I was born to a single mother who moved us from Trinidad to the UK when I was a year old. In England, I was partly raised by older white foster parents. After seven years, my Mom and I moved to New York when she - a nurse -- got a job with Mount Sinai. Despite the sadness of leaving my foster parents, coming to the US was a great thing and opened up my life in ways that I can't begin to imagine. And so, on a non-ideological basis, I "get" Barack Obama. Trinidad-UK-US isn't quite as exotic a trifecta of influences as Hawaii (by way of Kansas) and Indonesia, but it's not the most "normal" of childhoods either. Thus, I'm not ethnically biracial, but I am culturally.
So, while not exactly walking in Obama's shoes, I understand some of the pathways that he's trod. We have a different partisan outlook, but I've been pleasantly impressed with his speaking out on the issue of black family dysfunction. And, he doesn't come to the issue as an outsider -- or because it's a politically salient one for a black candidate appealing to white audiences. No, this comes from his heart; it's part of his first biography. Of course, a president can only do so much, but it will be interesting to see what long-term impact the example of an intact black family might have on the broader African-American community.
As far as the pressing issues of the day go, my conservative sensibility remains horrified at the idea of a stimulus package that will be in the neighborhood of $900 billion. Alas, Republicans haven't exactly been austere stewards of the federal fisc in recent years. House Republican Leader John Boehner's Gossip Girl-esque "Oh my God" reaction to the Democrats initial stimulus bill was rather amusing; but really, Mr. Boehner, is the GOP now suddenly going to reclaim its fiscal-conservative virginity?
Be that as it may, President-elect Obama appears to be smart -- intellectually, as well as politically. I am hopeful that his basic insights are strong enough that he will realize that $2 trillion deficits are not sustainable. And China is beginning to lose its appetite for our debt.
Regardless, shortly after noon on Tuesday, Barack Obama will present to the world a new American face; he will help write the next chapter in the American story.
I'm honored to have him as my president, even as I happily accept my role in challenging him when I believe his policies are not the best for the country.
Robert A. George is an editorial writer with the New York Post and editor of the blog, Ragged Thots. He has also written for National Review, The New Republic Reason and The Huffington Post. A regular political commentator, he has appeared on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CNN Headline News, NPR and other media outlets.