barack obama 298 88.
(photo credit: obama.senate.gov)
The announcement by Barak Hussein Obama that he established a presidential exploratory committee created the expected furor in the media, as he is an African-American from humble backgrounds that has "made it."
Obama's star has been rising in the media since he made a speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention that captivated the audience. However, once one moves beyond the media hype, the chances of an Obama success in 2008 range from the remote to the impossible, as he lacks national and international experience and is far too liberal for mainstream American society.
Obama entered national US politics two years ago, when he moved from Springfield to Washington as the junior senator for his state, after spending seven years in the Illinois State senate. His time in Springfield and his career as a civil rights lawyer never prepared him for the challenges of being the leader of the free world and a multicultural society.
In the US Senate, he sits on four key committees: the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Although these committees are important, they would not imbue him with the necessary level of experience required of a president. Moreover, if Obama were to run in 2008, he would be spending much of his time on the road campaigning and therefore missing important debates, which are central in educating one as to the intricacies of US foreign policy.
Obama's second shortcoming is his ideological leaning. He prides himself on being a liberal, which helped him win his Senate seat, but mainstream American society is inherently conservative. Americans have traditionally resisted liberals, as Edmund Muskie found out in 1972 and Walter Mondale in 1984. Even Bill Clinton realized this and as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, he sought to move the Democratic Party to the center.
In the 2006 congressional elections, a number of Democrats won because they showed themselves to be conservatives - fiscally, socially or both, as was the case with Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Obama simply lacks this conservative base, which would make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to win in the crucial Midwest, where there is a strong conservative tradition.
A third weakness is Obama's admission to using cocaine in the past. The United States government spends over $33 billion annually on prohibition enforcement in its "war on drugs" and arrests more than 1.5 million people a year on drug-related charges. Socially conservative Americans, both Democrat and Republican, are unlikely to vote for a man that has admitted to not only using drugs but to using cocaine, a class II drug.
Overall, Obama has far too many weaknesses that an effective Republican campaign could and would exploit beyond his name - one media outlet has already made the mistake of using "Osama" rather than "Obama."
American society is coming around to the notion of a leader from a minority group, especially as minorities are attaining high-flying positions in American politics like Supreme Court judges, secretaries of state, attorneys-general, etc.
However, with international relations becoming increasingly complex due to the war on terror, the threat of nuclear proliferation, China and Asia's rise and Europe's decline, environmental damage and an HIV pandemic decimating an entire generation of Africans, the world requires a candidate with the experience, knowledge and proven ability to lead. Obama, for the near future, lacks these skills, and that is why for 2008 he would be the wrong choice. But once he gains the aforementioned skills, the dream of Obama could turn into reality.
Dr. Isaac Kfir lectures on International Relations at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.