Sunday, October 19, 2008

The really right answer

In Colin Powell's notable endorsement of Barack Obama, I was struck by Powell's comments on his party colleagues who claim or insinuate that Obama is a Muslim.

Powell comments, "The correct answer is, 'He's not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian'. But the really right answer is, "What if he is?' Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is 'No', that's not America." He goes on to ask what sort of a message they want to send a 7-year-old Muslim kid who dreams of being President, or for that matter the several genuine Muslim American soldiers who have fought and been killed for America.

Indeed, that's the "really right answer", and it is not an answer the Obama campaign has offered, as far as I have seen. Political expediency, no doubt. But I am curious to see what an Obama administration really turns out to be like, should he win on November 4, as almost all polls now predict. Will he be an improvement, or even a change (his favourite word), from the Bush or Clinton administrations in any notable sense?


gaddeswarup said...

May be Obama is an agnostic (his mother was an atheist or agnostic) and at some stage in Chicago saw religion is useful for social cohesion and action. From his first book, it appears that he is very conscious of his heritage. From his second book, it seems that he wants to be concensus builder. So, it seems that there will be lots of compromises if he is president. I like the fact that he did not drop his middle name and may be there is a bit more to him than just a ploitician.

km said...

A President is only as good as the people he surrounds himself with. Obama's crew has shown exceptional organizational skills. So hopefully, that will carry over to the WH in January.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rahul, in thinking it over, I believe it's an answer Obama personally should not offer. (Someone in his campaign, maybe, but I'm not convinced there either).

I think for the person concerned there's no way to answer such an insinuation without digging deeper into the mire. Obama says "I'm not Muslim, I'm Christian" -- and that might be interpreted as a not-so-subtle dissociation from Muslims. He asks "What if I was a Muslim anyway?" as Powell asked, and the insinuators will say "see, he is a Muslim".

So I think the best course for such remarks is for Obama to ignore them, as he has done, and hope that somebody else, like Powell, will stand up and say the right thing.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Dilip - well, Obama has answered it. And so has a campaign-run site. Both the answers were correct, but were not "the really right answer".

gaddeswarup, km -- while Obama seems to be a different kind of politician, I'm not as optimistic as you. He has shown a tendency to backtrack and choose the easier, rather than the more principled stand, with little justification (see here for a detailed document of one of the worst examples, just a few months ago).

There is also the time he went far beyond the official US (including Bush admin) policy on Jerusalem, by declaring that an undivided Jerusalem should be Israel's capital. (He sort of backtracked later but didn't make himself clear: either he is confused, or he did not want to alienate extremist Jews by making himself clear.)

Of course, he has also sometimes gone the other way, like refusing to support the absurd "tax holiday on gas in the summer" that both Hillary Clinton and McCain supported. I believe he does have principles, even if he is a politician first. Hopefully the principles will surface when he is in office.

km said...

Rahul: I am only mildly optimistic. I certainly don't buy into the mystique.

All I know is, his campaign is a tight-run ship and that should qualify for *something* post-January. (Then again, even Dub's campaigns were exceptionally run...)

gaddeswarup said...

Though I liked his first book, I am not an Obama fan. I think that if Obama wins, it will be 'USA as usual' before Bush Jr. May be a bit weaker.

Anonymous said...

Here is a letter from Obama regarding his Muslim heritage and how he relates to Muslims which does not seem to have been printed in the Western media.


Rahul Siddharthan said...

Kapil - shh, Limbaugh will hear you.

More seriously, that was an excellent article and I wish he spoke that way to American audiences too.

gaddeswarup said...

That letter may be fake. See
this and