Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Top 10 Campaign Moments in 2008

If Letterman can do it, so can I!

10. Hillary Clinton offering her support of Obama at the Democratic Convention

It took her awhile, but she really came through by putting aside their divisions and stepped toward true Democratic unity.

9. McCain's Green Background

As he repeated "That's not change we can believe in." I couldn't take my eyes off the ugly, cheap, puke-green background his people had placed behind him. It was my first, real glimpse at how incompetent his campaign really was.

8. McCain Leaving His Campaign to Deal with The Economy

First McCain stated, "The fundamentals of the economy are strong." Then, he decided to go AWOL from his compaign. I kept repeating to my wife, "It's over. It's over." I wasn't certain how it would play out in the press, but once again he was grasping at straws. It was simply a gimmick, instead of a focused, steady approach towards the economy. Nobody bought the false sincerity of that move.

7. The Katie Couric interviews

Once more, like a moose in the headlights, Sarah Palin utterly proved her ineptitude. She couldn't even list a handful of newspapers he read. As far as her understanding McCain's policies: "I'll get back to ya."

6. SNL

Not only did Tina Fey do a perfect imitation of Palin on Saturday Night Live, the entire show rebooted its hard drive during the primary and presidential campaign seasons. I laughed until I cried - as did millions of Americans. Indeed, I can't help but believe that the totality of the shows had an impact on popular opinion, which ultimately played out at the polls in November.

5. Obama's "Yes, We Can" speech in New Hampshire

I was completely bummed out after Obama lost in New Hampshire, but he lost no time in re-igniting his campaign with a speech that became the anthem for most Americans. It demonstrated Obama could get up off the floor and get back in the mix without losing momentum. YES, WE CAN!

4. Obama's "This is our time" speech in Denver, Colorado

His Democratic nomination speech not only filled a stadium with 80,00 cheering fans, his message kept my eyes off the ugly neoclassical pillars behind him. He sent shivers of hope up my spine!

3. The Debates

Obama was a master with his cool demeanor and Biden touched us all with his emotion-laden comments. McCain seemed ever the fading septuagenarian with his misplaced comments and wandering all over the stage. Palin thought she could win opinion over to her side with a folksy tone and was nothing but cheap and fake. It was hard not to keep score: Obama-Biden 5 McCain-Palin 0

2. Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech in Philadelphia

Jeremiah Wright forced Obama's hand to actually talk about a topic he wanted to avoid: race. The speech was masterly written and powerfully presented. It did not close the door, but instead it gave permission for there to be more conversation on an issue that's divided the American people for all too long.

1. Election night and Obama's Grank Park speech

This was our night, a magical time to celebrate and take notice of what had actually occurred: the election of the first African-American president in the history of the United States of America. Obama's speech pointed out this incredible achievement and let us revel momentarily. He then, in presidential fashion, guided us to a deeper understanding of where things stood. There would be difficulty facing the problems ahead of us, and it would take much time to overcome them. But, then the optimism set in, for he said we needed to do this together, united as Americans. It was truly an evening I will remember for the rest of my life.

Happy New Year!
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The Gaza Mess

The Gaza bombing continues and it doesn't seem that there will be a quick end. The Israelis rejected a truce proposal and Hamas has proven itself to be able to shoot missiles further into Israel than anyone has seen up to now. And the carnage continues...

Nonetheless, in contradiction to yesterday's post, it seems that there have been efforts to bring Hamas and Israel to the table. Europe and the U.S. have been involved in negotiations and put forth the offer to the two parties. Despite President Sarkozy's ambiguous reputation in Europe, he should be commended for taking the risk of encouraging an end to the violence.

What are the sticking points? First, Hamas insists on an immediate and total withdrawal of Israeli defense forces. Second, Israel refuses to back away while Hamas still has the potential for continued missile-launching and -collecting capabilities.

It seems the pressure is mounting for Israel to find some way of bringing a relatively quick end to the fighting. There are both external and internal forces at work, with a long, drawn out war. Or else, as I mentioned yesterday, the public and international fallout could be damaging again.

You would think that parties at war would one day come to their senses and realize that they could cut their losses and sit down at the negotiating table quickly. There has to come a point when they end up there anyhow...

Of course, Obama would also greatly benefit from a quick truce. With all he's go to think about, an end to the Gaza violence would be like Christmas all over again for him.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Welcome Home, Barack!

And Barack Obama thought he had everything under control before he went on vacation. The walks were shoveled, the front porch light was set, and even the kids' rooms were picked up. Just wait til he sees the mess that's waiting for him when he gets back home! Remember, the upstairs bathroom with the finicky hot water? There's now water all over the bathroom floor, down the hallway, and even downstairs dripping through the ceiling onto the new living room carpet.

Israel and the Palestinians are at it again - at least Hamas in the Gaza strip. I can understand that the Israelis would eventually get fed up with the rockets sent their way by Hamas, again and again and again. It's, in fact, what I worried about when,a few days ago, Hamas ended the truce brokered by Egypt.

On the other hand, I can also understand how the Palestinians have gotten tired of living in abject poverty - no trade, little external communication, few opportunities for work, and excluded from virtually any political process beyond their tight borders. Gaza is one of the poorest regions in the world, with few resources available to lift themselves out.

What concerns me is how innocent civilians - on both sides - have suffered while the rest of the world stands by. The Bush administration is useless for anything right now - let alone negotiating a cease fire between Israel and Hamas (whom Bush indirectly helped gain power through democratic elections). The U.N. has threatened to go in - but what can they actually do? The Europeans don't want to put their hands in this hornet's nest. So, everyone waits...while innocent people die.

Remember Georgia this past summer? Immediately, French President Nicholas Sarkozy rolled up his sleeves, flexed his negotiating muscles, and worked out a deal. Months later it remains fragile, but it's held. I ask, "Where are the Europeans? Where are the Americans? Where are the Middle Eastern leaders, who might be able to bring a close to this violence?"

Ironically for Israel, Hamas is bound to gain the most from this tragedy - especially if the Israeli military goes into Gaza and occupies the territory. As long as Hamas survives, they will declare themselves the victors and Arabs and dispossessed people around them around the world will cheer them on. In some ways this is reminiscent of the recent situation between Israel and Hebollah in Lebanon. Israel will, again, only lose in world opinion when they use disproportionate force. But, perhaps that doesn't matter...

So, what will be the ultimate outcome of this disaster? How long will it last? I'm not sure anyone can say, including Hamas forces and the Israeli military, since their job is not to build the peace. Egypt must get involved, and Jordan and Fattah, and, yes, Europe and the United States in order to broker a multilateral deal with both parties. But, since the leadership for such a deal will ultimately come from either the U.S. or Europe, it doesn't seem that anything tangible will be forthcoming soon.

And Obama must have thought he had a lot on his plate with getting his new government up and running, commandeering two wars, bailing out banks, and staunching skyrocketing unemployment.

We know that he has greatness in him, but that doesn't mean he won't have to deal with an unforeseen mess - kind of like the water that now lies on the carpet.

So, Happy New Year, Barack. Welcome Home ;-)

3:30 pm update::: It actually appears that Europe (especially France and Germany), the U.N. and the U.S. have put forward a potential truce that could last 48 hours to give Hamas a chance to retreat. Evidently, their response has been to continue bombing until Israel removes the blockade of Gaza strip and withdraws its forces from the border. Israel has remained firm that they may invade on the ground.

Read here::: We'll continue to follow the story. If a deal is brokered, I will need to post tomorrow with a lot of egg yolk on my face.
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Who Will Be Obama's Spiritual Adviser?

As I follow the Rick Warren controversy, I've begun to be concerned about another ramification of this decision: Will Rick Warren be Barack Obama's White House spiritual adviser, as well?

Billy and son Franklin Graham have had the role of spiritual guide/counselor/adviser for presidents going back to the 1950's. Billy had influence over the inner-most thoughts and emotions of Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Bush I. Franklin had Dubya's ear for both terms. Read The Preacher and The Presidents by Gibbs and Duffy for a full description of these relationships.

Barack Obama was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's southside. Obama removed himself from membership last spring when a video of the church's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, using inflammatory language was uploaded to YouTube. It hit the news, caused Obama great embarrassment and almost brought down his candidacy.

Obama has stated that he and Wright were very close, so if Wright had not caused such a stir, he would probably have been invited to visit for spiritual support of both Obama and his family during their stay in Washington, just as Wright had done in Chicago. That relationship is finished now, however.

I would hope that Rick Warren is not chosen for that role. He is certainly a very powerful Protestant religious leader in our time. Nonetheless, he has also shown himself to be inflexible in accepting all kinds of people and ways of life into his spiritual realm. Particularly, regarding gays and lesbians, he has simply rejected the notion that God's grace has touched them and their relationships as well.

As a Christian, Obama could, at least initially, seek the counsel of many Christian leaders who have shown themselves as having struggled in their relation with the Divine, periods of spiritual darkness, and a variety of issues, such as war and peace, homophobia, poverty, sexism, racism, and economic injustice.

Here are just a few Christian leaders Barack Obama could consult:

Tony Campolo is an evangelical minister and professor at Eastern University, near Philadelphia. His politics are are left of center and opposes gay marriage, yet he shows an ability to dialogue about the issuee. (He and his wife Peggy - a gay-rights activist - have had public debates on the issue.)

Michael Eric Dyson, an ordained minister and sociology professor at Georgetown U., is very vocal and clear concerning justice for all people. He is well-known, especially, for his books and discussions regarding race in America.

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun and is very vocal and active regarding the role of women in the church and the necessity of interfaith communication. She has also written extensively on the spiritual questions of belief and doubt.

Jim Wallis is co-founder of the Sojourners Community, located in Washington, D.C. He is fair-minded and has reached out to and included all kinds of folks into his spiritual movements.

Carolyn Ann Knight, founder of Can Do Ministries in Georgia, is particularly vibrant in meeting the needs of youth and young adults. Voted by Ebony magazine as one of the 15 most-influential African-American female ministers.

The above individuals simply represent the Christian faith. There are many leaders of a variety of traditions who could fill the same role. Mostly, it is important to realize religion and spirituality are alive and well in America today, so there is a long list of vibrant, energetic, open, caring, and flexible believers of many traditions who could offer our next president spiritual guidance and support.

I hope President Obama is willing to reach out and ask for such support when he needs it - and that it comes from someone who can help him continue his search for understanding the needs of all Americans, as well as his own.
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Controversy over Rick Warren and the Inauguration

For my first post after the welcome, I felt I should jump right into the deep end! So, I will discuss the controversy of Rick Warren and gay marriage. This will be only the first post on this topic, since I don’t think the debate will subside any time soon – as it shouldn’t!

Many Americans just don’t see the big deal with Barack Obama inviting Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church - plus, author of The Purpose-Driven Life and strong supporter of California’s Proposition 8, as well as AIDS and global warming activist – banning same-gender marriage, to give the invocation at his inauguration on January 20th. Most folks are either homophobic, or they simply don’t care. In fact, with Warren equating gay marriage to incest, polygamy and pedophilia, he has simply thrown fuel on the fire:

The outrage over this invitation was not only vocal, but heated – from both the left and the right. The right felt Warren sold out both himself and conservative values to the enemy. How could an evangelical preacher pray at the inauguration of “that one,” someone who had been accused during the campaign of being a socialist?

The left, especially the LGBT community, felt betrayed. They had give Obama their support in many ways. And then they felt totally dumped on. No, rather they felt hurt once again, with one more leader turning his back on them. They felt that, once again, they were told their rights were insignificant.

Rachel Maddow, a commentator on Air America Radio ( and MSNBC ( ), has been very outspoken concerning this decision. While listening to her I could viscerally feel her pain, anger and indignation. She, too, felt sold out by someone the gay community had supported. She has made it very clear this issue will not go away and the LGBT community will no longer remain silent. She has also wondered aloud if Obama might rescind his invitation. (This I very much doubt...)

Obama quickly stated during a news conference that first he was basically being polite in returning the invitation, since Warren had invited him to Saddleback. He also said that America is all about difference of opinion and that he and Warren do no agree on many issues. But, he wanted Warren there to represent the variety of thought and opinion – a symbol of his administration.

With all the vocal opposition to his upcoming role, Warren attempted to clarify his position, basically stating that the entire ruckus is a tempest in a teapot by stating that it’s not news that an evangelical preacher would oppose gay marriage and it’s not news that the gay community would not support his position. Indeed he tries to back away from the above comments:

So, what is my position on gay marriage? Do I believe that Barack Obama should have invited Warren to give the invocation?

Before answering these questions, I would first like to point out that the relationship between these two men could become a slippery political slope. If, for example, Warren were to become a sort of spiritual advisor to Obama in the White House, such influence could overflow into the president’s political decisions. Are there others who might be good spiritual guides for President Obama? Yes, and I will share some of the names in a future posting.

As a Quaker, I may have a fairly open/liberal stance on gay marriage. This does not mean that Quakers have found clarity easily on this issue. Nonetheless, many Quaker meetings and churches have approved same-gender marriage within their congregations. In my home meeting, we reached agreement for same-gender marriage a few years ago. It was a long, arduous process, but after much thought, discussion and prayer, we found that, if we were to be a loving community before God, the only decision was to open ourselves to gay couples and their desire to be total, complete, fully-spiritual members in our congregation. So, LGBT folk can both be members and marry in my Quaker meeting...

So, I do support gay marriage - I was opposed to Proposition 8. I found it to be a crude rejection of a civil right recently determined by the courts. As a Christian myself, I find the biblical injunction to homosexuality a convenient means to justify and legalize homophobia.

And the invitation? I'm not one of the people who says that this decision will either lead to the downfall of Obama or be indicative of how he will govern. I do believe that it is a clear political decision - not a spiritual one. Yes, Warren and Obama do not agree on many things, and politically that can be a strong suit for Obama - especially since he is such a strong believer in the proverbial "Team of Rivals."

However, is not the invocation meant to be a symbolic spiritual part of the inauguration? What does this symbol, therefore, symbolize? It should represent our significance in God's presence, all of us, united. Here is where Obama misread the power of his decision and the potentially negative impact it could have on America. He has shared so frequently a message of unity, but with this decision, he has sown division.

It's just a shame that Obama, who felt the pulse of America so sensitively over such a long period of time, decided to feel his own, personal, individual pulse instead - and in so doing laid a lot of hurt and separation on many, many people.
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Welcome to Reflecting Obama

I hope that this blog will serve as a place where all things Barack Obama can be shared. Since I became an Obama supporter a couple years ago, I have found that people are intrigued not only by his politics, but also by his life. Over the coming days, weeks, and months, I will discuss various and sundry areas of Obama’s life – past, present and future.

This is meant to be more than a simple biographical blog about Obama. I will also discuss his politics and policies, decisions and indecisions, high points and low points leading up to and beyond the January 20th inauguration.

I’d also like to spend some time looking at areas that appear to be fairly tangential to our understanding of Obama. For example, he has interesting and sometimes controversial opinions and habits regarding food, technology, and appearance.

I would like to talk about topics that may seem contentious: religion (What is his form of Christianity? What role might Rick Warren play in the White House, beyond the inauguration?), race (Did race have any impact on the election?), family (How is his marriage a model for others?, or what is that Quaker school where they’re to send their daughters all about?), character (How does he interact with those around him?), and sports (Obama’s for a playoff system to determine the top-level college football champion. How might such a system be implemented?)

Each day, I plan to dive into another Obama topic. Let me know if there’s something specific you’d like me to touch on!

The title of this blog

Why is this blog called “Reflecting Obama”? Let’s face it, for the past year Barack Obama has made an amazing impact on our country. Not only did he come from virtually nowhere to defeat Hillary Clinton and John McCain, but he also redefined the political tone and message of presidential campaigns. In fact, I would go as far as to say that he also affected us in our understanding of age, race, and even names. Obama helped continue the process of breaking down stereotypes and walls of misunderstanding. Through his presence, voice, and personality, he opened a new reality of American diversity, one that we have always claimed as part of our identity.

I have chosen the phrase “Reflecting Obama” to mirror back to you, the reader, what one citizen – me – sees in this unique leader. Sometimes, it takes someone else than ourselves to help us observe from a different angle in order to clarify our understanding of an issue or a person. My role will be to “reflect” back to you what I see going on with our new president. Your job, will be to “reflect” back to me what your observations are concerning the topic and article at hand.

I hope that we can have a civil conversation. I know that we will not always agree – that is for sure. But, let us share our views in a respectful manner.

Be Well.

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