Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen declares that Barack Obama is " 'likable enough' -- in fact, so much so that he is the most charismatic presidential candidate I have seen since Robert F.Kennedy." Well, even though I've never spoken with Obama, I don't like him very much (I did testify with him [and a few others] once about a bill he'd sponsored on voter intimidation, but at the time he didn't impress me as unlikable, just a little intellectually lazy) .
This hasn't always been the case. Until early February, I tended to agree with all the news stories that contained the obligatory man-in-the-street quotes proclaiming him "decent," "likeable" and a "nice guy with a beautiful family."
According to the hagiography that passes for reporting about Obama, my attitude is rare. And, admittedly, unsophisticated. After all, I'm black so I shouldn't just like Obama, I should love and praise him. Sure, I'm conservative, but according to a recent AP story the Obama magic is so powerful that even black conservatives are in a swoon. But then, I'm also one of those bitter guys from flyover country.
I disagree with nearly all of Obama's positions, ranging from energy policy to the Iraq war. The National Journal's determination that he's the most liberal member of the Senate is a serious understatement. There may not be a more liberal elected official in all of Washington. But like most people, I like lots of folks with whom I have major policy disagreements. Put another way, if Barack Obama came up to me tomorrow, took my hand, looked me in the eye and said "when I'm president, I'll fight to win in Iraq, beat hell out of terrorists, appoint Supreme Court justices like Thomas and Roberts, cut taxes, secure the border, enact free market health care reform, honor our military and use the bully pulpit to prevent cultural decay,'' I'd still dislike him. Maybe more than I do now.
To be sure, Obama displays horrible judgment, surrounding himself with the likes of Wright, Pfleger and Ayers. He has a lot of close friends who seem to hate America. That's pretty unusual for the average person, but it's highly peculiar and troubling for someone running for Commander-in-Chief. It alarms me and makes me suspicious, but it's not why I dislike him.
Nor is it because he's an empty suit. He's gone further saying nothing than almost anyone in recent history. He's done nothing, yet he's poised to become the most powerful man on earth. He looks like he's never broken a sweat, furrowed a brow or dirtied a knee. That's not something to dislike. In today's culture it's something to admire-even envy.
These all may be reasons for voting against Obama, but they're not, to my mind, reasons for disliking him. No, I dislike Obama because of his personal qualities.
Wait a minute. Aren't we constantly regaled about all of his endearing qualities? He makes people faint and write songs about him. Hardened journalists get tingles up their legs just thinking about him.
Yet certain discrete actions can provide instant insights into a person's character. They can betray vivid flaws in a seemingly gleaming persona.
And they compel one to make judgments about the actor.
The acts may vary by degree, in turn prompting different degrees of reaction: the pillar of the community seen pilfering from the collection plate; the co-worker who uses a racial epithet behind a colleague's back. Indeed, people recoiled from the once popular Michael Vick when they found out he'd abused dogs.
I began to dislike Obama when I discovered that while in the Illinois state legislature in 2002, he voted against the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act. The bill was designed to extend the same medical care to babies who happen to survive an abortion attempt as is enjoyed by all babies born alive.
I couldn't believe anyone would vote against such a bill. In fact, when a similar measure-- the Born Alive Infant Protection Act-- was brought before the U.S. Senate, not one Senator voted against it. Even NARAL Pro-Choice America didn't oppose the bill.
Admittedly, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon. It's difficult for me to like someone who's eager to extend a panoply of constitutional rights to terrorists but who refuses to provide the most fundamental rights to a living, breathing infant.
Perhaps it's a failure to comprehend Obama's exquisite intellectual nuance. He rationalized his vote in language that evokes Dred Scott. Obama challenged the constitutionality of the bill,contending that conferring equal protection, i.e.,personhood, upon a "pre-viable fetus" would render the bill an unlawful anti-abortion statute.
At what point after birth does Obama call a baby a person and not a fetus? One day? Six months?
To be clear: I don't hate Obama as those suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome hate President Bush. I just have a hard time generating warm, fuzzy feelings for someone who voted against helping newborns struggling to live. But that's just me.
I suspect most people don't know about Obama's position on babies who survive abortion attempts and it's unlikely that they'll ever find out. The media seem more interested in reporting on the cultural implications of fist-bumps or the racial animus of those who question Obama's policies. I would wager, however, that if more people knew about Obama's disregard for babies who have the audacity to survive an abortion, there would be more scrutiny and less adulation.
Peter Kirsanow is a member of the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights.These comments do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Commission.