Obama, like every other person on the face of this planet, doesn't know if bombing certain targets in Tripoli, and Benghazi, and Misrata, is going to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi, or if it's just going to strengthen his resolve. He doesn't know if the bombs will just destroy machinery, and kill soldiers, or if they're going to kill men and women who are used as human shields. He doesn't know if the so-called rebels, who said they didn't want international help, and then that they did, but might change their minds again, and who are mostly about as experienced in using AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades as I am, will be able to stand up against a trained army, and highly paid mercenaries, and massive supplies of arms that the West sold them, and now wishes it hadn't. He doesn't know if this is the kind of military action that can be done quite quickly and cleanly, or if, like most military action, and even military action that looks as though it can be done quickly and cleanly, it can't.
It is, presumably, because he doesn't know these things that he took a while to weigh them up. He may have thought, like David Cameron, that a "no-fly zone" sounded like a good idea, but he probably also thought you didn't get one just by telling the people who would have flown there that they shouldn't. He may have thought that what you had to do to stop people flying there may have been too risky, or too complicated, or too likely to lead to things you couldn't control, to be worth doing. This may be why, when he said he had decided to take action to impose one, he didn't sound like a hero who was going to save people from a terrible situation, and who expected a round of applause. He sounded like a man who had had to make a very, very difficult decision. And who knew that you couldn't know whether some decisions were right or wrong, but that you just had to live with the consequences of the one you'd made.
He also sounded like a man who knew that everyone was saying that he'd been dithering, but who thought that there were more important things in life than whether people thought you were dithering. He sounded like a man who knew that, whatever people said about him, and however much the Right might think he was a socialist who was trying to destroy the country, and however much the Left might think he was someone who had promised the sun, the moon and the stars and delivered instead a country that was in the grip of a massive economic crisis, there were certain things that had happened since he'd become President that had made the world better...
The 44th President of the United States, and first black leader of the Western world, who has, arguably, done more for the majority of Americans than any president since Roosevelt, and who has been careful to send out the message that America is no longer seeking swashbuckling adventures on the world stage, and who has done more for gay rights than any president in history, may well have been thinking that politics is a difficult, and complicated, and stressful business, and that it means you have to make impossible choices, while working with people you don't like, and whose political views you abhor. And that the results are unlikely to set people cheering, because people tend not to look at politicians who are in office, and cheer.
I'm not sure that when I see Obama, I want to cheer. I want, instead, to say that in the very imperfect world we live in, with the vested, and opposing, interests that make any kind of change a compromise, this thoughtful, pragmatic and sometimes irritating politician is probably as good as it gets.
It all reminds me of this (warning...language is rough):
I mean, us political junkies are all supposed to be cynical and distrustful of politicians. And then every once or twice in a lifetime, someone comes along and we have to decide whether we're going to let our guard down and believe again. Kinda like I did with this guy.
Wellstone was not perfect and neither is Obama. But they are two examples for me of "as good as it gets." And now that Paul has been taken from us - I'm even more determined to not let my cynicism rob me of fully appreciating this moment.
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