News & Views from 465 California Street

Destiny’s Challenge

Clint Reilly
Oct
28
2008

Colin Powell used the term again. How many times in this campaign have we heard the phrase, “transformational leader” applied to Barack Obama?

“Hope” and “change” are the two promises that Obama has made to the people, simple aspirations that have evoked an unprecedented outpouring of support. Seasoned campaign watchers are stunned. I’ve never witnessed anything like it, and I ran political campaigns for two decades.

I doubt anyone else has seen anything like it either, including the surviving veterans of the 1960 presidential campaign. Obama’s 100,000 person crowd in Missouri and $150 million September haul are signs that we are witnessing the elevation of an historic figure.

Obama began as the personification of Democrats’ mistrust in their own ability to create desperately needed change. (Why not just crown Hillary?)

But he has morphed into more than a vehicle of protest. One senses that history has anointed him. Events have conspired to confirm his critique of a faltering America – first articulated more than two years ago – long before the financial heart attack that recently struck the country.

He has bounded so effortlessly over previously insurmountable barriers like race, experience, name ID and the huge money necessary to compete that he seems to be carried along by what the Greeks called “Destiny.”

In the process, he has forged a unique bond with Americans who have invested their hopes and dreams for a better world in him – as well as their grim contempt for the corrupt and ineffective machinery of government.

The stage is set for Obama to fundamentally realign the course of our country’s government. In doing so, he will not only be forced to confront Republicans; he will have to face down his own party as well. For there can be no transformational change without a post-partisan approach to our problems.

Both parties have cooperated to roll back Wall Street regulation, a policy that has nearly bankrupted our financial system.

Both parties allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to erode the credibility of our housing market by extending loans to undeserving borrowers, breaching the silent covenants of trust that bind lender and borrower.

Both political parties have eliminated large portions of the social safety net – further marginalizing the less fortunate. Both parties have thrived on a system of campaign financing that empowers special interests and lobbyists at the expense of the public interest.

Democrats and Republicans have allowed our schools to deteriorate. Our infrastructure suffers from bipartisan neglect. Together, Democrats and Republicans have been complicit in policies resulting in our total dependence on foreign oil. Both Democrats and Republicans have contributed in ample measure to the dysfunction in Washington.

Like both parties in a bad marriage, there is blame on both sides.

Post-partisanship does not mean bipartisan cooperation. Obama won’t be able to bring the parties together. He shouldn’t waste valuable time or political capital in a fruitless attempt to facilitate bipartisan consensus in Congress.

Instead, he must utilize the presidential mandate that he is accumulating directly from the American people to force both parties to accept the reforms we need to prosper again economically, socially and politically.

James MacGregor Burns was our era’s greatest student of leadership. His circle of transformational leaders was minuscule, including only Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tse-Tung, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.

These leaders embodied the suffering, frustrations and aspirations of their people at crossroad moments in history. They drew their political power from the totally unique relationship they forged with aggrieved citizens. And they had the courage to speak the truth to their friends as well as to their enemies.

The true transformational leader not only empathizes with grievance but also proposes changes that are not necessarily popular.

Few doubt we need transformational change. Let us hope that Barack Obama is the rare transformational leader who can bring it.

Comments (12)

  • Once again, your ignorance is stunning. “Transformational”? I’m a rich guy who has no plans to give my money to all the poor lazy f-ers who probably think your ridiculous musings are promising. I went to cash long before the Obama-Reid-Pelosi transformational train left the station.
    Hopefully, once Obama gets into YOUR pocket, you won’t be able to buy ad space to spread these idiotic rantings much longer.
    M. Smith
    Alamo, CA

    Posted by: M.Smith | October 28th, 2008 at 9:16 am

  • Clint,

    I share the hope expressed in this week’s column, but I am not as convinced as you are that it will be fulfilled. Sure, the rhetoric is there, but there is little in Obama’s background to engender that trust. I rather fear a decisive lurch to the far left when one party is in full control of all branches of government. We have seen this before, i.e. Carter, Clinton’s first two years, Bush’s first 6.

    McCain, on the other hand, could be that transformational figure, he not only talks the talk but has amply proven his independence and trustworthyness.

    With the inevitable domination of Congress by Democrats, McCain is vastly more likely to provide that transformational counterbalance you seek. He already has broken with his own party numerous times, doesn’t have to prove his mettle there. Is there a single incidence you can point to where Obama’s present rhetoric is supported by his past or present actions? It could make a believer out of me.

    Best,

    Erich

    Posted by: Erich | October 28th, 2008 at 10:07 am

  • You are right that Mao Tse-Tung was a transformational
    leader. He instituted a “cultural revolution” in China between 1966
    and 1976 that resulted in the murder of 20 million Chinese citizens.
    Some revolution!

    Mao formally launched the Cultural Revolution at the Eleventh Plenum
    of the
    Eighth Central Committee in August 1966. He shut down China’s
    schools, and during the following months he encouraged Red Guards to
    attack all traditional values and “bourgeois” things and to test
    party officials by publicly criticizing them.
    Mao’s own personality cult, encouraged so as to provide momentum to
    the movement, assumed
    religious proportions. The resulting anarchy, terror, and paralysis
    completely disrupted the urban
    economy. Industrial production for 1968 dipped 12 percent below that
    of 1966.

    Using Mao as an example of positive “transformational change” exposes
    your extreme radical idealogy.

    Posted by: John4 | October 28th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

  • Clint,
    All the signs appear to confirm your wish that President Obama will “force” the Congress to reshape the US to a socialist state supported by 80% of the media; 97% of Blacks (racism?); the education industry; the judicial system; the feds have pumped money into and taken over the banks; airlines, GM, Chrystly are asking for fed money. Today, Pres Bush is upset because the banks are hoarding the Fed money instead of lending it. Time for a dictatorship? the rich elite are always in the background–Soros, Gates, Buffet, etc. But, don’t be fooled, it’s not about spreading the wealth to “provide for the general welfare”; it’s about the power to dictate the terms of Government to the people who, in his eyes don’t know any better. Brass Rail graduates are the elite and they are smarter than the voter. Don’t you agree?
    Agreed. President Obama will join FDR who rounded up innocent Americans and put them in concentration camps; and, like FDR, he will forever by an icon to be celebrated. Imagine that! that’s democracy!
    I am reminded, however, that Obama’s system is not working well in Russia, China, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba where socialism is in full flower. They too boast democracy.
    Respectfully……………..Hank R

    Posted by: Hank | October 28th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

  • Dear sir: its articles like your’s that sends the wrong message to many!

    I read you article in todays newspaper………i see you have come under the spell of the man who can convince the world he is the one when his record says clearly he is not!

    When one looks at this election one must look at the performance of each senator in office to see the true record and ability to handle the job…….obama has a dismal record for the short period of time he has been a senator in illinois.

    he creates this garden of eden bliss…. Charade really that has everyone in awe of him yet the record speaks the truth…this man simply does not cut it as a senator…..how in the hell is he going to handle being president? Now i take it you are somewhat of an intelligent man with common sense? Have you not looked at and considered the past performance of barack obama as a senator in a state where unemployment continues to rise,as well as major crime rise, lost manufacturing jobs and businesses are not being replaced……this man has done liitle if nothing at all for illinois…..what will he do to the country?

    You have clearly missed those points……his economic recovery program is nothing more than a copy of the clintons of the 90′s that does not apply to the complexities of today! Borrow from here to pay there and all without new taxes, cannot be done!

    I am not a john mccain fan……nor do i think he is the best choice but compared to barack obama……mccain is far more a better choice!

    Clint reilly you have been duped…..it has been only 7 years since 9/11 and yet we are about to elect a man who almost half arab and has little true experience in solving basic problems faced by a senator in a major state……and yet believes he can run a country and has the charisma to fool many folks…..that is a very dangerous remedy for disater. Plus how does a man raise so much money in such a little time…….have you ever considered monies from the middle east, africa, south america……or does that not bother you or not an issue worth looking into?

    You did not do your homework mr reilly….although you are entitled to your opinion……your destiny’s challenge is off the mark, filled with hope but yet does not bother to look at the real issues and situation and blindly professes the admiration for someone who has not even come close to earning your respect!
    What has this man done? Politically what has he done? Name 3 accomplishments this man has done that makes him the star you believe him to be? Can’t do it can you! That’s not a surprise……….

    Mr. Reilly simply put……..get your head out of your ass…look at the record……this is america…we are dying a slow death here and you want an inexperienced man who cannot even run a state none the less a country to be at the helm?

    You have failed yourself today……maybe not now but somewhere down the line if obama gets elected…you will have wished you looked at the records of each a bit closer and used common sense. But then again maybe there is a lot less common sense in the world today…otherwise why else would america be dying the slow death that she is as we all stand around and let it happen! You are a journailist mr. Reilly and you allowed your emotions to get the better of you and that is is where you have made your mistake.

    John
    Dublin,calif

    Posted by: John Lamm | October 28th, 2008 at 3:35 pm

  • Well, my friend…I see what must occur has struck pay-dirt…..great column!

    I also note the offensive comments mostly come from the “New OC”….Contra Costa, home of the real-estate players who purport to understand the economy……

    Posted by: Clay J. | October 28th, 2008 at 5:32 pm

  • The bad economy will actually help Obama’s mandate. With fewer corporate dollars to throw, lobbyists’ role may naturally weaken. Enter….politics for the people.

    Posted by: CriticalThinker | October 28th, 2008 at 5:52 pm

  • I think unlike Bush & Co. who used their astroturf movement as an electoral pump and dump, Obama will allow himself to be accountable to his supporters. He’ll also demand that we demand more from our representative leadership. True transformation, indeed.

    Posted by: breaker1nine | October 28th, 2008 at 6:17 pm

  • I assure many of you, Mr. Reilly is speaking (and writing) from the heart (and with it too). Everyone possesses a world view. From those world views, are always differing opinions. Isn’t it cool how we all live in such a nation/society that allows for this (and encourages it)? This is a vital component of a pure democracy. A great democracy. One that will no doubt stand the test of time, and serve its citizens well. Already has, if you ask me.

    I wanted to write to give my viewpoint on the article this week and to some of the responses i’ve read.

    To start, Mr. Reilly is far from a journalist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Reilly, from what i’ve gathered, is one who appreciates great leadership especially when it comes to leading and promoting a proven democracy. Sorry, but if one is going to call a spade a spade, it would only equally be fair to call a diamond a diamond. I am doing it here blatantly.

    Can we all go back to taking care of each other? Can we all go back to giving one another the benefit of the doubt and agree to disagree without attacking one another, personally? Can we please go back to the order of the day? That is, working together to build a better tomorrow?

    Sure we have problems today. Nothing different from yesterday, or even yesteryear. Our problems have impacted the WORLD. The slow death of America? Not even close. America and her great democracy and dynamic economic system will continue to be the example the world strives to imitate, as long as we have PEOPLE and Mr. Reilly telling it like it is. And trying to make it better than it is. Together, we learn from the history we make together and others past, and it is that which gets us through, smarter and stronger with each passing day. WE get through this downturn and come out stronger. I am confident of this.

    The trillion dollar bailout plan (courtesy of “We the People”) AND the industrial spirit of ALL of us will get us through this mess. Our system is dynamic, as it’s still the greatest economy in the world. It impacts many, if not all, other economies. Look what happened to all the other markets the last few weeks. Up in unison, down in unison…with US. The world depends on us. We consume. We create. But below is what got us all into this mess. Hopefully, we learn from history and we do what is required. “To whom much is given, much is required”.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/26/60minutes/main4546199.shtml

    Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain will have their hands full as the steward of the economy the next 4 years. But democracy (“Of the People, By the People, For the People”) will live on. Why? Because of The People. That’s us. All of us. Freedom. What does freedom enable?

    Let’s strengthen families, all families. Let’s strengthen one another.

    Let’s be more understanding, compassionate, and want the best for one another, by creating (jobs) and inspiring (each other). Let’s take care of our environment and our world. People. Let’s take care of people. All people. For it is people, that are vital components of an economy, a society, a world called “Planet Earth”, and most important, a Global Human Family.

    Thanks for reading my little rant. In closing, let’s work toward prosperity…and peace. Peace is priceless. Here’s one of my heroes.

    http://www.bill-clinton-peace.blogspot.com/

    Thank you. And Thank you Mr. Reilly.

    Don

    Joe “Cool” Biden for Veep ’08

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | October 28th, 2008 at 9:41 pm

  • Paraphrasing Goldspan’s quote about the economic meltdown…This election is a hundred year tsunami. History will of course record how well we channel it’s energy. We are definitely at the dawn of a new progressive movement, that is, if we can keep it.

    At the moment we are focused on running through the tape as Barack puts the election. Being gifted multi-tackers, it is a good time to remember that winning the election isn’t an end, it’s a beginning. The right will continue to flail about in it’s death throws or more aptly put it’s dormancy throws. (As with any other form of evil greed will never be vanquished.) The right will continue to throw logs in the path of change. Witness how successful the Republican minority Senate was able to effect government. Witness the relative lack of success of the Democratic Majority.

    One beauty of he coming age is the growth of direct influence we all have via the Internet. Now is the time to consider how to use that influence proactively rather than just reactively like we did when we found out that Obama would support the FISA legislation. (Not that that was wrong. I think all of us including Barack learned from it.)

    Now is also the time to shore up the principle of Internet Neutrality from which we maintain our power to influence events. To put it bluntly if the corporate world gains control of the net we are all screwed not just us bloggers but all of us.

    I’m 60 in November. In my history and from what I gathered from my parents this may very well be the most exciting presidential election ever. Yes they thought FDR was a God but the election’s were covered by mass saturation media the way they are today. Newspapers and some radio were there window on the world. They never saw Roosevelt speak in person the way we see Barack everyday. Their moving images of him were from weeks old movie “Newsreels”.

    I for one am desperately looking forward to carrying our grassroots energy into a new, New Deal. Excellent column and I’ll hope all of you stay energized. We’ll cross paths around the net as the agents of the “Change we can believe in.”

    Posted by: yellerdog | October 28th, 2008 at 10:11 pm

  • Obama’s first post-election interview should be on Fox. He should go directly into the Lion’s Den and begin the transformation there. That would speak volumes. He should go on Fox and say, “I know you guys said some pretty harsh things about me, but I’m not going to be petty about that. We need to make a change, and the place I need to start is right here with you.”

    Posted by: biminim | October 29th, 2008 at 11:14 am

  • Aggiornamento-Ecumenical-Peace, Justice, Service of the People of God

    I’d add Pope John the 23rd to Mr. Burns list.
    His life was too short.

    Posted by: Steve Dells | October 30th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

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