Obama, the Warrior, accepts the Democratic nomination

The Observer is still processing information from the Republican national convention, last week, and the Democratic national convention, which concluded yesterday, Thursday, September 6.

The most memorable line from all of the speeches was from Barack Obama himself, who said, revealingly,

“You know, I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. Times have changed, and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the president.

Obama has changed. The warmth that he so readily showed on the campaign trail in 2008 is gone. Observing his non-verbal behavior as he gave his speech, this lack of warmth, or even a conversational tone, was striking.  What was it? I thought about this, and then it came to me:

Obama’s tone was harsh. Like that of a warrior.

The expression in his eyes was harsh, like that of a warrior.

That’s it:  Obama is campaigning as a warrior.  He is campaigning as the champion of noble causes, of our highest aspirations, both in the domestic and in the international spheres.

He is angy, angry with the moral righteousness of a warrior in a sacred cause, who knows what must be done and who now calls his countrymen to join him in battle to achieve those noble goals.

The price he has paid, in personal terms, was clear from the quote above and the first lines that followed it:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. Times have changed, and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the president. (Cheers, applause.)

And — (applause) — and that’s —

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Four more years! Four more years!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And that — and that means I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I’ve held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return.

Many of those who voted for Barack Obama did so not only because of the policies he supported and proposed, but also because he came across as a warm and sympathetic soul, full of goodness in his heart.

Now, the softness is gone. He has indeed changed. It is as if he has become captured by the warrior culture of the military and the CIA, the culture of those who must arise each morning with the heavy weight on their shoulders of their responsibilities to oversee drone stikes which kill people, even those predictably including innocent civilians and even boys over 14 who might not really be terrorists after all.

The heavy responsibilities of his office seem to have taken the light out of his eyes, and the humor and warmth out of his voice and spirit.

What we are left with is the harsh demeanor of a warrior, calling us to battle for those most noble goals to which we all aspire, or should aspire.  But where a bright and luminous soul seemed to shine forth before, we sense an incredible accumulation of stress, of grinding of gears grinding out answers to an endless array of immensely challenging problems.  Somehow, in this process, our beloved president seems to have lost touch with his soul.

Somehow, we wish President Obama could find again that happier self which so enchanted us four years ago, and which seemed to hold for us and the world such immense promise.

But, for now, all we can see is the warrior.

Beyond the actual policies which the Democrats support, the decisive factor in November’s election may well turn out to be whether voters feel comfortable with the warrior Obama has become, and whether they want him to lead them into battle for the next four years.

The arguments are solid.  But the poetry is gone.

The Trenchant Observer


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About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.