Thursday, October 02, 2008

Just a speech

This speech by Barack Obama today is remarkable. He actually manages to coherently explain why the bail out package before Congress is important for everyday workers and employers. The credit market matters because it enables everything from car loans to lines of credit that businesses use to meet payroll every month.

I don't know enough about the world of finance to know if the bail out package is the best solution, so I'm ambivalent about it. I'm also very disheartened that after two Bush administration terms I cannot trust anything coming out of any politician's mouth. Even when terms like "catastrophe" and "meltdown" are used, I can't trust "leaders" in Washington on vital, super-complex issues because I've seen them lie and manipulate fear and hyperbole to sell stupid, dangerous courses of action.

It is in crises like these that we need to be able to trust our leaders at a basic level. I've never been one to blindly follow politicians' advice even when I generally like their points of view, but I am hopelessly unable to operate on a "trust but verify" basis, because I really have no means with which to verify what they are saying. In times like these, a baseline level of political legitimacy is vital. And we don't have it. So people are left with nothing but fear and suspicion. And we currently have a president who can't be trusted and can't coherently explain why he is proposing what he is proposing.

The first step to getting that legitimacy back is having someone in office who can string sentences together in a sensible way. In other words, sometimes speeches do matter. Barack Obama shows here how giving a good speech actually performs a vital function of governing.

No comments: