Not just because Obama’s name also has two As and a B

I still don’t know what Obama’s voice sounds like.

I don’t watch foreign television here in Beijing, and for whatever reason, haven’t caught Obama clips on Chinese TV, though I am sure they have them.  When I realized my pretty unique situation half a year ago — how many non-deaf eligible voters in the whole world don’t know what Obama sounds like? a hundred?  — I started to make a concerted effort to avoid videos of him speaking until I could read his policies and platform objectively.  I basically ran out of time, unfortunately, and now only have 15 minutes to share my thoughts, so apologies for the haste.  In a few minutes, I’ll bike over to a restaurant in Beijing where I can watch CNN.  If Obama is elected
president, I’ll hear his voice for the first time when he gives an
acceptance speech.

But before I do that, I wanted to write down why I felt it was
important to not hear him in the first place:  when asking people what
they liked about him (most Americans living in Beijing are Democrats),
almost everyone pointed to a time they heard him speak — the 2004
convention, or a key debate.  And it had me wondering: was this just a
charismatic guy, who could work a room better than a “beady eyed” and “grouchy” McCain?  Were his supporters getting swept up by his
charisma more than by his policy stance?

In broad strokes, I do agree with Obama’s policies on most topics —
though his seemingly protectionist stance concerns me and I’m not
clear whether an Obama administration will be able to fix the key
problems in America’s health care system.  And there are bigger things
that worry me about McCain, including his choice of Sarah Palin for
VP, that had me cast anti-McCain absentee ballot more than I was
casting a pro-Obama one.

But as I’ve talked to people about my “charisma concern,” I realized
that actually, for a president, personal character SHOULD matter, a
lot.  Other legislators in D.C. should be, well, people who legislate,
and so when you vote for them, you should be voting for a set of
policies.  But a president is special;  he (or one day, she) needs to
be a leader, someone who can react to problems that we can’t
anticipate, build consensus to get things done, make prudent decisions
under pressure, listen when it makes sense to listen, and speak when a
clear voice needs to be heard.

More to say (always), but my 15 minutes are up.  Obama’s 15 minutes,
though, look like they be far from done.

Happy 2008,