Marc tells about meeting Barack Obama in 2007 before he started campaigning when he was still able to see the real Obama, not the candidate. He came away with four distinct impressions.
Obama is a normal guy
I’ve spent time with a lot of politicians in the last 15 years. Most of them talk at you. Listening is not their strong suit — in fact, many of them aren’t even very good at faking it.
Senator Obama, in contrast, comes across as a normal human being, with a normal interaction style, and a normal level of interest in the people he’s with and the world around him.
We were able to have an actual, honest-to-God conversation, back and forth, on a number of topics. In particular, the Senator was personally interested in the rise of social networking, Facebook, Youtube, and user-generated content, and casually but persistently grilled us on what we thought the next generation of social media would be and how social networking might affect politics — with no staff present, no prepared materials, no notes. He already knew a fair amount about the topic but was very curious to actually learn more. We also talked about a pretty wide range of other issues, including Silicon Valley and various political topics.
With most politicians, their curiosity ends once they find out how much money you can raise for them. Not so with Senator Obama — this is a normal guy.
Second, Obama is smart
I think he’s at or near the top of the scale of intelligence of anyone in political life today.
You can see how smart he is in his background — for example, lecturer in constitutional law at University of Chicago; before that, president of the Harvard Law Review.
But it’s also apparent when you interact with him that you’re dealing with one of the intellectually smartest national politicians in recent times, at least since Bill Clinton. He’s crisp, lucid, analytical, and clearly assimilates and synthesizes a very large amount of information — smart.
Obama is not a radical
This is not some kind of liberal revolutionary who is intent on throwing everything up in the air and starting over.
Put the primary campaign speeches aside; take a look at his policy positions on any number of issues and what strikes you is how reasonable, moderate, and thoughtful they are.
And in person, that’s exactly what he’s like. There’s no fire in the eyes to realize some utopian or revolutionary dream. Instead, what comes across — in both his questions and his answers — is calmness, reason, and judgment.
Obama is the first credible post-Baby Boomer presidential candidate
One of the reasons Senator Obama comes across as so fresh and different is that he’s the first serious presidential candidate who isn’t either from the World War II era (Reagan, Bush Sr, Dole, and even McCain, who was born in 1936) or from the Baby Boomer generation (Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and George W. Bush).
He’s a post-Boomer.
Most Boomers are still fixated on the 1960’s in one way or another — generally in how they think about social change, politics, and the government.
It’s very clear when interacting with Senator Obama that he’s totally focused on the world as it has existed since after the 1960’s
Andreesen pinpoints the exact reason I like Obama:
He said — my father was Kenyan; I have close relatives in a small rural village in Kenya to this day; and I spent several years of my childhood living in Jakarta, Indonesia. Think about what it’s going to mean in many parts of the world — parts of the world that we really care about — when I show up as the President of the United States. I’ll be fundamentally changing the world’s perception of what the United States is all about.
We need a president who will change the world’s perception of the US by showing that we can think different and elect someone who isn’t an old white guy and who understands the world outside the US.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, represents everything I hate about the Democratic party.
Although I usually vote for Democrats, I despise the party. They don’t represent the people. The party is dominated by insiders (most of whom support Clinton) desperately trying to cling to the status quo, selling out to Republicans, and in the process losing elections.
The only way Democrats have won elections is by going against the party insiders. If Clinton is nominated, it will guarantee a McCain win, since her cronyism and toeing the party line is exactly what turns off most Democratic voters (including myself).
Obama, on the other hand, represents new thinking, post-partisan politics, and will attract more independent and crossover Republican voters. I think he will be the next president if he’s nominated.