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Barack Obama's real color problem

The other day, a New Hampshire paper reprinted this article from the San Francisco Chronicle discussing Senator Obama, and his "color" problem. I started reading it, but then tossed it aside (figuratively) as silly race politics. Is he "black" enough? Is he "too white?"

I have a color problem with Senator Obama, myself, but it's not black or white. It's green.

No, not "green" as in environmental. "Green" as in unseasoned wood. "Green" as in "greenhorn."

Barack Obama is the quintessential tabula rasa, a blank slate that people can project whatever they like on to. I've looked at him a little, and so far the one position of his I feel I have a firm grasp on is that he's against the war. Apart from that, not much.

He's well-spoken, charismatic, and dynamic. All potentially good things. But to think back to my favorite period of history to study, so were Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, and Josef Stalin.

The difference is that those men -- like it or not -- had clear agendas and policies and goals. Obama has been tremendously vague on those sorts of things.

Churchill and Roosevelt also had lengthy resumes of accomplishments before they were elected. The voters could get a fairly good idea what sorts of things they would try to do once they obtained office.

Right now, Senator Obama is one of the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination for president. And while I think that the Democrats could do worse (hell, they have in recent elections), I don't think that 2008 is the right time for him.

I'd like to see Senator Obama spend a bit more time in lesser offices before he runs for the big enchilada. He might do well with a Cabinet seat, a high-profile ambassadorship (I think he'd do OK at the UN, for example), or even some time out of government to broaden his experiences. Hell, even the vice-presidency might suit him.

In his career, he's been a civil rights lawyer in private practice, a law school professor, and a state senator before winning his current seat in the United States Senate in 2004. His experiences have been very heavily focused on government, with virtually no encounters with the private sector. (Civil rights lawyers, as I understand it, tend to spend a lot of time dealing with the government.)

On January 20, 2009, when the 44th President of the United States will be sworn in, Obama will be 47 years old. Presuming that it's Obama, and he serves two terms, he will be 55 when he leaves office -- a year younger than Bill Clinton, and look at the trouble he's having finding something to do with himself.

The presidency is supposed to be the climax of one's political career. There really isn't anywhere to go after that. But presidents are living longer and longer, and Obama (presuming he manages to quit smoking) can look forward to a good 30 years of life after leaving office. What the hell will he do with that time?

Sometimes, the American people will turn to a candidate to "cleanse their palate" after the last president leaves such a bad taste in their mouth. We saw that in 1976, when Jimmy Carter ran on the wildly popular "I'm nothing like Richard Nixon" platform. We saw that again in 1980, when Ronald Reagan led the "dear God, can't we get rid of Jimmy Carter fast enough?" charge. And in 2000, George W. Bush seemed a safe choice to those fed up with Bill Clinton (who, it must be noted, was still wildly popular among a lot of other people.)

But what Americans may want in the short term might not be so good in the long term. Not for us, and not for the candidate we turn to.

Obama could be a great president. Or he could be a disaster the likes of which we haven't seen since Jimmy Carter. We just don't have enough to go on at this point.


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Comments (43)

I would question his qualif... (Below threshold)

I would question his qualifications for either a cabinet secretariat OR an ambassadorship. He might do well in Deval Patrick's old job (Office of Civil Rights, DOJ), but he'd have to wait until a Dem wins the WH and by then, he'll be eligible for social security (if it's still around).

Obama was a political cyphe... (Below threshold)
Bob:

Obama was a political cypher in the Illinois General Assembly. The word is that he invariably voted as he was told by the Democrat leader. He did nothing to distinguish himself. While I agree that he's somewhat of a "blank slate," on every issue where he's taken a position, he's squarely on the left. While a lot of people, including me, would like to see our country choose a qualified and effective black leader, and there's no question that Obama is a better candidate than J. Jackson, A. Sharpton or former Sen. C.M. Braun, he's still not going to attract any thinking person who's not committed to the left wing agenda for the U.S.

Obama could have distinguis... (Below threshold)
hermie:

Obama could have distinguished himself by becoming a reformer in Illinois. You know, 'walking the walk' instead of just 'talking the talk'. But instead, he passively sat back and let the Daley political machine call the shots and allow corruption to continue. He was and still is, the beneficiary of Chicago corruption despite those that try to project a 'reformer' label on him.

Jay - I need to quibble wit... (Below threshold)

Jay - I need to quibble with something:

"The presidency is supposed to be the climax of one's political career. There really isn't anywhere to go after that. But presidents are living longer and longer, and Obama ... can look forward to a good 30 years of life after leaving office. What the hell will he do with that time?"

John Adams would disagree. He viewed the presidency as another step in his journey through life; his zenith was the Revolution, and nothing was going to top that.

And many presidents have lived long after their time in office. Adams and Jefferson lived for quite some time, as did Madison.

You seem to imply that once they leave the White House it's time for the rocking chair at the retirement home. But many presidents have had immensely productive lives post-presidency. Benjamin Harrison return to law, for example. Taft went to the Supreme Court. John Quincy Adams went to Congress. Hoover (speaking of longevity) outlived all of his detractors. Grant toured the world then wrote the greatest military memoirs in the English language. Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. etc etc....

Otherwise, very good points on Obama.

Jay, the fact that tryann... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay, the fact that tryannical mass murderers such as Hitler and Stalin had clear agendas, policies and goals... (at least to them) Ugh! avoid at all costs, megalomaniac politicians who want to drastically shape the entire world to their own prejudices. After the total disaster of the 'Bush doctrine' in foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, and his ideological domestic concerns, Obama's incremental approach to the world, would be welcome. Of course, the Republicans will have the real thorny issue of whether to run on the Bush public record or not? If they do, Obama can continue to be hazy.

Jay, I agree with you, Obam... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Jay, I agree with you, Obama is very green. Just a nice smile and youthful. So is Edwards. It seems the liberal party is more concerned about looks. Perceptions. Truthfully, Hillary is experienced. I cannot stand her, but her experience is there.

Steve Crickmore, you have pre-9/11 beliefs. The old way does not work in these situations. It has been clearly demostrated many times over. The events of terrorism shaped the policy. ww

So, Steve, do you also exte... (Below threshold)

So, Steve, do you also extend your criticism to Churchill and Roosevelt, whom I also cited? Bush, as the duly-elected leader of a democracy, has a bit more in common with them than Stalin and Hitler.

J.

Senator Obama has never man... (Below threshold)

Senator Obama has never managed anything other than his small senate office and his mouth. Why should he be elected President? Why should he get a high profile Cabinet seat, or high-profile ambassadorship?

I agree with wavemaker what are his qualifications for either a cabinet secretariat OR an ambassadorship?

Yes the American people will turn to a candidate to "cleanse their palate." At this point Obama fits that need. A year or so from now blah, blah, Obama will find no one is listening.

Jay, Of course..but to lum... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay, Of course..but to lump Churchill and Roosevelt together with Stalin and Hitler? Your point is taken, the public especially in a war situation wants politicians who appear to believe in something strongly: a Churchill who taps sentiment over a smooth appeasing Lord Halifax, and Bush admittedly, in his own bumbling way, following his Dunkirk (9/11) did convey this.

Right now, Senator Obama... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

Right now, Senator Obama is one of the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination for president.

This says quite a bit about both the other contenders and the Democrat base. Although admittedly, I'm not exactly salivating at the Republican candidates, they do at least have some executive experience.

Yesterday one of my coworke... (Below threshold)
Sharon:

Yesterday one of my coworkers was telling me he had met Deval Patrick, the new governor of Mass. He told me how charismatic he was and how he had voted democratic for the first time in his life. I was appalled. It is the same situation. No experience,no private sector understanding,no new ideas and yet he is going to be the savior. He reinstated all the Romney budget cuts without review,proposed new taxes to "give" more money to the cities and towns,hiring cronies for made up jobs,hired a car for twice what Romney paid and the list goes on. This is what happens when no one questions because it would be politically incorrect.He's a democrat so he's for the people.

This is Deval Patrick all o... (Below threshold)

This is Deval Patrick all over again. A youg, charismatic, and savy politician who stands for nothing and milks the race issue for all its worth.

The DNC noticed Deval's victory and will use the same strategy with Obama. "Hope" will be his policy. You vote for him because he makes you "feel good"(as Bill Clinton once said of Deval). He is even using the slogan, "Yes We Can!"

Democrats devalue everyth... (Below threshold)
Rob LA Ca.:

Democrats devalue everything in this Country , promote a lazy and incompetant work ethic and an even more disgraceful Public education system.
Obama Hussein is simply not qualified to run for President. Come to think of it niether is any other Democrat for that matter. Makes no difference ,the chosen democrat "Rising Star" will be put up on a pedastal by the Hollywood Libs and he'll be granted super powers by the Democrat Media.

I blame Ditka for all of th... (Below threshold)
yo:

I blame Ditka for all of this.

Had he run against Obama (instead of the carpet bagging Alan Keyes), we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Jay, You are spot ... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Jay,

You are spot on. Other than Anti-this-War, Obama has nothing to run on. He hasn't really made a point of whether he is against war generally or not either. Is it a principled stand against all war, or just against one war that is seen as being socially unpopular?

During his announcement speech he worked hard to align himself with the "image" of Abraham Lincoln. That just gives me the willies. Mr. Lincoln has huge parallels with this administration and should be anethma to any modern liberal politician.

All I've heard Obama talk a... (Below threshold)

All I've heard Obama talk about, aside from the war, is the level of political discourse. The "we need to be nicer to each other" platform. That's not going to get anything done and it certainly doesn't reveal what one stands for other than to be nice about it when you do.

And "charismatic" is a term the media often uses to describe bin Laden, Nasrallah and the late Zarqawi, among others. It seems criminal to apply the same term to thugs and murderers as they do to law abiding decent people, regardless of their political persuasion. Because of that, I avoid the word altogether. Besides, charisma is just a tool to get what you want - good or bad.

You're right, Jay Tea</b... (Below threshold)

You're right, Jay Tea, in calling Obama a Tabula Rasa. But I would go even further in saying this: not only are we projecting onto Obama everything we want in the ideal "black President", but we (as in the collective "we") have contstructed a Cult of Personality around this man, one united in the them that Obama will "bring this country together."

http://langtry.blogspot.com/2007/02/is-barack-obama-cult-of-personality.html

Not to plug my own blog shamelessless, but wrote about this a few days ago. One of my concerns was as follows:

I am bothered by the fact that the most common refrain of Obama supporters is that he will, quote-unquote, "bring the country together".

Seriously, what does that sentiment really mean?

After all, are not dictators popular because they "bring their countries together" (albeit by force)? And please don't take that to mean that I am comparing Obama to a dictator. Rather, I am pointing out that someone who possesses a "Cult of Personality" is likely to be seen as being the savior of a country/culture that many of its citizens see as "adrift", or in need of a unifying cause. The fact that such a unifying cause is to be found in one person should be of instant concern: this is how dictators such as Napoleon, Hitler, Franco, Mao, etc. come to and maintain their power.

The second reason so many "Ooh" & "Aah" over Obama is because of "The Speech":

Obama's keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 is routinely cited as evidence of his JFK-esque personnae. And yet that speech is nearly three years old! I know a couple who have listened to Obama speak in more personal, less scipted situations and they were disapointed. He seems uncomfortable in more intimate gatherings and, they said, "the 'magic' just wasn't there." And yet, people so want Obama to be "The Perfect Black Man, "the Perfect African-American Presidential Candidate", that they willfully dismiss any evidence contrary to the message of The Cult.


Oyster: And "charismatic... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Oyster: And "charismatic" is a term the media often uses to describe bin Laden, Nasrallah and the late Zarqawi, among others.

WorldNetDaily: August 8, 2000

And Bush's better image is linked to the public's better evaluations of him on a personal level. Bush out-polls Gore on a whole series of personal qualities. The public sees Bush as more charismatic, funnier, and more interesting -- with charisma being the big one.

My favorite President, Theo... (Below threshold)
Blue Neponset:

My favorite President, Theodore Roosevelt, was 42 when he became President. That fact alone should dismiss the age issue.

Considering the positions t... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Considering the positions that make a candidate attractive to the left wing base, being a blank slate, as is the case with Obama, is a tremendous asset to a democrat.

I couldn't agree more. We'... (Below threshold)

I couldn't agree more. We've seen with Bush what happens when a green, unexperienced politician is placed into the Presidency. Unmitigated disaster is sure to follow as it has with Bush. We shouldn't repeat that with Obama.

For those who think I'm being sarcastic I'm not. Obama, with 4 years as a US Senator, doesn't have the level of experience needed for the job. Bush, with 6 years as governor of Texas (2 of those spent entirely on the campaign trail for President) was also woefully unprepared for the office of Presidency and we've been paying the price.

Add the rest of what I said... (Below threshold)

Add the rest of what I said "It seems criminal to apply the same term to thugs and murderers as they do to law abiding decent people, regardless of their political persuasion." and all you're doing is proving my point.

So what was your point anyway, Lee?

Oyster: You haven't establi... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Oyster: You haven't established whether Bush is among the "thugs and murderers" or the "decent law abiding citizens."

I know - let's have the Democratic Party commission a poll on that question, and then accept what the poll says as a consensus among Americans!

Amen Larkin. Bush's presid... (Below threshold)
suhnami:

Amen Larkin. Bush's presidency has been disasterous. Let's not do it again with another greenhorn.

How many people ripping on him have read his book? Just wondering.

yo, I think that it was mor... (Below threshold)
hermie:

yo, I think that it was more of the doing of the Il GOP leaders discouraging Ditka. He had his meeting with Judy Barr Topinka and the party hierarchy, then quickly took himself out of the race.

It was Topinka and the rest that imported Keyes, rather than choosing a primary runner-up, or even someone who actually lived in Illinois.

BRITAIN IS REPOSSESSING THE... (Below threshold)
nico:

BRITAIN IS REPOSSESSING THE U.S.A.

If only!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and
thus
to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your
independence, effective immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen
Elizabeth
II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and
territories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy). Your new prime
minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America without the
need
for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of
you
noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the
following Rules are introduced with immediate effect:

(You should look up "revocation " in the Oxford English Dictionary)

1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will
be
amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and
'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without
skipping
half the letters and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix
-ise.
Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable
levels (look up 'vocabulary').

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises
such as
"like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of
communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let
Microsoft
know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to
take
account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of '-ize'. You
will
relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns,
lawyers, or
therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows
that
you're not adult enough to be independent.

6. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to
sort
things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're
not
grown up enough to handle a gun. Therefore, you will no longer be
allowed to
own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit
will
be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for
your
own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we
mean.

8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will
start
driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go
metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion
tables.
Both roundabouts and metriccation will help you understand the British
sense
of humour.

9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been
calling gasoline) -- roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French
fries
are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips
are
properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat,
and
dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually
beer
at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as
Beer,
and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to
as
Lager. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine,
so
that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as
good
guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play
English
characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four
Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears
removed
with a cheese grater.

13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of
proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in
time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American
football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds
or
wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to
host an
event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of
America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond
your
borders, your error is understandable.

15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's
Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all
monies
due (backdated to 1776).

17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs,
with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

It was Topinka and the r... (Below threshold)
mantis:

It was Topinka and the rest that imported Keyes, rather than choosing a primary runner-up, or even someone who actually lived in Illinois.

Or someone who was, you know, not insane.

I don't even think Obama ha... (Below threshold)
nell:

I don't even think Obama has charisma. Unless the definition has changed to "a quality conferred by the media on someone they think could win the Presidency and want to sell to the public".
I've seen charisma, and I'm just not seeing it here. Maybe there's something in person that isn't coming through my TV screen. Frankly, I don't even see the much-trumpeted "attractive". It seems like another instance of thinking if you repeat something often enough, you can make it so.

Why do people criticizing O... (Below threshold)
Pete_Bondurant:

Why do people criticizing Obama's obvious lack of experience still find the need to kiss his butt?

"He's well-spoken, charismatic, and dynamic."

Well-spoken? The guy has already made 2 major gaffes in 2 different speeches. Charismatic? He wasn't too charismatic when he was challenged by looney lefties in the crowd the other day. Dynamic? Are you kidding me? This guy is just an empty suit. The guy is a joke. His speeches say absolutely nothing. The first time he gets asked a tough question, we will see how "well-spoken, charismatic and dynamic" he really is. enough with the butt kissing. You can criticize Obama, don't worry, you are not a racist.

Lee, you're being childish.... (Below threshold)

Lee, you're being childish.

Again.

Obama is an empty suit with... (Below threshold)
JB:

Obama is an empty suit with no experience, no accomplishments and an unknown quality of character.

The lib troll BDS-induced attacks are a smoke screen. Of course errors of commision are judged as disastrous; but a total zero-on-national-security prez like Slick Willie gets a pass.

Certainly the only way Obam... (Below threshold)

Certainly the only way Obama could "bring us together" if we all decided to become ardent leftists.

Neither do I find him particularly articulate or charismatic. He mouths a lot of meaningless-but-nice-sounding pablum. He has no experience managing any enterprise larger than his Senate staff, and seek to run the largest operation in the world? Try being a Mayor or Governor first, pal.

The blacks I have heard question Obama's "blackness" aren't complaining about his white mother (although I have heard the term "Halfrican-American" used), but rather that his black father was an actual African instead of a descendant of slaves in this country. To some, this breaks the bond of shared experience that makes many blacks more likely to identify with a black candidate.

Obama has hardly suffered very much from racial discrimination. Both his parents were well-paid professionals, and he grew up upper-middle class - in Hawaii, for some years. He got into Harvard Law and became President of the Law Review, and later got a cushy "lecturer" position. It's hard to see what makes his story "compelling" in the least.

So when some blacks say he "isn't black enough," they are speaking of his heritage and life experience, not the percentage of pigment in his skin.

Oyster - Commissioning a po... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Oyster - Commissioning a poll that is designed to give false answers about what Americans want is childish?

Kim doesn't think so - she wrote a post just last night praising just such a poll - and went so far as to avoid linking to the actual poll so it could be fact-checked.

Once the actual poll was located it was determined that the sample was biased, the questions were worded to give specific answers, and the people conducting the poll were Republicans.

Now THAT is childish.

"I have looked at him a lit... (Below threshold)
jp2:

"I have looked at him a little, and so far the one position of his I feel I have a firm grasp on is that he's against the war. Apart from that, not much."

So let's recap here - you have examined him "a little" and for some crazy reason you don't understand/know his positions? I guess that makes sense - the less actual research you do the less you understand.

Have you read his books? Examined his voting record? Why don't you actually write a piece with substance, using facts? Instead of examining him "a little," why don't you put together a reasoned discussion? This is just lazy.

"Once the actual poll was... (Below threshold)
Rob LA Ca.:

"Once the actual poll was located it was determined that the sample was biased, the questions were worded to give specific answers, and the people conducting the poll were Republicans.

Now THAT is childish."

Determined by who?

"the questions were worded to give specific answers"

Do you realize how dense you are?

A question that answers itself. A poll that asks and answers its own poll, your a genius.

They were Republicans ?

Give us names or STFU.

Like jp2 said: "This is just lazy."


I vote for "disaster" if he... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

I vote for "disaster" if he's Prez.

Can you imagine, during a missile crisis with Venezuela in 2010, Obamarama having to take a cigarette break and staff waiting for him to come back inside and make a decision?

"Can you imagine, during a ... (Below threshold)
Rob LA Ca.:

"Can you imagine, during a missile crisis with Venezuela in 2010, Obamarama having to take a cigarette break and staff waiting for him to come back inside and make a decision?"

Lol, then they realize he cut and ran out the back door. They will blame it all on "BIG TOBACO". Good one Mitchell

Jay-Even you are p... (Below threshold)
jeff:

Jay-

Even you are padding Obama's resume. He was a teacher of constitutional law at University of Chicago (prestige sure) but he was never a professor.

Jeff

Rob - it's all documented i... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Rob - it's all documented in the comment thread of Kim's post.

No Lee:"You hav... (Below threshold)

No Lee:

"You haven't established whether Bush is among the "thugs and murderers" or the "decent law abiding citizens.""

THAT'S childish.

a blank slate that... (Below threshold)
a blank slate that people can project whatever they like on to
.

This is unfair. Barack Obama has written two book, the latest of which is 400 pages long and full of very precise policy prescriptions. If people think Barack's slate is blank, perhaps they just haven't bothered to read the brother's books.

It is unfortunate when facile clichés replace reading and thought. And yet it is obvious that this has happened because those who call Obama a "blank slate" never take issue with anything in his 400 page policy book or his equally complete autobiography.

Nicco:We'll let on... (Below threshold)
epador:

Nicco:

We'll let on about JFK if you'll spill about Dianna.

Democrats devalue everyt... (Below threshold)
StephieJanna29:

Democrats devalue everything in this Country, promote a lazy and incompetant work ethic and an even more disgraceful Public education system.

Please provide fact. Right now this is just your unsourced opinion.

Obama Hussein is simply not qualified to run for President. Come to think of it niether is any other Democrat for that matter.

Opinion. Please provide something intelligent to debate.

Makes no difference ,the chosen democrat "Rising Star" will be put up on a pedastal by the Hollywood Libs and he'll be granted super powers by the Democrat Media.

Please provide fact to accompany your accusation - a link please.

You have every freedom to voice your opinion, but there's nothing here to really discuss. It's your unfounded personal opinion. Please provide something more than this shallow negativity - and if you can only respond with more of your opinion, please don't.




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