Sunday, March 02, 2008


I don't do politics here but I can't let this pass. Obama is as much a cultural phenomenon as a political race.

Barack Obama came to town and delivered a wonderful speech a few weeks ago. In that speech he said exactly what his audience wanted to hear. Now I see his name and picture on the TV every time turn it on. I've read his positions and watched him speak.

There is no doubt he has run a nearly perfect campaign. He managed expectations early on, exceeding them by just enough for his candidacy to grow, without attracting too much attention. He has avoided making any mistakes. He is an impressive speaker, at ease in front of a crowd yet delivering his message powerfully.

He is now in the position that many people believe he will inevitably be the next president of the United States.

His swift rise in national politics can be compared to John F Kennedy's. Their charismatic personalities and speaking abilities are two of the obvious similarities. They are about the same age, served relative short senate careers. Both rose to national attention on their exposure at the previous Democratic Party National Convention.

Still I can't shake a feeling that he might be like Robert Redford's character in "The Way We Were".
"In a way he was like the country he lived in, Everything came to easily to him. But at least he knew it"
Kennedy had been tested in World War II. I can't find any similar trials in Obama's background.

I also have known a few charismatic people who seem to effortlessly move from place to place achieving every higher status without ever actually accomplishing much or ever having been tested.


oyster said...

"effortlessly move from place to place achieving every higher status"

I'd venture to say that making a successful presidential run look easy is one of the hardest things one can do.

db said...

Yeah, I agree with you. I support him strongly but I also have nagging doubts. If he gets the presidency, he had better not let us down. No one expects the other candidates to be any better than a typical politician, but he has promoted a new standard that I truly hope he holds himself to. If he doesn't, it would have been better if he didn't run at all.

Still, it's nice to hope.

And I can also hope that if he lets everyone down, the response will be anger rather than apathy or resignation, that his rhetoric that has inspired interest, turnout, and emotional investment (especially among the youth such as myself) will outlive his own campaign.

For now though, I'm still hoping that he'll win and deliver on his words.

mominem said...

You left out the important parts of my statement

... seem to effortlessly move from place to place achieving every higher status without ever actually accomplishing much or ever having been tested.

I love being selectively quoted.

Most of the people I have personal experience with worked very hard at moving up.

My main point is that he has never, as far as I can tell had to deal with crisis.

Hard work, dedication, talent and charisma are important assets, but they don't necessarily mean that he will be able to perform in a national crisis.

On a more local level the performance of Ray Nagin seems to be cautionary. Who would have predicted his bizarre post-Katrina trajectory?

This is simply to illustrate the potential for an untested individual confronted with unprecedented situations.

You could make similar statements about GW Bush, if you like.

bayoustjohndavid said...

First off, we could have easily predicted Nagin if we had been paying attention. Running somebody who obviously had the same cronies as Morial as a reformer took a lot of chutzpah, but it worked.

But I'm beginning to have doubts about just how strong a candidate Obama is. I recently wrote about going through old emails and being surprised to find that a friend and I were discussing Clinton v. Obama over a year ago. A few days later, the Daily Howler wrote about the fact that, this time last year, pundits were saying that Obama would catch Clinton quickly. It was bound to be Clinton against somebody else and the press hated Edwards almost as much as Clinton -- how often did you hear him discussed on national TV without hearing about the three H's? I'd say there was probably about a one third chance Clinton would be well on the way to the nomination by, about a third chance somebody else would be, and about a third chance it would still be up for grabs. He's really only done about as well as could be expected -- once he became the non-Clinton candidate.

Anyway, your concern seems to be about how an untested person might do if confronted with tough decisions once elected -- at least I gathered that from the mention of Nagin and Bush. I'm more worried about how he'll do without the press on his side. Of even greater concern, I just did a google search and was amazed at how many people were willing to call Clinton's "fairy tale" racist or insulting to all black people. Everyone says that Hillary Clinton was too coy about the is "Obama a Christian" question, I think Obama was too coy about that episode. Because he was so coy, I'm afraid we'll see a lot more of this. I hope that I'm wrong, but I picked up on a similar attitude, less clearly expressed, in conversations before I read that piece. Hell, this post on a sports blog preceded it.

mominem said...

You're right I'm concerned about the ability of an untested person to handle the responsibilities and pressures of president.

As far as the Nagin comparison, I was thinking more of his ability to deal with the Katrina crisis than of his reformer platform. His response to the greatest challenge to face this city was on my mind. He pretty much folded. I think Morial might well have responded in a more effective manner, than Nagin's antics. Different aspects of leadership.

As for GW Bush, he initially received near universal praise for his response to his crisis, but later lost the confidence of the country mainly by over reaching.

Since I wrote this Obama's campaign has had a few hiccups, he no longer seems irresistibly headed to an early coronation. As you note the press has taken a more critical attitude. It will be interesting to see how he manages the new climate.

Observer said...

You don't live on a movement salary in south Chicago in 1985 and have anything come easy. Not as hard as living in the Lower 9 maybe but nothing's on a silver platter, and in both places there are rewards in terms of personal experience and seeing how communities survive and maintain integrity that money and an easy way upward in life can never provide.