February 17, 2008


The Totally Coolest Candidate Ever: Can Obama become too hip for his own good? (John Dickerson, Feb. 15, 2008, Slate)

If you insist on being that party-killing skeptic, it either means you're a Washington cynic, supporting the worst elements of Clinton's campaign, or you're cluelessly out of step with the sway of the culture. On Facebook, people write about dreams featuring Obama. There is only one correct reaction to the will.i.am "Yes We Can" video and that is to start chanting along. That's why the Obama campaign sent it out to supporters. He is the sun, the moon, the Ambien and the Red Bull. [...]

So far, no one seems to much care. There have been a few pieces from columnists questioning the messianic impulse with Obama, and a mocking Web site, but that's it for backlash. OK, so I'll say it: Some of Obama's supporters have gone around the bend. There was the woman in New Hampshire who compared him with Christ. There was Maria Shriver's comparison of the candidatewith the state of California, with the rhetorical fervor usually seen only after a preacher shouts, "You are healed!"

There is also plenty of self-hype to knock down. Obama is not as bold as he claims and doesn't tell as many hard truths as he professes to. His Senate record of bipartisanship is fine as far as it goes, but that isn't as big a deal as he makes it seem. Cooperating with Republicans on nuclear proliferation and lobbying reform is not nearly as hard, nor does it require the same skills, as forging agreement on taxes and spending, judicial nominations, or electronic surveillance. On the day Sen. Patrick Leahy endorsed Obama and I asked him what problem Obama could solve with his powers of bipartisanship, the Democrat from Vermont asserted Kennedy parallels rather than name one.

Sooner or later they better serve you the steak.

The Charisma Mandate (KATE ZERNIKE, 2/17/08, NY Times)

Would we call this a cult of personality?

Today that term is all around Barack Obama — perhaps because there seems so little other way to explain how a first-term senator has managed to dazzle his way to front-runner in the race for the presidency, how he walks on water for so many supporters, and how the mere suggestion that he is, say, mortal, risks vehement objection, or at least exposing the skeptic as deeply uncool.

It’s far too soon to know what role Mr. Obama will play in history, let alone whether he can be compared to F.D.R., or, as he is most commonly, to John F. Kennedy. But it is perhaps time to look more closely at this label that attaches to him, and how it has been applied in the past.

The “cult of personality” is used in the pejorative. But recast as a different name — call it charisma — and, as Roosevelt and other examples show, it can be a critical element of politics and its practical cousin, governance. It just can’t be the only element.

“Today, attacks on the cult of personality seem really to mean attacks on the ability to make speeches that inspire,” Mr. Caro said in an interview. “But you only have to look at crucial moments in the history of our time to see how crucial it was to have a leader who could inspire, who could rally a nation to a standard, who could infuse a country with confidence, to remind people of the justice of a cause.”

Still, Mr. Caro adds a caveat: “That doesn’t always translate into a great presidency.”

FDR required Hitler to get him out of the Great Depression, which his own policies deepened.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 17, 2008 11:21 AM

"I asked him (Leahy)what problem Obama could solve with his powers of bipartisanship, the Democrat from Vermont asserted Kennedy parallels rather than name one."

The next question should have been, what parallels do you mean. What did Kennedy accomplish that was positive?

Posted by: erp at February 17, 2008 1:49 PM


Outside of Washington the man could find a job doing anything...

Posted by: Bartman at February 18, 2008 9:27 AM