Sunday, April 08, 2007

NY Times: Obama Has Serious Message & Serious Manner

This piece is quite flattering of Mr. Obama, so maybe it deserves to be noted as one of many that a friendly press has given the Senator. However, in no way does it seem an undeserving characterization.

The reputation he has built purposefully, for thoughtful sincerity, has proven consistent as he competes in the greatest gladiatorial arena in American politics. He is more measured in his appearances on the campaign trail than he was at the convention in 2004, probably because he is speaking to crowds that need information and not partisans that need to applaud.

For months we talked about whether a freshman senator could campaign with the likes of John Edwards and (Bill &)Hillary Clinton. He has met the challenge and more.

[A] more casual setting has revealed Mr. Obama to be a tactile campaigner... drawing voters close in conversation.

And it allowed for moments like one that took place at the V.F.W. Hall in Dakota City, after almost everyone had gone. Mr. Obama was approached by a woman, her eyes wet. She spoke into his ear and began to weep, collapsing into his embrace. They stood like that for a full minute, Mr. Obama looking ashen, before she pulled away. She began crying again, Mr. Obama pulled her in for another embrace...

The next day, at the rally here, Mr. Obama described the encounter for the crowd. The woman, he said, had asked if her son’s death was the result of a mistake by the government. “And I told her the service of our young men and women — the duty they show this country — that’s never a mistake,” he said.

He paused carefully as he reflected on that encounter. “It reminds you why you get into politics,” he said. “It reminds you that this isn’t a game.”

Most candidates can give a description of a moment with grieving mother like this, but how many can do that and still channel the intellect of Stevenson and the convictions of Hubert Humphrey*. My hope is that a fear that nice guys, along with smart guys and honest guys, finish last, will not keep us from electing one.

Another, totally separate point from this article, about the early opposition to the war, made me think of a hypothetical exchange in a Democratic debate.

Obama: I want people to know that I opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning because I want them to know that judgment counts for something. It was not easy to oppose the war in 2002, as my colleagues in the Senate know.

Edwards: Well those of us who were in the Senate in 2002, who have been making decisions about national security, know that actually being in the office means you have a different set of information and a different set of challenges in making that type of decision (with charming drawl in full effect).

Obama: Well, Senator, if you think that being in office necessarily compels you to make one decision that you would not if you were not the office holder, my advice would be not to run for president. There will be more pressure in that chair than any of us can imagine, and we need somebody in it who can make the decision while taking into account what Americans want, but making a priority of what Americans need. I hate to bring up the old charge of inconsistent leadership, thrown around by our opponents without substance or scruple, but I made that decision in 2002 because some of us did know, without equivocation, that this war was the wrong course.

* Humphrey was another brilliant youngster in the Senate who made his name as a brilliant convention speaker, in 1948, and made his career as a brilliant public servant advocating for civil rights.


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