Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Obama Paradox

As best I can tell, the meteoric rise of Barack Obama is attributable to little more than the man’s rhetorical genius. He manages to be at once plain spoken and intellectual. Compassionate yet practical. Unifying yet resolutely Democratic.

So adept is Obama at being simultaneously meaningful and meaningless that Andrew Ferguson has devoted a whole column in Bloomberg to the caveats and qualifications that adorn almost every opinion the senator expresses.

Ferguson’s contention is that Obama is merely a more eloquent Ross Perot, a man who is more against politics as normal than he is for any specific remedy. I think it’s more complicated than that. I think Obama is a politician who misunderstands the political game. He just may be mistaking broad yet unfocused popular support for electability.

Because we know so little about Obama, he’ll be an easy target for dirty spin doctors intent on branding him as irredeemably liberal or dangerously under-qualified or, you know, secretly a radical Muslim. No amount of rhetorical skill can get you out of a Swift-Boat style jam. That takes political cunning – something not needed to win a Senate seat (see Kerry, John) but an essential skill for all would-be presidents.

So this is what I’m predicting: either Obama really is a wise, unifying, straight-shooter and will get summarily crushed by the Clinton machine; OR he’s slick as a snake under those smooth words and we end up electing a man who pretends to be the anti-politician even as he wiggles through every tight political crevasse.

I’m not saying an admirably honest, thoughtful person can’t win the presidency. I’m saying this particular admirably honest, thoughtful man can’t win in 2008 – unless he’s not particularly admirable. He’s just too inexperienced and too unknown to win the kind of campaign he’s waging.

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Blogger Hagan said...

Obama article you might like:

3:04 PM  

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