What I liked about Obama's speech tonight
I've just listened to Charlie Rose speaking to a few of his colleagues about their impressions. The young journalist Jodi Kantor somewhat lamented the fact that Obama is still coming through as too aloof. He manages to keep himself outside the circle of festivities. He does not inhale, was what she more or less said. And she considers it a flaw. Yet I find this is the very quality that makes him credible and authentic in my eyes. He eschews sentimentality. He may have passion, but he keeps it cool, which is just what I think a leader ought to be like.
I agreed with her later assessment that Obama has shown a great capacity for learning and growing. This quality, which is not so much about humility as about discipline and deliberate resistance to self-indulging, is again a quality which should be much valued in an elected leader in the midst of a frantic and highly emotional constituency.
As for the substance of his speech, I was very pleased when he said that America's ethos is, or ought to be, about personal responsibility and mutual responsibility. These are extremely important values which I suspect some of Obama's more ardent followers have so far failed to grasp. They represent the counterpoint to the school of resentment, to a culture of victimhood and a sense of entitlement, which have become the most repulsive aspects of the so-called "Left".
Personal responsibility and mutual responsibility are two of the main Jewish values.
Mutual responsibility, each of us is responsible for caring about and safeguarding the welfare
Free choice, which is another term for personal responsibility, that people are free agents and are responsible for the result of those choices.
A cool head, a principled, disciplined, perpetually self-correcting* and unsentimental mind. This is good combination in any leader and I think America is lucky to have produced such a presidential candidate.
I found most endearing the scene a few moments after he finished his speech. When his wife and two daughters came on stage, he went to meet them, immediately picking up in his arms the younger one and kissing the other, who is too old and tall by now to climb on her father in the same way. It was a thoroughly authentic moment, which I know for a fact all fathers of little girls can easily reference and remember.
* In one of the primary's debate, we had occasion to witness this self-correcting learning in the making: When he and his rivals were asked to name their biggest weakness, Obama answered first, saying he has a messy desk and needs help managing paperwork. Sen. John Edwards said his biggest weakness is that he has a powerful response to seeing pain in others, and Clinton said she gets impatient to bring change to America.
"Because I'm an ordinary person, I thought that they meant, `What's your biggest weakness?'" Obama said "If I had gone last I would have known what the game was. And then I could have said, `Well, ya know, I like to help old ladies across the street. Sometimes they don't want to be helped. It's terrible.'"
Sunstein explains Obama (H/T: NWO):
Perhaps because of Obama's strong and early opposition to the Iraq war, and because he has not been on the national scene long, some people on the left have projected their own views onto him. They think that his recent departures from left-wing orthodoxy are a form of flip-flopping or some kind of betrayal.
These objections miss the mark. Obama has not betrayed anyone. The real problem lies in the assumption, still widespread on both the left and the right, that Obama is a doctrinaire liberal whose positions can be deduced simply by asking what the left thinks.
I have been asking the same question throughout my acquaintance with presidential hopeful Obama: what's the deal with his scary supporters? Why are they continuing to support him, with unbridled passion, despite his explicitly articulated positions which veer clear away from the wishes of the lunatic Left?
In a discussion with BobfromBrockley we pondered this ability of his to attract political opposites. I characterized it as Obama's Zeligian skills. But I'm beginning to think it is more like Sunstein says, that people project onto him their own longings and warped realities. All that gushing and drooling and messianic fervour is pretty off putting.
Jon Stewart described it most ingenuously last night. The comedians have begun to poke fun at Obama and his power base; that means the honeymoon is over and he is no longer considered sacred property...
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Thursday, August 28, 2008
What I liked about Obama's speech tonight