Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Case for Obama's Ambivalence

For all the comparisons with John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama recalls another Illinois Democrat from that era--Adlai Stevenson, who once described a politician as someone who approaches every question with an open mouth.

In this either-or world, with bumper-sticker answers on every issue, Obama is shocking voters by often saying, “Yes, but...”

In the New York Times last October, David Brooks who rarely has a kind word for a Democrat, urged Obama to run: “He has a compulsive tendency to see both sides of an issue...And yet this style is surely the antidote to the politics of the past several years. It is surely true that a President who brings a deliberative style to the White House will multiply his knowledge, not divide it.”

Oddly, Maureen Dowd, who rarely has a kind word for a Republican, is urging Obama to be more decisive and aggressive. “People want to see you mix it up a little,” she recently told him.

The Wall Street Journal has already run an opinion piece saying “Barack has a long record of not taking a stand,” and more wishy-washy, flip-flopper talk is sure to follow.

Obama will likely ignore all this and go his own way. He may want to take some of Stevenson’s wisdom with him and, in a different era, it may be a winning strategy:

“Every age needs men and women who will redeem the time by living with a vision of the things that are to be.”

“I have tried to talk about the issues, but it’s been a lonely road because I never meet anyone coming the other way.”

“The hardest thing about any campaign is how to win without proving you’re unworthy of winning.”

“It’s harder making peace than making war.”

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