Barack Obama is provoking the pundits.
Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column today titled “Can He Unleash the Force?” echoes rising criticism that he is “tentative about commanding the stage and consistently channeling the excitement he engenders. At times, he seems to be actively resisting his phenom status and easy appeals to emotion. When he should fire up, he dampens. When he should dominate, he’s deferential. When he should lacerate, he’s languid.”
But then why is Obama rising in the polls and campaign fund-raising? One possible answer is that he is being true to his own nature, which can eventually be fatal in Presidential politics. But there is another possibility--that he sees something about 21st century politics beyond the conventional wisdom.
Last year, Obama came on the scene like the proverbial hare to Hillary Clinton’s tortoise, racing from nowhere to runner-up in the polls. But everyone knows how that fable ends, and Obama may be rewriting the script by slowing down to gather strength for the final dash.
Being a “rock star” last year gave Obama visibility. This year’s challenge is be Presidential. His thoughtful, tentative approach to issues may not requite Maureen Dowd’s desire for political passion, but it can enhance his appeal to voters who want solid, sober judgment again in the White House.
His zinger the other night about John Edwards being four a half years late in opposing the war suggests that Obama’s hare is lying in wait to re-emerge against the Republican candidate after the tortoise crosses the finish line in the race for the Democratic nomination.