Sunday, May 04, 2008

Obama's Anger and McCain's

Michelle Obama is telling voters about her husband's feelings during this long, hard battle for the nomination, his thinking that "I can't let my ego, my anger, my frustration get in the way of the ultimate goal."

Among the sad aspects of the past week has been Jeremiah Wright's usurping of any anger that Obama's might express. On Meet the Press today, the candidate responded to Tim Russert's grilling with unfailing calm and sadness in a situation where annoyance at being betrayed might be expected. But Obama has to distance himself from Wright's operatic anger.

Against the tactics of the Clinton and McCain campaigns, he has wryness and humor as an outlet, but there has been nothing funny about his former minister's antics.

By today's political rules, overt anger is unacceptable. "Give 'em hell, Harry" Truman would be an anachronism in a 21st century campaign.

In the post-nomination period, that will be a problem for John McCain as well. He will have to live down his reputation for a "quick temper and whether it might hinder him as president" that dates back to the 2000 campaign.

“He is passionate about the future of this country,” Cindy McCain recently told daytime TV viewers. “Some people mistake that for temper.”

McCain's anger-management technique was seen during the primaries in his addressing of Mitt Romney as "My friend" as he answered his slurs with gritted teeth.

In a matchup between Obama and McCain, temperament is sure to be an issue. An underlying question will be whether Obama has enough fire in him to be president and whether McCain has too much.

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