Monday, September 22, 2008

Obama as Eisenhower

On 60 Minutes last night, he evoked another man who came to office promising to end an unpopular war and to restore confidence after the tenure of a president with abysmal approval ratings.

"I am a practical person," Barack Obama said, channeling the Dwight Eisenhower of more than half a century ago. "One of the things I'm good at is getting people in a room with ...different ideas who sometimes violently disagree with each other and finding common ground, and a sense of common direction. And that's the kind of approach that I think prevents you from making some of the enormous mistakes that we've seen over the last eight years."

Looking back at his two terms in the 1950s, Ike had taken pride in bringing together the vehemently opinionated and reasoning them into agreement, as he had done in World War II with such military divas as Gen. George Patton and Britain's Viscount Bernard Law Montgomery.

"Extremes to the right and left of any political dispute are always wrong," Eisenhower would say. "The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes are in the gutters."

Despite his own mantra of change and Republican efforts to tar him as a wild-eyed radical, Obama is temperamentally akin to Eisenhower in his reliance on persuasion and conciliation. If elected, he will face a much more divided America, but his instinct will be like Ike's--to reason and heal.

Maybe it goes back to their common childhood roots in Kansas.

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