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.”

No comments: