Sunday, October 05, 2008

Obama: "a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament"?

Charles Krauthammer
(Image from Jewish World Review)

Charles Krauthammer, generally considered one of Neoconservatism's proponents -- though he prefers his views to be known as "Democratic Realism" -- has some interesting remarks about John McCain and Barack Obama in a Washington Post column, "Hail Mary vs. Cool Barry" (October 3, 2008).

Krauthammer sees McCain as a gambler. He doesn't call McCain a gambler in the column, but he compares him to a quarterback repeatedly throwing a Hail Mary pass -- first with his support of The Surge in Iraq, then with his choice of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate, and most recently with his suspension of his campaign to help solve the financial crisis -- and each of these throws was a quarterback's desperate gamble.

Unfortunately, there's something called "Krauthammer's Hail Mary Rule: You get only two per game."

McCain's gamble on the financial crisis lost him the ball. Barack Obama, whose temperament is to leave nothing to chance and whose intellect is suited for calculating every possibility, intercepted and laconically observed that a presidential candidate ought to be able to do "more than one thing at once."

Krauthammer grudgingly acknowledges that Obama's campaign strategy is working. After McCain's second Hail Mary pass, which Sarah Palin caught, the Republicans looked situated to win, and Democrats -- in panic -- were urging Obama to get passionate, to turn on the charisma. Instead, he made himself ordinary:
Obama understood that the magic was wearing off and the audacity of hope wearing thin. Hence the self-denial perfectly personified in his acceptance speech in Denver. He could have had 80,000 people in rapture. Instead, he made himself prosaic, even pedestrian, going right to the general election audience to project himself as one of them.
This wasn't how "Spengler" -- commenting in the Asia Times, "How Obama lost the election" (September 3, 2008) -- saw the speech at the time:
On television, Obama's spectacle might have looked like The Ten Commandments, but inside the stadium it felt like Night of the Living Dead. The longer the candidate spoke, and the more money he promised to spend on alternative energy, preschool education, universal health care, and other components of the Democratic pinata, the lower the party professionals slouched into their seats . . . . The Democrats were watching the brightest and most articulate presidential candidate they have fielded since John F Kennedy snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The often insightful "Spengler" couldn't fathom why Obama would choose to be so boring, but I think that Krauthammer has nailed it. Obama knew that the moment to be ordinary had arrived.

Neither "Spengler" nor Krauthammer supports Obama. Both prefer McCain. But they acknowledge Obama's intellectual gifts, albeit differently, for "Spengler" adds a slap: "Obama . . . is long on brains and short on guts." Krauthammer gets in a few slaps as well, but concludes rather differently:
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. famously said of Franklin Roosevelt that he had a "second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament." Obama has shown that he is a man of limited experience, questionable convictions, deeply troubling associations (Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Tony Rezko) and an alarming lack of self-definition -- do you really know who he is and what he believes? Nonetheless, he's got both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament. That will likely be enough to make him president.
Mixed, but more positive than "Spengler" on Obama. As for Obama lacking 'guts', on that point, I also have to differ with "Spengler" and side with Krauthammer, for no candidate lasts this long in a presidential campaign without 'guts'. What "Spengler" took as 'gutlessness', Krauthammer understood as intellectual calculation and temperamental coolness.

In my opinion, the financial crisis has sealed McCain's fate. The great bailout is an act of a big, interventionist government committed to managing the economy. Whether this proves a good or a bad thing, only time will tell, but for now, the bailout undercuts what the Republicans ordinarily stand for and supports what the Democrats have long believed.

Listen, I'm just the messenger here.

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At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Christopher said...

John McCain thinks and acts like the fighter pilot he once was. This, I think, is the key to understanding him.

The economic crisis arrived just in time for Obama, for his chances of being elected were less than 50%, the polls notwithstanding (remember the Bradley Effect?).

I see Sarah Palin (George Bush in drag) is resurrecting the issue of Obama's friendship with William Ayers.

So I expect to see once again those videos of Jeremiah Wright, and to listen to speeches asserting that Obama is a secret Muslim, and is ".....not one of us.....".

It may yet work for the McCainites. After all, the American people in their collective wisdom, voted George Bush into office not just once, but twice.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, political campaigns always get nasty about now, so we'll see what happens.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nixon's "Wage and Price Controls"-

Nah, nobody remembers that. Maybe the S&L Crisis?


Reagan's "400 ship navy" well we did get that-but anyone who "sailed" aboard one of those shps will say-

-"those ships were crap."

But they did make good beds for coral reefs. Well: future coral reefs. Look 'em up, how many DDG's from the Reagan era are not now "future" coral reefs?

"Read my lips-no new taxes."

I wish I could spell Ullyses correctly, along with the "Panic of 1873."

I do know something about working aboard an aircraft carrier (CV-63)- I don't know anything about getting shot down.

I do remember that "Patton" movie where that G.C. Scott guy supposedly said, "...bravery is not dying for your country, ... bravery is making that other poor dumb bastard die for his... "

Well. Patton was not on the 1980's Navy.

But thanks anyway.


At 4:14 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, are you analyzing McCain and the Republicans?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Scholar,

I thought you were doing a review of the "Patton" movie. Wrong blog I suppose.

Heck, I've never voted for an Executive who wasn't Republican before (Mom and I even had a kinda disagreement about whether George Patton was a Republican-she had seafood, I had prime rib).

I suppose it was because I ate prime rib. But heck, she's more "committed" Republican than I am.

She almost didn't pay for lunch.


In the end.

She bailed me out.

I do know the President's initials- was it George Walker Patton or what? I'm so happy you're a scholar: I can see Russia from here.


At 5:39 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

From on top of Mt. Magazine, one can almost see the Republic of Texas. I've been on top of that mountain. I almost know a lot about Texas.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:11 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

"The New Republic" carried a long and, I think, very well written article about Obama by a certain "David Samuels". I know nothing about the publication or the author, but I found it very well written. Actually the guy Obama now starts making sense for me. Recommended: Link to article

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

As an additional bonus, the article was/is to be published in the future: October 22, 2008.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal. I'll look into this article. Good to see you here again, too.

By the way, do you know anything about the mole on Muhammad's back? You may have noticed my query. If you have any ideas, please post a comment there.

Jeffery Hodges

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