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