That’s basically how Andrew Sullivan describes Barack Obama in his Sunday Times essay. And there’s really something to this. First, Obama’s calm in the face of the Clintonistas drove Bill (“Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice”) Clinton and Hillary (“Shame on you, Barack Obama!”) Clinton to say things that they’d later regret, and that may well have lost them the primary.
Now Obama continues unruffled in the face of McCain/Palin onslaught of negative ads and tenuous connections to Bill Ayers and ACORN. I expect that we’ll see tonight, once again, Obama perform in the debate without any Goresque sighs or Nixonian flop sweats. Clearly, as Sullivan convincingly argues, Obama’s calm demeanor in the face of the global economic crisis has contributed to his recent surge in the polls.
And now to venture into the land of pure speculation: It seems to me that BO could not maintain this unshakeable calm were he not an exceptionally grounded, centered, and spiritual person. I suppose that some people are more “wired” toward calm than others, and I’m quite sure that our life experiences contribute to our personalities (like, say, 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton). But running a 2+ year presidential campaign entails an extraordinary amout of stress. Embedded journalists have repeatedly reported both Hillary and McCain regularly exploding in rage at their campaign teams. Unless I’ve missed it, there’s been nary a mention of Obama losing his cool, even behind the scenes.
As a person who tries, often unsuccessfully, to stay centered in the midst of crisis and stress, I cannot but believe that BO’s own spirituality contributes greatly to the preternatural calm that he exudes.
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Two of my favorite members of the punditocracy went at it on Friday night on Real Time. I most appreciate both Bill Maher and Andrew Sullivan for their honesty. I agree with each of them on some things and disagree on others. I tend to agree with Maher on the present state of America and the current administration and I love his acerbic wit (plus the linguistic freedom that he is afforded on HBO), but I find his views on religion to be odious and reactionary. I appreciate Sullivan’s wholehearted commitment to democracy and capitalism, but I think he’s living in lala land to believe that either could achieve the idealistic state that he envisions (in fact, Naomi Klein really busted Sullivan’s chops on this very point on the show).
I think Sullivan is one of the best guests that Maher has on, primarily because Andrew is not the least bit intimidated by Bill’s intellect and tongue. This clip is a classic repartee between the two of them on the subject of religion:
In other news, journalists are finally started to talk publicly about the power of the racist vote in America, and about the McCain campaign’s unwillingness to speak boldly against it. Mark Ambinder has written about it here and here in the last couple days, and Nicholas Kristof today argues that the lingering lies about BO being an underground Muslim is really a foil for racism.
I do think there’s something to this, unfortunately. In fact, the only way I see BO losing the election is if a certain segments of whites don’t vote for him because of latent racism. How sad is that?
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That, during the general election, he will say, “If you are voting for me because you don’t want to vote for a person of color, or because you think that Barack Obama is a Muslim, then I don’t want your vote. If that is the case, don’t vote for me.”
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