Friday, October 17, 2008


The endorsement of Barack Obama by The Washington Post has led David Broder to pen a column that is odd in tone, fun-house-mirror looking-glass in its reflection of the candidates, but has the virtue at least of being in line with his newspaper's editorial position.

The opening of the official endorsement by the Post contains a line that is out of place, having been proved quite wrong by events. Yet, it is part of the insiderism of the Post - a paper that takes its coverage of the town business seriously, even if it ends up looking like a booster for idiots on occasion - that has rendered the paper less and less relevant on an editorial level in recent years.
THE NOMINATING process this year produced two unusually talented and qualified presidential candidates. There are few public figures we have respected more over the years than Sen. John McCain. Yet it is without ambivalence that we endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president.(emphasis added)

While it might be true that the paper's personalities have admired McCain, this campaign has shown that there is little to admire about him. He has run a shoddy, erratic campaign, filled with the most despicable nonsense, race-baiting and rumor-mongering using themes concocted by ignorant radio blabbers like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to play on the darkest fears and hates of the American people. More important that this kind of nutty pandering, however, has been his almost total lack of understanding for the seriousness of our current situation - he tried to ride his white horse to the rescue of the markets, only to have it throw him to the ground as events outpaced his heroism. He and his running mate have become, a bit less than three weeks away from the election, more of a punch line than anything else. We will have to endure him for eighteen days, and then Barack Obama can thank him for running against him and McCain and Palin can then become silent, a sound I long to hear.

Now, as far as Broder's column is concerned, I can only say there is something wistful and sad about it. He tried to salvage something from the wreckage of the debate on Wednesday night for Sen. McCain, with the following consolation for the elderly Senator from Arizona:
[R]eal-world events are driving politics far more than politicians can affect the course of events.

I believe this sentence to be true to a certain extent. Yet, how a person who is either in a position of leadership, or aspires to such a position, reacts to extraordinary events, is also important. McCain's odd "suspension" of his campaign (I still would like to know what, exactly, that meant and what he suspended) was, as I said above, an attempt on McCain's part to look heroic. Its failure was due in part to the refusal of any of the other parties involved in the discussions in Washington to take him seriously. Its failure was also due in part to hisown ignorance of the scope of the problem, and his own limited understanding of what was necessary (from a political point of view) to address it.

Obama's reaction was to appear detached at first, and to work behind the scenes with people, finding out what was going on, and which ways the prevailing political winds were blowing. As McCain sucked all sorts of oxygen from the room with this attempt to save the day, Obama's cool detachment served him well, because nothing McCain did, in the end, mattered.

In other words, Obama acted like a leader, he acted Presidential. McCain acted like Theodore Roosevelt, except for the whiny, high-pitched voice. We do not need Theodore Roosevelt right now, though, but his younger second cousin. Whatever doubts and fears Obama may have about the state of the country he is about to assume leadership of, he seems all calm and assurance. Broder's column has the virtue of recognizing that these qualities - a calmness and assurance that can appear like he is aloof and, to use Broder's word, "professorial" - are much more in demand in the public mind than McCain's Tartouffe-like "heroism".

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