By Alan Caruba
If you Google “Obama” and “charisma”, you will find an ample number of links to newspapers and other outlets that reference Sen. Barack Obama’s charisma. To be candid, it’s lost on me, but I have been around long enough and read enough history to know that charisma is a two-edged sword for those who have it and those who are swayed by it.
The very act of being human is to be flawed in some respect. What I notice most about Obama is his hesitancy. Listen to how he responds to questions.
On the stump he speaks with remarkable power. I don’t think I have heard anyone like him since the late Martin Luther King, Jr. who I personally heard when he spoke on the campus of Drew University in New Jersey and who I had the unique pleasure of meeting. Dr. King had charisma. It translates as meaning touched by grace, having spiritual power, a gift or power.
Indeed, many people have charisma based on some special talent. In interviews, though, Obama picks his words with extreme care. Compare this, as I did watching Sen. John McCain sparring with Jon Stewart of the Daily Show the other evening. McCain is as relaxed and as quick-witted as any candidate I’ve seen since the days of the youthful JFK. Obama has been on the show, too, but there is just something very calculated about what he says and how he says it.
Indeed, that is a characteristic that is identifiable on or off the stomp. There is no doubt that he knows what to say and can deliver it powerfully, but it is the calculation behind it that worries me. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is so blatant she just came out and said she should be the nominee because she can get the white vote. Well, yes, she can! And, no, he can’t.
History, too, has some lessons to be learned about charisma. Some very unsavory people had it and most of them could deliver one heck of a speech. Crowds cheering, women swooning, men enraptured by the fantasy of power or change or whatever snake oil is being poured.
In the purest terms possible, the Constitution grants most of the real power to Congress. The President has the veto and what Teddy Roosevelt called the bully pulpit, but he doesn’t fashion legislation, he responds to it. Beyond that he is the Commander-in-Chief and he gets to select Supreme Court nominees. Even then, Congress can reject them and has.
I am far less swayed by so-called charisma than most. It probably comes from my days as a working journalist. That’s why those who cover politicians and/or candidates rapidly grow skeptical and even weary of the rhetoric, and begin to ask a lot of questions that annoy their quarry. Experienced politicians learn how to parry questions or just ignore them.
Obama has briefly gotten by his relationships with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers at this point, but both will come back to haunt him. What may yet trip him up, however, is his thin record of experience and his voting record. The latter has done in candidates with far more to offer.
In the end, voters take character into consideration and, once the glow of charisma has passed, other than those who will robotically vote Democrat, a lot of Americans, including Democrats, are going to pause and ask themselves if charisma is enough in these challenging times?
Let me answer that question. It isn’t.