Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Charisma Kid

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.


Saildog said...

I am an Aussie and have no say in the matter, however viewed from offshore the US I would be most surprised if McCain won. He has a lot to contend with: The Republicans have the most unpopular president on record, US economic problems began right in the middle of their watch, Bush & Cheney are oil men and look at the price of gas, there is the Iraq occupation which not only is doomed to failure (most, if not all occupations fail), but is deeply unpopular; and which McCain seems to support the continuation of; and simple "its time for a change" mentality.

Then there is the black man vs. white women issue. I think this will cost the Democrats a few votes. If the Republicans haven't rigged the election (I kid you not, there are some serious questions about the suppliers of some voting machines) then I think the Dems do have a reasonable chance.

That said, whoever wins the election has most likely won the booby prize of the year. They will likely take over in a serious econimic crisis caused by 3 factors: a deeply unpopular occupation in Iraq that the US can no longer afford, the country effectively bankrupt; and oil prices even higher than they are today.

Lee Hazel said...

Alan: we are dealing here with three brilliant left wing attornies. They are lined up against one trained warrier, heroic POW, turned politician.

These "attorneys" know exactly what they are saying and exactly what response they intend to get. They will pause for effect only.

AN aside, saildog, the comment regarding Bush, Cheney and the price of oil shows an abysmal lack of knowledge regarding the oil crises and how we got here. Also, the general tone of your writing has a marked leftward bias. You've been reading to much NYT, AP and Rueters international propaganda.

Saildog said...

Lee - you make quite an assumption accusing me of being left wing and not understanding the oil crisis.

In all liklihood I understand the oil crisis significantly better than you. I certainly understand it better than Alan, or better than he lets on.

There is nothing in my post that suggests any particular bias - it is comment only.

Lee Hazel said...

saildog: I did not intend any "accusation" when I remarked on the "bias" I observed. The items you mentioned sound like the Democratic mantra of the left wing of that party.
Here is the "drumbeat" of that mantra:
Bush and Cheney have "oil" in their background, they personally have something to gain from high oil prices. My comment,Utter nonsense.
Iraq "occupation"? is doomed to failure. Every indication from our military and diplomatic sources and journalistic sources(that mangage to get published) are that we are succeeding.
The idea of Change (undefined) has been a theme of the Democratic party and a central theme of the very liberal(leftwing) Senator from Illinois, BHO. I'm not aware of McCain adapting that "mentality"
The idea that the Republicans rigged in some way voting machines and thereby "stole" the 2000 and 2004 elections is ludicrous. If it were substantive in any way the Democrats would have pursued it with a determination seldom seen in the "wishy-washy, feel good" party.
The economy, with a couple of soft spots, to whit: oil prices and the "trickle down" to other products, the Real Estate loan debacle, and "saving" levels, is very healthy by all indicators including unemployment, stock market, retail sales, big ticket sales, etc.
To paraphrase the immortal Mark Twain, "the announcement of the demise(trouble) of the american economy is greatly exagerated".
This theme of the Democratic party just doesn't hold water.
The "Main Stream Media" MSM in this country is decidedly Democrat. A great deal that is published abroad bears the "imprint" of the leftward bias of this media. There is substantial proof of this bias.
Just Google Media bias, newspaper bias, etc. It is an education in and of itself.
I visited Australia in the 1960s, wonderful country.
Don't be surprised if McCain wins, some indications are that a McCain vs Obama election would be a rout for McCain. The congressional elections are an entirely different matter. If you hadn't guessed i am a Republican.

PC will be the end of us all