Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Living with Dispassion

For most of this year, I've been surprised by how little President Obama seems to be part of the national conversation.

Is it just me? Am I not paying sufficient attention to his speeches?

Or, is the current POTUS really not a dynamic part of the day-to-day dialogue on the country's affairs -- in the style of Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan?

Last week in his NYT column, David Brooks touched on this.

The column's bookends:

Many Democrats are nostalgic for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — for the passion, the clarity, the bliss-to-be-alive fervor. They argue that these things are missing in a cautious and emotionless White House.


The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.

The disadvantage is the tendency to bureaucratize the war. Armed conflict is about morale, motivation, honor, fear and breaking the enemy’s will. The danger is that Obama’s analytic mode will neglect the intangibles that are the essence of the fight. It will fail to inspire and comfort. Soldiers and Marines don’t have the luxury of adopting President Obama’s calibrated stance since they are being asked to potentially sacrifice everything.

Barring a scientific breakthrough, we can’t merge Obama’s analysis with George Bush’s passion. But we should still be glad that he is governing the way he is. I loved covering the Obama campaign. But amid problems like Afghanistan and health care, it simply wouldn’t do to give gauzy speeches about the meaning of the word hope. It is in Obama’s nature to lead a government by symposium. Embrace the complexity. Learn to live with the dispassion.

The photo above is from here.

1 comment:

Fran said...

I have some thoughts on this that I am not prepared to share. More about the virtue of hope and less about the POTUS, but they do work together.

It is very sad to watch this unfold. Very. Sad.

That said, I am ever grateful to not be living under the alternative.