Thursday, April 17, 2008

Points for Restraint?

Another Presidential Debate is in the books in Pennsylvania, and the spinning is already enough to rotate a small planet. But a consensus seems to be emerging that it was a strikingly odd debate, with over half of it devoted to the so-called character issues like Reverend Wright, Senator Clinton's Bosnia tale, and Obama's "ties" to 60s radicals. No one would suggest, I don't think, that these issues are even within shouting distance of the economy or Iraq as issues that actually affect people's lives. But they sure are fun!

Except, last night, to one man.

Barack Obama didn't look particularly happy when the talk was on these issues. And some will say - and are saying - "Oh, look, Obama was on the defensive the whole night! He's got to learn to toughen up, the Republicans are going to be 100 times worse!" And it's true: they will be.

But that's not why he was unhappy. He was just as unhappy with the Bosnia question to Senator Clinton as he was with the questions he's answered, again and again and again, about his "ties" to his former Pastor.

He wants politics to be different, and unlike any other politician in my lifetime, he actually tries to practice what he preaches. It is, at times, incredible and inspiring to watch. Last night he was like a man on a tightrope in the circus, with dozens of people from the crowd below throwing fruit and vegetables up at him to try to knock him off his balance. A banana flies by his head; he ducks. An old head of cabbage whaps him in the knee; he shakes his leg and proceeds.

But there is something about this acrobat we in the crowd don't notice as we hoot and holler and jeer and throw our rotten fruit and hope to get him to fall off and land in a splat in the middle of the auditorium. It's the fact that in his pocket, he has a hand grenade. And no matter much abuse he takes, he refuses to use it. He refuses to take it out and pull the pin and drop it on the crowd -- even though he knows that if he does he will win. He knows that if he uses it, he will win, but the rest of us will lose.

Last night must have been awfully tempting. He even allowed himself, if only for the briefest moment, to place his hand on the grenade when he so elegantly and artfully brought up Senator Clinton's 'cookie' comment. He did it to prove his point: he remembered that manufactured 'controversy' from the 1992 election, and he thought it was silly, as silly as this 'bitter' controversy is today.

But it was also a very subtle reminder of the grenade itself, touching as it did on the explosive relationship that is the very foundation for Senator Clinton's candidacy, her relationship with her husband. And how tempting must it have been when she claimed, again, that she's been vetted, that we knew her baggage, rummaged through it for years, and she could take the heat...! How tempting it must have been for Obama to go further than he did, to say something like, "Really? How many questions have there been during this campaign about The Dress, or The Cigar, or blow jobs from 19 year-old interns? Do you really think the Republicans and their friends are going to leave that stuff out of their ads? If you succeed in somehow knocking me off this tightrope and you become the nominee, do you think the Republicans will wail and gnash their teeth because you've been vetted, or will they celebrate with glee because it will allow them to reintroduce a veritable parade of scandals from your husband's Presidency of failed promise: Vince Foster, Whitewater, travelgate, the Rich pardon, and oh yes that whole impeachment business?"

But he said not a word. Just fingered his grenade that once, and carried on, through the tomatoes and the rotten kiwis, and he somehow managed to get to the other end of the rope, where he hopped off as good as new.

We'll be lucky to have him.


nyhusker said...

Marvelous. I've nothing to add to this one. And I'm glad to see the change in attitude.

Brooks Hansen said...

well-taken point(s), though it's not perfectly clear how Obama could most artfully pull the pin on that grenade, if he so chose (and I know your ultimately point is that he never would). But the granade is named "Bill," after all - not blue dress, not Vince Foster, not travelgate or even impeachment. The grenade is the fact that, as popular a president as her husband may ultimately have been, both he - and she - for some mysterious reason galvanize the opposition in a way that's simply not good for the country, and would keep it mired in the same mud that's ruining us even as I write.

One could argue that the opposition will muster up the same hatred for Obama - evidence to that effect is mounting. But evidence to the contray mounts as well, that Obama is someone who can appeal to a MAJORITY of Americans. Hillary, even in her best days before the fall, could never ever ever ever appeal to more than 48%. And the other 52% (and growing) want her head don a platter. The grenade in Obama's hand is a simple statement of fact: the nomination of Hillary Clinton would ensure that the nation remains divided. The nomination of Barack Obama means maybe we have a chance.

In short, we can choose to cointinue to be an Abomination...

...or we can choose to be an Obamanation!

But he can't say that.

back to work.

Anonymous said...

Owen Jant says, At last, we have a brilliant blog about the only candidacy that counts this year. And yeah, you're dead on about the grenade and how the GOP would use it in the Fall if she got the nomination. They'll probably start a contest asking how many days would a Hillary Clinton presidency last until she was impeached. Obama was restrained, intelligent and as always a gentleman. But maybe he has to be the opposite of those things to win the presidency. If he does, let's help him do it with class, let's help him stick to the issues and never mind the Bill Maher jokes about how often McCain gets up to pee in the night. We need Obama, and we need him on the issues....Anyway, brilliant blog.