Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Obama and McCain

I'll grant that I enjoy David Brooks partly because he's a fair-minded centrist, and partly because I'm more interested in lateral, big-picture thinking than anything else. But enjoy him I do.

Today's column is on the strengths and weaknesses of the two men who may be the front-runners tomorrow.

On Obama:

Everybody who’s dealt with him has a story about a time when they felt Obama profoundly listened to them and understood them. One of mine came a few years ago.

I was writing columns criticizing the Republican Congress, but each time I’d throw in a few sentences slamming the Democrats, subconsciously trying to make myself feel good. One morning I got an e-mail message from Obama that roughly said: David, if you want to critique us, fine. But you’re just throwing in those stray sentences to make yourself feel good.

I felt like a bug pinned down in a display case.


His weakness is that he never breaks from his own group.

And McCain:

John McCain has cordial relations with Obama, but he is very different. He is most moved by examples of heroism and individual excellence. His books are about individual character and patriotism, not networks or community-building.


He is allergic to blind party discipline and builds radically different coalitions depending on his views on each issue — global warming, campaign finance, spending, the war. He is most offended by dishonor. He’ll be sitting in his Senate office and he’ll read about some act of selfishness — a corrupt Pentagon contract, Jack Abramoff’s scandals — and he’ll spend the next several months punishing wrongdoing.


McCain’s weakness is that he flies by the seat of his pants.

I'm not the first to say it - heck, Andrew Sullivan has said it about 68 times - but will echo it: A race between these two men has the potential to be the most edifying for the country in decades. They would be substantive, positive, intelligent, respectful, and would offer voters a clear choice of ideologies that would both appeal to Independents. What more could we reasonably expect?

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