My Obama Problem: After reading up a bit on Barack Obama for a temporarily-aborted bloggingheads segment, my tentative working thesis is this: He's too damn reflective! And introspective. ... Maybe it's the writers, or the questions they ask, or the audience they think they're writing for, but all the drama in the stories about Obama comes from his "emotional wrestling match with his background," his overcoming of his "angry sense of racial displacement," his wrenching assessments and reassessments of how to live in "a world that is broken apart by class and race and nationality," etc.
One of those reassessments, according to Obama, came when a friend told him "you always think everything's about you." And he doesn't any more? Obama's favorite complexity still seems to be Obama--it was certainly a subtext of his 2004 convention address. ("We worship an awesome God in the blue states"). At the end of his early Obama profile, my boss Jacob Weisberg says Obama "would never be so immodest" as to compare himself to Lincoln. But a dozen paragraphs earlier, Obama had done just that:
"That kind of hunger—desperate to win, please, succeed, dominate—I don't know any politician who doesn't have some of that reptilian side to him. But that's not the dominant part of me. On the other hand, I don't know that it was the dominant part of—" his voice suddenly trails off as he motions behind him to a portrait of Lincoln, the self-invented lawyer, writer, and politician from Illinois. "This guy was pretty reflective," he says, offering a sly smile.
I'm a "character" voter, not an "issues" voter. But the way you reveal your character is by grappling with issues, not by grappling with yourself. Anguish is easy. Isn't it time for Obama to start being ostentatiously reflective about policies? That's what you want from a Harvard Law Review type.
And on the issues, what's Obama done that's original or pathbreaking? I don't know the answer. But compare his big speech on immigration reform with failed Dem Senate candidate Brad Carson's article on immigration reform. Carson says things Democrats (and Republicans) haven't been saying; Obama's speech offers an idiosyncratic veneer of reasonableness over a policy that is utterly party line and conventional, defended with arguments that are party line and conventional.
OK, that's just one example. Maybe I'm an old-fashioned Joe Kleinish Clintonian self-hating Dem. But I'm not swooning until I hear Obama to tell Democrats something they maybe don't want to hear. Did I miss it? 12:21 A.M. link
Monday, December 18, 2006
Shane MacGowan of the Pogues on Kirsty MacColl, who was killed six years ago yesterday, and their song Fairytale of New York, which won a 2004 poll for best Christmas song. [via Gawker] ... My nominee for best Christmas song is something I've only heard once, The Wedding Present's ecstatically noisy version of "Step Into Christmas." ... P.S.: OK, I've now heard it twice. (It's here.) I stand by my position. ... 8:52 P.M.
And Johnson Walks? So Fannie Mae ex-CEO Franklin Raines may have to give back $84 million in bonuses he received from 1998 to 2004, while his predecessor Dem bigshot Jim Johnson--who apparently got a bigger bonus than Raines did in 1998--doesn't have to give back anything? Hardly seems fair. ... P.S.: Johnson at one point had parlayed his position at the head of the Fannie Mae gravy train into the chairmanship of the Kennedy Center and the otherwise-reputable Brookings Institution. ... Yet even the conservative N.Y. Sun seems to have forgotten that Johnson, who also headed John Kerry's vice-presidential search, is involved in this mess. ... P.P.S.: Here's my attempt to assess Raines' relative guilt or innocence. ... In any case, if Raines had taken kausfiles' 2004 advice--'give the money back now!'--he'd be better off, no? He could be the Tara Conner of overpaid CEOs! And he'd still have a political future. ... 7:15 P.M.
If Judith Regan lawyer Bert Fields' bite were as fearsome as his bark, wouldn't Susan Estrich own the L.A. Times? Just asking! ... 7:14 P.M.