Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker looks at Obama

Ryan Lizza's piece in the New Yorker is long, tight and full of stories. No, I didn't read much of it but what I did read seems solid. This review by Nate at FiveThirtyEight is quick, easy and smart.
(This issue's cover is a cartoon image of Barack and Michelle Obama depicted as the smear-related whisper campaign would have them. Some flap about the cover, but nothing important.)

Ryan Lizza's 15,000-word epic by no means paints the most flattering picture of Barack Obama. His Obama is remarkably intelligent and very level-headed, but also understands every lever of power, and is ambitious to the point of being ruthless.

Well, no shit he's ambitious. For any American to go from a relatively unprivileged childhood (or a privileged one for that matter) to be on the doorstep of the Preisdency by the time he's age 46 requires a perfect storm of luck, intelligence, and ambition. Obama has ample amounts of each.

But the article is more remarkable for revealing what Obama is not.

One, he's not some Pierre Trudeau type of academic. Obama became interested in politics very early, and seemed to have some keen understanding of his upside potential. The sometimes languid pace of academia was not really compatible with that.

Two, Obama was not corrupt. He knew how to navigate the rules of the system. But he didn't cheat the system. Obama succeeded, for instance, in disqualifying Alice Palmer from the ballot in the Illinois State Senate because she faked hundreds of signatures to get her name on it, and then Obama called her out. That's maybe not the most mannerly, tea-and-crumpets way of doing things. But Obama didn't cheat. Palmer had cheated. What Obama did was to exploit some of the inefficiencies of the Chicago machine system. Tony Rezko donates, though legal channels, a bunch of money because he expects you to behave like a typical machine politician and do him illegal favors? What to do? Well, you take his money. And then you don't do him the favors.

Third, Obama is not any kind of radical, and particularly not any kind of radical black nationalist. His associations with people like Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers may have arisen out of a certain amount of political convenience; they were significant players in the South Side political scene. But there is no evidence that he shared many of their political ideas. Hyde Park is not some liberal enclave in the way that Berkley or Boulder is. It is, rather, a place where people are very tolerant of different ideas. Liberal and even radical ideas, but notably also, conservative ones... Hyde Park prides itself on being a laboratory of free thought and free speech, and so these people can lead a relatively happy coexistence there. But their views do not represent the consensus, and there is certainly no evidence that they represented Obama's.

1 comment:

Hoots said...

This post has been picked up by rezkorama, an Obama smear site started by Hugh Hewett. I guess they put a robot in charge of reading and it can't discern when a piece might be sending the wrong message.

This happened once before that I am aware of but the material vanishes after a day or two into some black hole archives with no index. Lord knows what kind of sludge is in there.

Newshoggers did an excellent piece on the site in March before they went to a new address.
Rezkorama - The Coming Swift Boating Of Obama (Updated)