Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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John Thune

David Brooks' homage to Senator John Thune ("the perfect boy from a Thornton Wilder play") is good and useful.  He reminds us that there are some thoughtful (perhaps too quiet, too modest)  conservative politicians out there who might make a splash at some point.   Mitch Daniels, the Governor of Indiana, might be another such worth eyeballing.  I do think, in passing, that Brooks' is a bit too careful about criticizing Obama.  While it is true that he is talented, it has also become obvious that he is not as talented as his supporters thought he was (or for that matter, as he himself thought).  I am beginning to conclude that Obama lacks what Aristotle called "authority," but more on that at another time.

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 5 Comments

Yes, Obama is talented.

So am I ... in certain ways.

I'm not qualified to be president.

Neither is Obama. That is clear.

I think it was Rush who prompted this thought, but I'm not sure because it was only the tail end of a monologue that I caught . . . but it reminded me of what Steve Hayward has been saying about conservative politicians who claim Reagan as their hero but don't emulate him in his seriousness . . . i.e., working hard and practicing at things. Reagan made it look like he just had talent--that he was just naturally charming and winning and he didn't have to work hard at it . . . but he really had to work very hard at developing that illusion. Whomever it was I heard yesterday was opining that Obama, on the other hand, just doesn't appear to be working very hard. His view was that Obama appears to be winging it much of the time--whether out of some special inner feeling of his own wonderfulness or out of some artificially propped up attitude coming from the fawning of others.

When I heard that, it resonated. I think that this is something that can be said--not only about Obama--but perhaps about large swaths of his generation and about the popular culture today. There does seem to be a inordinate appreciation of "talent" over effort on a level that I don't recall seeing as pronounced in the past as it seems to be now. Talent is a great thing to have and it's always a thing to be recognized and rewarded . . . but it can only take you so far. You need follow-up. I think we see this, sometimes, with Obama when he betrays a sorry lack either of a knowledge of history or of an interest in it. He often papers over things with pretty words and platitudes (I know all politicians do this . . . but Obama, if practiced at anything, is practiced especially at this) . . . and it is always, when it seems his authority on the subject has run dry. I further think that this--sometimes even more than ideology--may explain why he can give a really bad and off the mark speech on one day (as he did about the Berlin Wall) and then do a pretty admirable job as he did at Ft. Hood. I think this speaks to the authority problem you are noting. There is something remarkably inconsistent in his delivery lately--something that does not breed confidence in his capacity to lead. He looks a bit harried and annoyed--perhaps like John McCain when forced to confront the issue of the economy . . .

There are just some parts of this job that I think he would rather not have to do. And he is not the sort of person who is going to put out a full on effort with respect to something that he does not fancy. What he really is primarily, is a writer (or, as Ken Thomas noted, an artist). And writers & artists--well, at least those ones who are first and foremost those things in their very souls--tend to be easily distracted and bored by applied effort. It is the insight that moves them and grabs at their senses . . . working it out is beneath them. He would rather react than probe and he trusts too much in his talent to see him through the occasions where probing is required.

Obama ain't ten foot tall but conservatives shouldn't kid themselves either. He is really likeable and is a master at making liberal policy look reasonable to the nonideological. He is great at the blocking and tackling of campaigns - at least as good as the Bush/Rove crew. He has the major institutions of the media that speak to the nonideological strongly on his side. He is alot more committed to pushing socially and economically liberal policies than Bill Clinton ever was. I also don't think that we should underrate the role that hard work, self discipline, and patient learnng (of political organizing and rhetoric) led to Obama getting where he is.

Mitch Daniels seems solid. I figure Match Daniels is an honest typo, but perhaps you mean that a Thune should pick Daniels as a good match...Thune/Daniels 2012?

Yes, Pete. Good points. But do note the thing in which Obama's "hard work" was in the service of . . . and note the nature of the work. It was art. It is art. (As "art" is now defined.) It is self-creation. Artists and art are a powerful force, of course. But power does not, necessarily, speak to the question of authority.

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