Tuesday, January 08, 2008

McCain and Obama

David Brooks nails this point in today's Op Ed (which I only read after writing the above):

Obama’s great skill is his ability to perceive and forge bonds with other people. 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.

Out of that perceptiveness comes a distinct way of seeing the world. Obama emphasizes the connections between people, the networks and the webs of influence. These sorts of links are invisible to some of his rivals, but Obama is a communitarian. He believes you can only make profound political changes if you first change the spirit of the community. In his speeches, he says that if one person stands up, then another will stand up and another and another and you’ll get a nation standing up.

The key word in any Obama speech is “you.” Other politicians talk about what they will do if elected. Obama talks about what you can do if you join together. Like a community organizer on a national scale, he is trying to move people beyond their cynicism, make them believe in themselves, mobilize their common energies.

January 8, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

McCain and Obama

Salem, N.H.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain attract independents. Both have a candor that appeals to voters and media-types alike. Both ask their audiences to serve a cause greater than self-interest. Both offer a politics that is grand and inspiring.

But they are very different men. Their policies obviously conflict, but their skills, world views and moral philosophies set them apart, too. One man celebrates communitarian virtues like unity, the other classical virtues like honor.


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