Sunday, January 28, 2007

Barack and Making Nice

Both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have biographical stories today about Barack Obama's experience as President of the Harvard Law Review (The NYT story is better.) As readers might know, the staff of the Harvard Law Review are chosen for their analytic and writing skills; they are the elite of their class and customarily go on to play prominent roles in politics, business, and the judiciary. Once chosen, they elect a President to lead the publication. Barack Obama was the first African-American to receive this honor.

To be truthful, I had thought that Obama's conciliatory rhetoric was political calculation: that he struck a bipartisan pose because it was beneficial for him. The articles suggest that I've been too cynical. During his tenure at the Law Review Obama was known for the same virtue he's known for today: he gave people he disagreed with a fair hearing and bridged divides. That's why the conservative faction at the Law Review backed him, and that's how he got elected.

Not to be too perverse, but I can't say I'm happy to know of Obama's authenticity on this matter. Basically, I agree with Paul Krugman's analysis (sorry, paysite):
The nastiness of modern American politics isn’t the result of a random outbreak of bad manners. It’s a symptom of deeper factors — mainly the growing polarization of our economy. And history says that we’ll see a return to bipartisanship only if and when that economic polarization is reversed ... I urge Mr. Obama — and everyone else who thinks that good will alone is enough to change the tone of our politics — to read the speeches of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the quintessential example of a president who tackled big problems that demanded solutions ... what we need now is another F.D.R., not another Dwight Eisenhower.
Krugman is right. What the Democrats need in 2008 is a fighter. No holding hands and singing Kumbaya, please.

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