A few of you have written, observing that I haven’t written much lately. It’s just that, well, I haven’t been in much of a mood to write lately. As is my wont, I have been scribbling down ideas for posts, but for some reason, just haven’t felt like writing. Maybe it was the full moon had an unusual effect on me last week.
Or maybe I was discouraged by my difficulty accommodating to our new provider. Or maybe I just got out of practice of blogging when the blog was down.
In the past two weeks, since I got back from Vegas, I had endured a cold, had to plan an event (on the fly) for my college alumni association (which I will advertise on the blog later today) and begun serious work on my dissertation, while attempting to clean my apartment and looking for a condo to buy. And I wanted to see as many of the Oscar-nominated films as I could stomach while socializing with my friends.
Today, for some reason, I have been thinking a lot about the apparent Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. As I’ve noted several times on this blog, I find him a compelling figure, an attractive candidate and a good speaker, yet I find his campaign based more on his personality than any great ideas for leading and improving our great nation.
While some may call him a new kind of politician, in many ways, he’s no different from many other charismatic figures who have sought positions of political leadership. He obscures his absence of plan for change in noble-sounding rhetoric about the need for change.
It seems he’s running for president entirely on his personality. To be sure, other candidates for president ran on their presence. But, many of them had already accomplished things in other endeavors, for example, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 or even H. Ross Perot, forty years later.
Given the power of the Illinios’s Senator’s presence and his gift with words, some have compared this Democratic politician to a Republican with similar gifts–Ronald Wilson Reagan. But, unlike Obama, Reagan had actually accomplished something before he ran for the White House, having served, among other things, two terms as governor of the nation’s largest state.
It’s not just that. As James Pethokoukis wrote earlier this month in U.S. News and World Report, “People knew what they were getting when they voted for Reagan. Obama? I’m not so sure” (Via Instapundit).
The Gipper never denied his conservatism and ran on a set of principles he’d been championing for at least sixteen years before his successful 1980 bid for the White House. Obama, by contrast, seems to be running from his record in elected office, never highlighting in his campaign that he was ranked the most liberal member of the United States Senate.
To be sure, Senator Obama is charismatic figure and good speaker. (Even Victor Davis Hanson calls him “perhaps the best natural orator and politician we’ve seen since Ronald Reagan and JFK.” But, we really don’t know where he stands. So, Senator, you may have the Gipper’s gift for words, but Ronald Reagan was also a man of ideas. In your campaign so far, you’re no Ronald Reagan.
And I wonder if he will be able to sustain a campaign on soaring rhetoric through November or if he’ll have to offer more substantive speeches in the coming days to hold his own against his more accomplished rival from Arizona and convince the American people he has a plan for change and an ability to lead.
UPDATE: Seems my Athena agrees with me (or should I say, I agree with her, given that she published her piece first:
Barack Obama’s biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That’s good. He’s compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him “impossibly eloquent” and say “he gave me thrills and chills.” But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it–that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own–you see the speech wasn’t all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate.
As with anything by Peggy, just read the whole thing!