Friday, October 17, 2008

Listen up, pundits.

I know better, but I can't help myself.

Pundits [noun, from the old Sanskrit word 'pandita' meaning 'a learned man'] must pund, or whatever the verb form of pundit is. It's their job, though perhaps a low, ignoble one. Indeed, I myself have some of the traits that might qualify me to be one, since I'm full of opinions and I sure offer them up like it's my job. However, I am getting irked with the apparently widely held view that Obama is passionless, so unflappable that he verges on dull. To wit, David Brooks' piece, "Thinking About Obama," in today's New York Times:
We’ve been watching Barack Obama for two years now, and in all that time there hasn’t been a moment in which he has publicly lost his self-control. This has been a period of tumult, combat, exhaustion and crisis. And yet there hasn’t been a moment when he has displayed rage, resentment, fear, anxiety, bitterness, tears, ecstasy, self-pity or impulsiveness.
Overstatement, a little? You can read the rest of the piece here, and though I agree that, in contrast with his opponent, Obama is relatively calm, intellectual, deliberative, and unflappable, I'm just not quite sure how we get from that comparative assessment to the second of the following two possible forecasts for an Obama presidency:
And it is easy to sketch out a scenario in which he could be a great president. He would be untroubled by self-destructive demons or indiscipline. With that cool manner, he would see reality unfiltered. He could gather — already has gathered — some of the smartest minds in public policy, and, untroubled by intellectual insecurity, he could give them free rein. Though he is young, it is easy to imagine him at the cabinet table, leading a subtle discussion of some long-term problem.

Of course, it’s also easy to imagine a scenario in which he is not an island of rationality in a sea of tumult, but simply an island. New presidents are often amazed by how much they are disobeyed, by how often passive-aggressiveness frustrates their plans.

It could be that Obama will be an observer, not a leader. Rather than throwing himself passionately into his causes, he will stand back. Congressional leaders, put off by his supposed intellectual superiority, will just go their own way. Lost in his own nuance, he will be passive and ineffectual. Lack of passion will produce lack of courage. The Obama greatness will give way to the Obama anti-climax.
David Brooks, I know you're disappointed in how the election is shaping up, but your melancholy kind-of equanimity is bugging me. Snap out of it.

In conclusion, I am sick of the opinions I am gulping down by the heaping paragraphs. I would like to stop. I'm not sure how that's going to happen. In the meanwhile, anyone who wants to can buy me this:
Because if I'm going to spend this much time arguing, even if only in my head and occasionally on my blog, and also a little bit with the ever-patient historian, who is willing to stand in the place of my straw man, I should have the jewelry to call me what I am.

[pundit necklace via the "Election Schwag" feature on Mighty Goods]

1 comment:

  1. Ooo. I love that necklace! Will snap up two of them if opportunity arises.

    My column Monday is all about how I've finally had to turn. off. the. TV. Also stop reading papers. I'm driving myself crazy.



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