S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, December 10, 2007

When you have something to say --

People will come. In addition to public opinion polls, the mainstream media takes the size of a presidential candidate's audience into account as they gauge who is currently ahead in the horse race. (image: Barack Obama on Flickr)

"Our Moment is now," declared presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois,) as he and Oprah Winfrey drew the largest crowds of the 2008 campaign over the weekend. Both Obama and Winfrey have a way of connecting to large audiences. "Ms. Oprah Winfrey," as she was named on Obama's website, was initially a bit nervous but quickly found her voice. The Senator seemed very comfortable and sure of what he wanted to say, even the spontaneous parts. The Washington Post reported:

An overwhelmingly African American audience took center stage in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination here Sunday, as Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), joined by television talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, appealed to black voters to set aside their doubts and seize the opportunity to send him to the White House in 2008.

"South Carolina, our moment is now," Obama said to an audience estimated by organizers as made up of 29,000 people at the University of South Carolina's football stadium. "Don't let them tell you we've got to wait. Our moment is now."

Senator Obama spoke to the New York Times Op-Ed columnist Roger Cohen recently. What Obama had to say continues to be in very stark contrast to the way our current president speaks. Cohen titled his piece, "Obama's American Idea." To quote the senator's answer to Cohen's question about being tough enough for a dangerous world:

“Yes, I’m tough enough,” he responded during a half-hour conversation. “What I’ve always found is people who talk about how tough they are aren’t the tough ones. I’m less interested in beating my chest and rattling my saber and more in making decisions that build a safer and more secure world.”

Obama, speaking less than a month before the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3, continued: “We can and should lead the world, but we have to apply wisdom and judgment. Part of our capacity to lead is linked to our capacity to show restraint.”

That was striking: an enduring belief in U.S. leadership coupled with a commitment to, as he also put it, acting “with a sense of humility.” Skepticism about the American idea and American global stewardship has grown fast during the Bush years.

Leadership revisited -- In November the U.S News and world Report, in collaboration with the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, published its annual report on American leadership. (A previous S/SW post named the best leaders of 2005).

A "Special Report" 2007, named this year's group of best leaders. Elected officials named are relatively rare. Women are well represented. The list:

  • Lee Hamilton and James Baker, Cochairs -- Iraq Study Group
  • Kenneth Chenault -- CEO, American Express Co.
  • Kenneth Fisher -- Chairman and CEO, Fisher House Foundation
  • William H. Foege -- Senior Fellow, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Michael J. Fox -- Founder, Michael J. Fox Foundation
  • Mary Houghton and Ray Grzywinski -- Cofounders, ShoreBank Corp.
  • Andrea Jung -- Chairman and CEO, Avon Products, Inc.
  • Fred Krupp -- President, Environmental Defense
  • Nicholas Kristof -- Columnist, New York Times
  • Yo-Yo Ma -- Founder and Artistic Director, "Silk Road Project"
  • Nancy Pelosi -- Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger -- Governor of California
  • Ruth J. Simmons -- Brown University
  • Pat Summitt -- Women's Basketball Coach, Univ. of Tennessee
  • Shirley Tilghman -- President, Princeton
  • Harold Varmus -- CEO, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

The report presents extensive survey results on peoples' opinions about leadership, in addition to naming the best leaders. One of its most striking findings was that people feel that the military is currently the most respected institution for leadership. The medical community was next and the Supreme Court ranked third. To quote other interesting survey findings:

At least 50% of Americans identified the following as extremely or very important leadership traits for the next president to possess:
• Honesty and integrity
• Intelligence
• Ability to communicate well
• Willingness to work with people in both political parties
• Ability to bring the American people together

Blog readers and writers have shown a marked interest for several months in the issue of leadership. I have written previously and will write more in subsequent posts about the qualities of good leadership exhibited by other Democratic presidential candidates. The U.S. News article spoke to this. "A National Crisis of Confidence" was a U.S. News further current headline from which I quote:

Talk about a tough crowd. Americans have steadily lost confidence in their leaders since 2005—the year the government bungled its handling of Hurricane Katrina—according to the third annual Center for Public Leadership/U.S. News poll conducted this fall. More than three quarters of the respondents say they believe the country is going through a leadership crisis, up 7 percent from last year, a trend stretching across all demographic and political groups. Nearly 80 percent feel that unless it gets better leaders, the country will decline, while 51 percent believe that the United States is already falling behind other nations. And about two thirds say that today's leaders pale in comparison with those of 20 years ago.

When I have something to say about for whom I will be voting to be the next president and why, you will get my considered judgment and my best arguments for that choice. But be aware that I am having great difficulty in making up my mind. I may be tardy with my recommendation, and I may change my mind as I step into the voting booth. This style of decision-making is probably irrational and maddening to some people. However, my dilemma is a delicious one. The Democrats have put forward a great big group of fine possibilities from which we can choose the best leader.

View my current slide show about the Bush years, "Millennium," at the bottom of this column.

My links:

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is about NASA .

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The Future Was Yesterday said...

It bothers me that a talk show host who babbles about the most inane for hours on end, feels she knows more than I, as to why I should vote for a candidate. What's next? The host of Jeopardy campaigning for Fred Thompson? I've felt for a long time, that injections of stars into campaigns just because they have name recognition, cheapens our political process. Obama lost my vote in the primaries because of Oprah. I have never seen such a huge body filled with nothing but hot air, in my life!

Carol Gee said...

Future, thanks for your comment.
I think that one of the influencing factors is that the news media is now controlled by companies who want to see it make a profit. The line between public information, news and entertainment has gotten really blurred. The Daily Show, for instance is now lots of people's source of news information. Go figure.