Monday, September 3, 2007

Obama and Niebuhr

Thanks to David Brooks for the opening but even more thanks to Barak Obama for his depth of understanding and demeanor.  These are the things that interest me in his candidacy.  I picked this up via Slacktivist, but do follow the links to the whole interview, Brooks' remarks, Casey Blake's remarks and the comments.    All in all it is the kind of thinking and reflection sorely missing from the Bush side.  Duh!  Which is not the point of the original or the first few commentators.   

I remember having a conversation with one of my colleagues in the Diocese of Atlanta, rector of a  large downtown Atlanta parish.  It was in the days following the Trache debacle.  We were considering a new batch of nominees and thinking about the basics, the one or two things that "our choice" must possess.  Without cue we looked at each other and said together, "She has to be smart!"  We voted and the election found a very smart, very bright man.  

Since then I've had my experiences with J. Neil Alexander be nothing if not strong confirmations of the role that intelligence and enlightened thinking play in a progressive church like ours.    

So here's my take on the Presidents I've known:

Kennedy - smart and bright, I never minded that he was so very patrician.

Johnson - smart but too much a the Texas Senator and Majority Leader instead of being presidential

Nixon - smart but nefarious, very, very dark!

Ford - Honest but not bright and not presidential

Carter - smart but too Southern Baptist

Reagan - not smart (senile?) and too presidential.

Bush - more patrician than smart (CIA, Saudi $$, Daddy's $)

Clinton - very smart and very bright but horribly narcissistic 

Bush - not smart, not bright, not much more than stubborn.

Think about how these men answered tough questions.  Kennedy would not show perturbation.  Carter would get impatient at times but he would still answer the question, often "upping the ante."  Clinton would answer too much or too well.  (Remember Slick Willy!)  

Now think about how frustrated you have seen Reagan and Bushes become at questions that were often screened in advance!    Ford does not rank here but does balance Johnson's short term.  Neither was presidential.  Both were Hill toppers in the White House.  Johnson was a Senator from Texas.  Ford was a multi-term Congressman.

Somewhere around Nixon, Carter, Reagan the mythic responsibility of the Presidency began to loom over whoever sat in the Oval Office.  Think how grandious some of their ideas became.  Carter's Olympic boycott.  Reagan thought big of himself in that old romantic cowboy way, as if he could ride over tell that Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.  And the worst was Nixon with the tapes and Plumbers.  Who did these people think they were?   Only Clinton after them "reigned from on high."  

The Bushes have pretended.  Gentiles.  

The only rub against Obama - youth.  But boy is he smart  AND bright!  

No comments: