Posted November 3, 2007on:
Obama’s low-key campaign has been confusing to the press, and perhaps to the public, from the start. A few days before the debate, I spent a day with Obama in Iowa, and the most striking thing to me about the Senator’s performances was the scrupulous honesty of his answers, his insistence on delivering bad news when necessary. A woman asked if he believed that stay-at-home moms should be eligible for Social Security. There is a way most politicians answer such questions: a moving tribute to the virtues of child-rearing, then on to the next question without ever making the commitment. Obama did the moving tribute — with a joke about his ineptitude as a parent — but then he told the woman no. “We can’t extend those benefits without huge financial implications,” he said.The very next question was about global warming. Obama laid out his rigorous cap-and-trade plan for reducing carbon emissions, but then he said, “One of the themes of this campaign is to tell voters what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear … So I’ve got to tell you there will be a cost to this — and the utility companies will pass it along to consumers. You can expect a spike in electricity prices,” although, he added, the new technology should ultimately bring those prices back down.I don’t know if this sort of quiet, unsolicited honesty can work in our rude, noisy politics, but it certainly is far more presidential than the dodging and fudging that you get from most candidates. It has been argued that Obama’s style is too cerebral, too élitist. That may be true. He assumes a maturity in his audiences, and in the press, that simply may not exist. But given the stakes in 2008, perhaps it’s time for all of us to grow up and meet the challenge of a difficult moment for our country.
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