Shattering the Political Trance of Inevitability: Obama Trusts Himself to Think in the Moment

Shattering the Political Trance of Inevitability

Photography by: Annie Leibovitz

Some political observers have begun to take greater notice of Obama’s capacity for deep engagement in contemplative observation and introspection. This is a characteristic that I referenced some time ago, a kind of thoughtfulness that Obama believes anchors political actions core decency and hope through detailed reflections about the myriad details of the issues underlying socio-political action in the here and now.

At first, commentators begin to observe that there is something exceptional about his manner and demeaner. As Peggy Noonan wrote in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, “Barack Obama has a great thinking look. I mean the look he gets on his face when he’s thinking, not the look he presents in debate, where they all control their faces knowing they may be in the reaction shot and fearing they’ll look shrewd and clever, as opposed to open and strong. I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he’s listening and not conscious of his expression. It’s a very present look. He seems more in the moment than handling the moment. I’ve noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage. I wonder if I’m watching him more closely than his fellow Democrats are.

Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they’d agreed upon with staff. What’s the phrase we use about education? Hit Search Function. Hit Open. Right-click. “Equity in education is essential, Tim . . .

Peggy Noon, who is a Contributing Editor of the WSJ, went on to say:

“You get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I’ve started to lean forward a little when he talks. But he doesn’t stand a chance, right? His main competitor, Mrs. Clinton, is this week’s invincible. She broke through 50% for the first time in a big national poll–53% saying they would support her, a full 33 points more than Obama. Her third quarter fund raising beat everyone else’s. “It’s all over but the voting,” said Rep. Tom Petri, who will probably get pummeled a bit by the campaign for premature triumphalism. But he only said what a lot of people are starting to think….

Mr. Obama’s experience, as we all know, is as limited as Mrs. Clinton’s, which is to say limited indeed. She has held elective office for only 6 1/2 years. Before that she was first lady of Arkansas and then first lady of the United States. He has held national office for only 3 1/2 years, and before that was a state legislator for eight years. But he has impressed people, and not with money, résumé or clout but something rarer, natural gifts. That’s not nothing. Big talent is rare, and deserves consideration. And yet the Democrats remain in their Hillary trance….

That to me gets to the heart of the problem and the heart of The Trance. Mrs. Clinton is so far ahead so early on for the same reason Mr. Bush was so far ahead so early on in 2000, and after only six years as governor, with no previous offices behind him. It is the nature of modern politics. A political family gains allies–retainers, supporters, hangers-on, admirers, associates, in-house Machiavellis. The bigger the government, the more ways allies can be awarded, which binds them more closely. Your destiny is theirs. Members of the court recruit others. Money lines spread person to person, company to company, board to board, mover to mover.

The most important part is the money lines. Power is expensive. The second most important part is the word “winner.” The Bushes are winners; the Clintons are winners. We know this, they’ve won. The Bushes are wired into the Republican money-line system; the Clintons are wired into the Democratic money-line system. For a generation, two generations now, they have had the same dynamics in play, only their friends are on the blue team, not the red, or the red, not the blue.

They are, both groups, up and ready and good to go every election cycle. They are machines. There are good people on each side, idealists, the hopeful, those convinced the triumph of their views will make our country better. And there are those on each side who are not so wonderful, not so well-meaning, not well-meaning at all. And some are idiots, but very comfortable ones.

Is this good for our democracy, this air of inevitability? Is it good in terms of how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves? Or is it something we want to break out of, like a trance?

I deeply hope that interested readers will take the time to access Peggy Noonan’s extraordinary WSJ article in its entirety here.

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2 Responses to “Shattering the Political Trance of Inevitability: Obama Trusts Himself to Think in the Moment”

  1. On Listening, Paying Attention, Recognition and Loving Relationships « Et Cetera: Publick and Privat Curiosities Says:

    [...] Recently, I pointed out an article that Peggy Noonan had published in The Wall Street Journal. She noted that, “Barack Obama has a great thinking look. I mean the look he gets on his face when he’s thinking, not the look he presents in debate, where they all control their faces knowing they may be in the reaction shot and fearing they’ll look shrewd and clever, as opposed to open and strong. I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he’s listening and not conscious of his expression. It’s a very present look. He seems more in the moment than handling the moment. I’ve noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage.“ [...]

  2. I Am Teh Walrus, Shabooty Exclusive: Annie Leibovitz Pictures @ Barak Obama Campaign Headquarters | shabooty.com Says:

    [...] Oh, want to see some of the resulting Annie Leibovitz shots of Barak? Go here. [...]


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