Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Window into Obama and His Politics, ca. 2005

PHUTATORIUS
Here's a blast from the past, a blog post then-Senator and not yet candidate-for-President Barack Obama wrote to the fulminating orcs at The Daily Kos who had recently expressed inclinations to wring the necks of Democratic Senators who had voted to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice.

It's a long post — Phutatorius-long — and perhaps it displays a bit of a weakness on the President-elect's part for lecturing. When I finished it, I found myself too spent to look down into the comments to see how well it was received.

That said, the post also reveals many of the personal qualities that make me hopeful about an Obama Administration: a firmness in belief, an ability to see the other side of a controversial issue, political sophistication, longsightedness, perspicacity, articulation. And it gives an inkling into Obama's politics, which — based on what he wrote here — are moderate, conciliatory, principled, inclusive, evenhanded, thoughtful.

One excerpt in particular speaks to these qualities:

From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don't think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don't think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and are ashamed by events like those at Abu Ghraib which violate our ideals as a country.

I must say I don't like some of the comma usage here, or his use of "which" where "that" seemed more appropriate. But substantively, could he be more spot-on?

Then-Senator Obama was, no doubt, thinking Presidency when he wrote this post — but he wasn't under the microscope at this point, and he delivered these sentiments to an ostensibly hostile audience (albeit Kevlar-vested in the privileges and immunities of one who had himself voted against Roberts's confirmation). There was no overarching second audience of moderates and conservative to appeal to here. Those folks don't read The Daily Kos.

I think this post says a lot about our President-elect, and it crystallizes why I like him so much. I daresay (of course) that Barack Obama consistently, if not unfailingly, displayed the same personal qualities and maturity of his politics during his candidacy for the Presidency, and I hope that when he assumes the Oval Office the same even, cooperative, thoughtful temperament will carry him — and us, if we're lucky — through some of the difficult times we see on the horizon.

I leave it to Mithridates (and Vercingetorix, if he's out there and so inclined) to judge whether I ought, by virtue of this comment, to be lumped in with the other blue-fleeced sheep in Obama's spellbound flock.


MITHRIDATES
The guy shows a remarkable clarity of intellect and refreshing willingness to consider different points of view. I think he's proven that he has it in him to a great leader. My early willingness to support Clinton and then McCain over Obama had nothing to do with his potential. He has demonstrated — more than any candidate I remember — a whole lot of upside.

We'll know you're part of the spellbound flock if you expect too much practical good to come out of his demeanor and intellect or if you fail to criticize him when he does stupid things like giving those assheads at GM a single penny . . .


PHUTATORIUS
Actually, it would be pretty Solomonic — or maybe reverse-Solomonic is the more apt description — if he gave the Big Three just that, a single penny.

Put the three CEOs at the points of an equilateral triangle. Place the penny at the center (i.e., at the spot where the lines bisecting the three angles converge), and give them an hour to fight for it. Whoever's holding the penny when the clock runs out gets bailout money.

This strategy would have the effect of (1) identifying the most competitive and ruthless CEO (and therefore the one with the most upside; (2) appropriately demeaning these pathetic men); and (3) if you run this in prime time and sell advertising, raising some of the money.

Damn. That idea was so good it should have been in a post, not a comment.


MITHRIDATES
I think your idea is legitimately brilliant, but you betray your ignorance of geometry.

In any triangle, the angle bisectors meet at the incenter, the one you describe; the perpendicular bisectors of the edges meet at the circumcenter; the three medians meet at the centroid; the altitude lines meet at the orthocenter.

In an equilateral triangle there really is no ambiguity about the center as all four centers occupy the same point.


PHUTATORIUS
What's the word for the center of a circle drawn around the triangle's three vertices? That ought to work here, too.


MITHRIDATES
That would be the circumcenter I described above.