April 30, 2007

"Bromide Obama, filled with grand but usually evasive eloquence.... Then, in a blink, ... small and concrete... like a community organizer..."

I didn't link to this nicely written column by David Brooks a few days ago because it was behind the TimesSelect wall, but here it is reprinted in a little Connecticut paper. Brooks says you have to ask Barack Obama every question twice, "the first time to allow him to talk about how he would talk about the subject, and the second time so you can pin him down to the practical issues at hand."
If you ask him about the Middle East peace process, he will wax rhapsodic about the need to get energetically engaged. He'll talk about the shared interests all have in democracy and prosperity. But then when you ask him concretely if the U.S. should sit down and talk with Hamas, he says no. “There's no point in sitting down so long as Hamas says Israel doesn't have the right to exist.”...

In other words, he has a tendency to go big and offer himself up as Bromide Obama, filled with grand but usually evasive eloquence about bringing people together and showing respect. Then, in a blink, he can go small and concrete, and sound more like a community organizer than George F. Kennan.
But don't all candidates do this? Maybe the real difference is that a lot of people love the "Bromide Obama" routine... at least for now. It's not the evasiveness that's special. It's the eloquence. The supposed eloquence. I don't consider evasive speech eloquent myself. But clearly, Obama in his windy, inspirational mode has impressed people. At least for now.


Molly said...

Now you can get free Times Select with a university e-mail, if you're interested. It's hard to find the link to do so but it is somewhere in the registration pages.

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, but I'm still disinclined to link to things in TimesSelect.

Too many jims said...

I heard Brooks speak earlier this year on a college campus. His talk was more acadmeic than political but interesting nonetheless. When he opened the question session he invited questions on any topic. Then, unsolicited, he began praising Obama.

Brooks said that while many of his colleagues were quite pessimistic about the future of American politics, he was optimistic, in large meaaure because of Obama.

Brooks was cautious in his praise for Obama because, while Brooks thinks that Obama has an intellect paralleled by few politicians, Brooks believed that Obama was often too quick to adopt "liberal" policy positions.

George M. Spencer said...

This may seem off point, but bear with me...

Last week the Saudi govt. supposedly broke up an al-Qaeda cell that was planning to, yes, once again try to destroy the Abqaiq pumping facility probably by flying a jumbo jet into it. This is the place where most Saudi oil flows on its way to waiting supertankers.

If Abqaiq goes up in flames, the world's oil market supposedly will lose its elasticity, and the price of a gallon of gas will rise to, oh, I don't know, about $12. Supposedly. Until Abqaiq comes back on-line.

This would sort of be the equivalent of what happened during the '73 Oil Embargo. Well, except then we didn't have a popped housing bubble and we weren't already all in hock with plastic.

My point?

If Democrats complain that one of Pres. Bush's weaknesses was his inexperience upon taking office, God help us if either Sen. Obama or Edwards are elected President and the above happens.

And, if you're really interested, check out this rather thoughtful article from an al-Qaeda magazine...


Third paragraph from the end...."The goal is to cut off [US oil] or reduce them by all means."

Drew W said...

"Bromide Obama"

Sounds like just the thing to settle an upset stomach. Maybe it can keep your breath fresh-smelling and fight plaque, too.

Simon said...

I'm sure I remember Brooks touting Obama as a serious candidate on his News Hour appearences for maybe a year now, but this column seems to retreat a little from that position, and I think that's wise on Brooks' part.

Todd and in Charge said...

I don't understand the demand for Presidential candidates to be "specific" in speeches -- they're running for President, not village commissioner.

Don't people vote for President based on larger, vague perceptions of strength, character, leadership qualities, honesty, feelings of competence etc.? They're supposed to have a staff that sends out specific policy papers to augment the more impressionist speeches that they are expected to give.

KCFleming said...

Re: "..the demand for Presidential candidates to be "specific" ..."

I think that means more 'specific' about a view of the world. Offering up canned uninspiring uninformative inoffensive canned rhetoric is worse than meaningless, it's just blah-blah-blah and some supposed coded message.

How about speaking in direct English declarative statements? Obama should say, "I believe in national health care administered by the government", and see if people still vote for him.

But no, obfuscation is the rule.

The partisan moderate said...

Why are at least half of David Brooks's columns devoted to either criticizing the GOP or discussing a Democratic politician (i.e. Lieberman, Obama, Richards, etc.)?

If David Brooks is supposed to be the token Republican at the Times representing a Conservative viewpoint, he is doing a lousy job.

He is much like in Ann in that most of his ideas are liberal ones but he just happens to diverge from liberals on a few key issues.

He is not a bad writer (although given to gross over-generalizations, see Bobos in Paradise) but he has little knowledge of politics. He is the same guy who predicted that Republicans would be the majority party after they passed the medicare prescription drug bill.