A reader writes:
Another viable comparison for Obama is with JFK, and not just for the obvious reasons of youth, attractiveness, charming young family, etc. I think a great reference for reviewing JFK’s performance in office is Robert Dallek’s book, “An Unfinished Life.” He showed that Kennedy had a great capacity for learning, for encouraging if not demanding honest and open debate and more than enough self-confidence to change his mind. Kennedy was also very pragmatic, which made him slow to act in areas such as civil rights. But once Kennedy moved, he moved with confidence and usually with an effective, coherent and convincing message.
Consider the Cuban missile crisis. Yet Kennedy was also somewhat cool and aloof, as I believe is Obama.
But Kennedy found a way to show his humor, often self-deprecating, usually in press conferences. He also presented himself as a father in a way that made him human and attractive to Americans (who, of course, had no clue as to his marital, erm, practices).
I think Obama is much closer to achieving that level of warmth and personable nature than for which he’s given credit. I think his problem is that he can’t find a tool in the mass media that he can use as effectively as Kennedy used press conferences (or FDR used his fireside chats). Things are too diverse and there are too many other avenues through which your opponents can continue to criticize you. I think this will delay his success in “warming up the country” to him but it won’t eliminate it.
I believe in the end, the country will appreciate his seriousness, thoughtfulness and decision making process. If he can show some signs of success (especially in the economy), I think he will easily win a second term and lead the Democratic Party in a successful direction.