Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Clinton vs. Obama: the Fighter

There can't be too many voters left--Democratic voters in particular--who still need convincing that Senator Hillary Clinton is one tough woman. A fighter, as she said repeatedly last night. Knock her off her feet, she'll be right back up, fighting still. With any and all weapons at her disposal.

Okay, I believe her. It's the pugilism itself that does not sit well with me. We have barely survived seven years--and nearly one to go!--of a pugilist president, a guy who evidently prides himself on being the scrappy in-fighter, the aggressive responder to everything perceived as a threat. And we know where his "leadership" took us.

I'm thinking the time for the kind of fighting we humans have been practicing for centuries is past. Time and again, it has provided us with pyrrhic--or at best temporary--victories. It could be argued, I suppose, that it still worked when it was a purely territorial affair, nation against nation. But it's not that any more. The weaponry and the communications of the twenty-first century world have irrevocably outmoded that kind of fighting. Today, the effects of armed conflict are immediately global. It's not just the field of battle that's at stake, it's the whole planet.

I'm not naive. Well, not entirely. I'm not even a pacifist, in it's purest sense. After last night's debate, I watched a powerful Frontline report on the resurgence of the Taliban in Pakistan. These are people who still adhere to that old notion of the fight, and they must be answered, at least in part, in kind. There are times when power-hungry, evil people run amok, leaving others to be defended. A leader, to deal with them, does need to be tough.

What I see in Obama is a more Eastern, martial arts kind of fighter, one who uses force as the very last resort and, when he does, is skilled in turning his opponent's attack against him. He follows the way of the peaceful warrior, walking softly, always prepared, but never aggressive or provocative. As Obama did last night, he deals with attacks calmly, responding with thoughtfully proportionate effort, and seeking common ground rather than opposition.

I believe that this is the kind of fighter that we need, not the scrappy one, pre-emptively aggressive, fearful of losing or of seeming weak. There are those who mistake Obama's calm exterior for passivity or timidity. I think they're wrong. I think the man carries his strength with quiet self-assurance and modesty. I don't see fear. I see an understanding of what, in these new tumultuous times, might work a whole lot better than the disastrously unsuccessful tactics of the past.

I do believe we have to leave the old world behind, if we are to survive these present crises, and that the change that's required is not to hone the old skills and strategies, but to develop new ones, appropriate to a radically changed world. Here's our chance. Better seize it, or it could prove our last.


MandT said...

Well said!

Cardozo said...


James said...

I voted for Obama and look forward to hopefully voting for him again in November.