Sunday, May 20, 2012


... where's it's due.

My friend and frequent Buddha Diaries reader Gary dropped me a line to remind me to take note of the arrival of Chen Guangcheng in New York.  It is, as he suggests, both a tribute to the deliberate and unflappable approach of Obama--and of course his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton--to the management of international affairs, and a rebuke to those who would go off half-cocked in response to the kind of crisis the blind lawyer's dramatic run for freedom might provoke.

I admire the quality of restraint.  Obama's refusal to act in haste attracts the ire of those to the left of him as well as of those to the right.  But he's right.  Two recent examples come to mind.  The first is the thoughtful--and to many, much too slow--process of self examination that brought him to his expression of support for same-sex marriage.  He stands accused from both sides of acting out of political contingency; I see it differently.  His statement, though likely precipitated by his Vice-President's remarks a few days earlier, emphasized the personal nature of his "evolution" to a new position, describing it as the result of internal debate, of discussions with friends and family, and of seeing things through the eyes of others--notably his children.  No doubt there were also political considerations but the man is, after all, a politician and must, of necessity, concern himself with the political repercussions of his actions.  They are a part of the debate.

The second example comes from my reading of this article by David E. Sanger in today's New York Times, describing in detail the process by which he reached his current position on the war in Afghanistan--a process that began in 2009 and reached its conclusion only recently.  I have no doubt but that the president was mindful of the conflicting political winds that swirled about him: those on the left dismayed, if not outraged by his failure to bring it to a swift conclusion; and those on the right demanding more aggressive action.  There were the voices, too, of his civilian advisors, and those of the military brass--not to mention those of NATO allies, of the internally warring Afghans and the neighboring nations, especially Pakistan.  Sanger's article describes a thorough, thoughtful, patient process, a willingness to listen and hold back until his own path became clear to him.  I have every confidence that he will pursue that path with the same patience and refusal to be swayed by those on all sides less patient than himself.

The President is given little credit for this quiet deliberation.  It does not lend itself to wild applause, and  mostly goes overlooked and under appreciated.  I myself am grateful for his steadiness of purpose.  It is infinitely preferable to the shoot-from-the-hip impulsiveness of his predecessor, which needlessly cost many human lives and hastened economic debacle.  It's time, I'd say, to give credit where it's due.

(Cross-posted to my site at Vote Obama 2012.)

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