Sunday, October 26, 2008

Interesting perspective on a possible Obama victory from Peggy Noonan . . .

I thought this opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal had a number of good insights. But I particularly liked one of Noonan's broad observations, and two of her broad conclusions.

The observation:
People wonder if [Obama] is decisive.

It is clear he is decisive in terms of his own career: He decides to go for president of the law review, to move to Chicago, to roll the dice for a U.S. Senate seat, to hire David Axelrod, to take on Hillary, to campaign with discipline and even elegance. When it comes to his career, his decisions are thought through and his judgments sound.

But when it comes to decisions that have to do with larger issues, with great questions and not with him, things get murkier. There is the long trail of the missed and "present" votes, the hesitance on big questions. One wonders if in the presidency he'll be like the dog that chased the car and caught it: What's he supposed to do now?
And the two conclusions.

If Mr. Obama wins, and governs as a moderate liberal, not veering left, not seeming to be the cap that pops off a kettle that's been boiling for eight years, but governs to a degree, at least in general approach, as Bill Clinton did--as a moderate Democrat well aware of the terrain—he may know some success. And he may be able to tamp down the insistence of the long-simmering left by the force of his own popularity, which will grow once he is president among grateful Democrats, and others.

But if he goes left--if it comes to seem as if the attractive, dark-haired man has torn open his shirt to reveal a huge S, not for Superman but for Socialist, if he jumps toward reforms such as a speech-limiting new Fairness Doctrine, that won't yield success. It will yield trouble, and unneeded domestic arguments. We have enough needed ones.
And second:
In a way, Mr. Obama can more easily go left in foreign relations for the precise reason no one knows what going left is, because no one knows what going right in foreign relations is, at least if "right" means "conservative."

Mr. Obama has a great chance, in this area, to confuse the world. And a confused world is not all a bad thing. His persona, name, color, youth and approach will, at least initially, jumble up long-settled categories. Radicals enjoy hating America, but a particular picture of America. He is not that picture. He will give calculating Western European leaders an opening to be friendly to America again; they will feel that Mr. Obama's victory constitutes the rebuke of the Bushism they desire. They will befriend the rebuker.
And now I wonder what I'm doing . . . and what Noonan and other conservative and/or Republican commentators are doing as we write things like this in which we imagine a potentially decent--rather than disastrous--outcome from an Obama presidency. Are we attempting to come to terms with--settle ourselves about--what appears to be a likely Obama victory?
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