David Brooks, of all people, states what has become painfully obvious so far in the 2016 presidential election cycle: “I miss Barack Obama.” Not his policies, of course, because Brooks is to the right philosophically of the president. But as Brooks says, “Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.” I particularly like the line about this year’s candidates “wallow[ing] in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse.”

Do any of today’s candidates project an air of optimism? Maybe Trump comes close, but only in the sense that this country is already so monumentally stupid, weak, and screwed up that it will take a bully like himself to fix it. Christie? Same story, but more articulately expressed. Rubio? A wannabe. Cruz? As Brooks asks, would you want Cruz on the board of your community groups or charities? Carson? He might have once been a brilliant brain surgeon, but he’s simply out of his depth as a national politician, eagerly gobbling up every conspiracy theory put in front of him. Bush? He had the potential to come across as an actual compassionate human being, but he got steamrolled by the rest of the bullies. Sanders? Sadly, he also sounds a one-note symphony of pessimism, only from the left.

In any event, I’m post the rest of the article because it’s worth reading.

The first and most important of these [traits of character and leadership] is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards. There are all sorts of unsightly characters floating around politics, including in the Clinton camp and in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. This sort has been blocked from team Obama.

Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans.

He’s exuded this basic care and respect for the dignity of others time and time again. Let’s put it this way: Imagine if Barack and Michelle Obama joined the board of a charity you’re involved in. You’d be happy to have such people in your community. Could you say that comfortably about Ted Cruz? The quality of a president’s humanity flows out in the unexpected but important moments.

Third, a soundness in his decision-making process. Over the years I have spoken to many members of this administration who were disappointed that the president didn’t take their advice. But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.

Obama’s basic approach is to promote his values as much as he can within the limits of the situation. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.

Take health care. Passing Obamacare was a mighty lift that led to two gigantic midterm election defeats. As Megan McArdle pointed out in her Bloomberg View column, Obamacare took coverage away from only a small minority of Americans. Sanderscare would take employer coverage away from tens of millions of satisfied customers, destroy the health insurance business and levy massive new tax hikes. This is epic social disruption.

To think you could pass Sanderscare through a polarized Washington and in a country deeply suspicious of government is to live in intellectual fairyland. President Obama may have been too cautious, especially in the Middle East, but at least he’s able to grasp the reality of the situation.

Fourth, grace under pressure. I happen to find it charming that Marco Rubio gets nervous on the big occasions — that he grabs for the bottle of water, breaks out in a sweat and went robotic in the last debate. It shows Rubio is a normal person. And I happen to think overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws. But a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. After Saturday night, this is now an open question about Rubio.

Fifth, a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth.

People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions.

No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage.

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.


  1. And also, Mark Noonan makes some absurdly simplistic and inaccurate statements, like, ‘Conservatives love Capitalism and hate Socialism. Our Progressives hate Capitalism and love Socialism.”

  2. 02casper says:

    So Scaliia is dead and now Republlicans don’t want Obama to nominate a replacement. Should be very interesting this year.

    • rustybrown2014 says:

      Very interesting indeed. This is going to be a huge win for Dems. There is no precedent for Republicans to block a nomination for a year and any attempts to do so will plainly be a dereliction of their sworn Constitutional duty, and they’ll be reviled for it.

      Of all the justices that could make their way to the great courtroom in the sky, we’re extremely lucky it’s the nutty conservative who went.

  3. rustybrown2014 says:

    Over at B4v it took about six minutes for someone to speculate he was killed by a nefarious Democratic plot. That sure is a serious salon over there.

    I can’t wait for Ama to chime in; being a strict Constitutionalist I’m sure she’ll advocate that Republicans fulfill their sworn duties in a timely manner. Isn’t that what Jefferson would want?

    • Wow, that’s some slippery slight-of-hand Amazona is involved in. “I didn’t see anyone suggesting that any Obama appointee be rejected—just that no one be confirmed until after the next president is installed.” Um, that’s a rich reading of Mitch McConnell’s statement. Then she says, “Specifically, I would like to know the time frame established by the Constitution for the advice and consent of the Senate.”

      By Amazona’s thinking, the Senate never needs to confirm a nomination. I wonder what the Founders thought about withholding consent for a indefinite period of time.

      Perhaps this recent Matt Yglesias article, American Democracy is Doomed, isn’t far off the mark.

      • rustybrown2014 says:

        As you can read, I’m in the process of exposing here for the cunty fool that she is, which is why my posts will be deleted. What a diseased mind. Her method of debating is just riddled with hypocrisy, special pleading, and all manner of logical fallacies. She is truly a child, and a strange one at that.

      • Ah well, you’ve been deleted there. Didn’t see your last comment before it got moderated away.

      • Actually, I had the page opened in another window. This is the mean, nasty comment Rusty wrote that the moderator couldn’t let stand:

        OK, you want to make a big deal about my use of the adjective “speedy”? How about “timely” instead? The important point here is that Senate Republicans should do their constitutional duty and fairly process Obama’s nominee. Ten months should be plenty of time. Do you agree with that? BTW, this is a familiar tactic of yours–you glom on to one specific word or phrase which can be open to interpretation, you misinterpret it and, ta-da!you use that uncharitable misinterpretation to neatly sidestep the actual issue. Yawn.

        “I didn’t see anyone suggesting that any Obama appointee be rejected—just that no one be confirmed until after the next president is installed.”

        Uh, hello? Obama WILL be introducing his appointee(s), as is right and proper by the laws of this land, so the only way you get the next President confirming a nominee is if Republicans reject “any Obama appointee”. You’re not familiar with tautologies and how to avoid using them in your arguments, are you? Also, on what constitutional or legal basis should this confirmation process be postponed until after the election? Are you going to address the real issue here and answer ANY substantial questions or are you more comfortable dodging them while whining about being “attacked”?

      • rustybrown2014 says:

        Thanks for posting that Watson. Yeah, that’s some nasty, trolling shit there, huh? Clarifying views and asking for Ama’s opinion on something. *shudder*

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