Skip to comments.(2004) Politically “Blessed” -- Opportunity Knocks for Barack Obama
Posted on 02/24/2008 11:57:05 AM PST by dennisw
Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go to Liebau index]
Opportunity Knocks for Barack Obama...
Carol Platt Liebau 7/26//04
With all the choreographed footage emanating from the Democratic National Convention, a jaded national press corps will be only too eager to inject some much-needed excitement by swooning over a new political star. Watch carefully for the conventions keynote speaker Barack Obama. Starting this week, a lot of people will begin taking Obama almost as seriously as he takes himself.
With the implosion of his opponent's campaign for Illinois' U.S. Senate seat, Obama, a smart, articulate, and very liberal lawyer from Chicago, is running virtually unopposed. If, as is widely expected, he wins, Obama will become Americas highest-ranking African-American Democrat. Dont expect any mistakes or missteps he is ambitious, and he is ready for prime-time.
Obama has never lacked for gravitas. During his tenure as President of The Harvard Law Review, he spent his time socializing with professors (with whom he, almost uniquely among students, was on a "first name" basis), and maintained both a physical and psychological distance from the Review's headquarters, Gannett House. He asserted that he preferred to "work from home," which had the happy effect of insulating him from much of the poisonous political squabbling that often characterizes the Review. In retrospect, it's clear that he simply didn't believe that hanging around Gannett House was worth his time. He had bigger fish to fry.
Even then, it was clear that Obama's ambitions extended far beyond the walls of Harvard - or any university, for that matter. He always seemed extraordinarily well-suited for politics, with a gift for being able to present remarkably left-wing political views as reasonable and mainstream. He is disciplined from his carefully modulated remarks to his cultivation of a dignified mien intended to inspire respect. He is willing to work with, even help, people with whom he disagrees politically (after his retirement as President, without any apparent self-serving motive, he once offered me unsolicited advice on how to manage the Review despite the constant internecine warfare). In short, antagonism is not Obama's style; he prefers to keep his powder dry.
There is no doubt that Obama is going to be big very big. And the new-found power and celebrity that await him will be accompanied by big opportunities. If he chooses, he can easily dethrone Jesse Jackson as the media-anointed "voice" of black America. Obama is highly sophisticated and will avoid the mistakes and scandals that have discredited self-appointed black leaders like Jackson and Al Sharpton.
For someone with less lofty goals, that would be enough. But given Obama's strategic savvy, no one needs to tell him that any African-American political leader must display some degree of ideological independence to be viable as a national candidate. And thats why Obama will resist the temptation to attract the kind of polarizing, Jesse Jackson-like attention that ultimately results in marginalization. Choosing a centrist course and defending it offers Obama the opportunity to become the Colin Powell of the Democratic Party and with it, the chance to become the first African-American Democratic political leader who transcends race altogether.
In Swahili, Barack means blessed by God. It has long seemed that Obama is indeed the child of political good fortune. The question now is what he will make of it.CRO
Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review
There is something profoundly surreal about having known someone like Barack Obama, whose political career has seen a meteoric rise that is the stuff of political fairytales. To turn on the television and see a once-familiar face grown slightly more mature, hear the same vocal intonations and note many of same personal characteristics now all presented as elements of a rock star persona is a strange experience.
Of course, with public acclaim of the kind Obama now enjoys comes a host of hangers-on, many eager to claim some special relationship with a famous person. Certainly, Barack and I were hardly best friends; he was a year ahead of me at Harvard Law School (and six years older) when we met the summer that I became a newly-minted editor of the Harvard Law Review. But we did work together for some time, and he reached out to advise me when I became the first female Managing Editor in the Reviews history.
Barack is a deeply committed liberal, and I am a proud conservative. Even so, he possesses five qualities that are genuinely praiseworthy -- political ideology aside:
Hes intelligent. Clearly, his achievements reveal that Barack Obama possesses intellectual credentials that would impress even the snootiest resume snob. But (perhaps more importantly) he also possesses street smarts. As Hillary Clinton can testify, he knows how to throw a punch as well as how to take one. He is able to size up people accurately. Whats more, he respects "real world" intelligence, a quality thats all-too-rare among those with stellar academic records but one thats vital to someone in public life who must rely on the assistance of an extensive staff.
Hes colorblind. When Barack became the first African-American President of The Harvard Law Review, it was big news. More radical black Review editors urged him not only to take controversial stands on a whole host of racial issues they also pressured him to use his discretion to elevate black students to leadership positions within the organization. Barack declined to do so; though his choices were often left-wing (as, in fairness, was much of the Reviews membership), they werent race-conscious.
Hes self-confident. Even at age 29, Barack Obama had the self-possession and confidence of a much older man a quality that, at times, manifested itself in amusing ways. At law school, he had apparently been urged by several professors to call them by their first names and it was a prerogative he wasnt shy about exercising, even in front of other students who hadnt received the same invitation. He projected an air of self-assurance amid controversy, and always radiated an unshakable air of confidence in himself and his decisions qualities that are no doubt essential to making a run for the nations highest office as a relatively untried first term senator.
He listens. Certainly, Barack is a liberals liberal, and his leadership of The Harvard Law Review in many ways reflected that fact. But unlike many of his left-wing compatriots, he treated his ideological adversaries with respect on a personal level. Indeed, he always offered the small conservative contingent on the Review a hearing, even though his decision-making consistently showed that he hadnt ultimately been influenced by their arguments.
He has a sense of humor. In May of 2006, I encountered Barack in the hall of the Russell Senate Office Building, surrounded by a gaggle of advisors. To my surprise, he hailed me over, teasingly referencing a spectacularly fashion-backward pair of horn-rimmed glasses I had often worn during Review days. I complimented his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and then, for some reason, felt it necessary to remind him that my praise was qualified by the fact that of course I dont agree with any of your policies. With that, Barack simply threw back his head and laughed. Can anyone imagine Hillary Clinton, John Kerry or Howard Dean reacting that way?
No doubt its a long, long road to The White House, even for politicians with significantly more experience than Illinois' junior senator. But many of the qualities that he manifested during our joint tenure on The Harvard Law Review help explain why so many enthusiastically contemplate the prospect that Barack Obama's journey to the Oval Office will be both a short and a successful one.
Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near Los Angeles. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.
“But many of the qualities that he manifested during our joint tenure on The Harvard Law Review” Yep what an accomplishment.
He will fail spectacularly and America will fall further behind the rest of the world in capabilities on our way to 3rd world status.
No wonder he DID NOT attend that Travis Smiley Black Action event!
He’s smart that way...but, apparently, that’s always been his MO...not to align himself with the radical black movement. Very smart..
OBAMA THE NEW NERO!!!!