Sunday, December 11, 2011

Obama on 60-Minutes: Reflections on Being Presidential

How refreshing to listen to a leader who is able to handle challenging questions, many of which attempted to point an accusatory finger at him, stay absolutely calm and on topic, constantly give thoughtful, intelligent answers, have total control of all the issues, and reveal the mental dexterity so as to remain ahead of his interviewer (Steve Kroft) and thus effortlessly catch Kroft up on his own contradictions. I am, of course, referring to Barack Obama as seen on CBS’s 60 Minutes tonight.

After being subjected to the plethora of Republican “debates” over the past several months in which candidate after candidate stumbled on the most basic of issues, whether these related to foreign policy or to our own Constitution, I am astounded that anyone can consider voting for someone other than Barack Obama for president.

Any Republican who dared to reveal an intellect, a grasp of the issues of our time and their complexity, and a temperament to lead us well--a John Huntsman, for example--has been eliminated from consideration by the circus that is this year’s Republican nominating process.

I invite you to watch, or re-watch, this full interview with President Obama on 60 Minutes. His observations can be eloquent and heart-felt: “America by definition is an innovation society; we constantly remake ourselves,” he remarks optimistically, as he makes note of the need for adjustments to today’s unusual economic challenges. He sympathizes with our social challenges and admits that the “rules are rigged against middle class families and those who aspire to get into the middle class.” He even continues to treat the opposition party with a respect that none of them have given him, so that even when referring to what we all know as the recalcitrance of the “Party of No,” he merely says “we haven’t got the sort of engagement from them that I would have liked,” or, in reference to the necessary compromises that Democrats have made in order to keep our country and government afloat, Obama simply remarks that “we haven’t seen the equivalent willingness on the other side.”

My God, how fortunate we are to have a real adult in the White House. The traits that Barack Obama has displayed are those of a true leader, something completely lacking in nearly all of the various Republican contenders: Gingrich, Romney, Perry, Paul, Bachmann, Santorum, (or Cain).

This brings to mind a conversation I had with my wife back in September of 2008 in regard to the qualities that she (and I) would want in a president. We were driving on the New Jersey Turnpike; as she was at the wheel, I scratched out some notes, and, later, she expanded them into the following draft.

“I’m a 63 year old, white woman. I have run a successful small business for 25 years. I’m a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a congenital moderate.

“Recently, I’ve been thinking about the qualities I want in the person who will be president. I don’t want to be swayed by the fear mongering that permeates electoral politics or foolish misstatements by one candidate or another, the confusion about what’s true and what’s not. Rather, I want to base my decision on a clear headed appraisal of the qualities that will be important for the next president if he is to lead this country responsibly. Here’s the list I’ve come up with.

“I’m looking for someone who is well educated—not just about our country, but also about the world.

“I’m looking for someone who thoroughly understands the Constitution, the foundation of our democratic system.

“I’m looking for someone who can listen to all sides of an issue and find the narrow path of common ground that we can all move along together.

“I’m looking for someone young enough to be operating at full capacity. I’m all too aware of the signs of age that affect all of us over 60.

I’m looking for someone who understands and relies on the Internet and new technologies in their many astonishing applications. The web has been with us for a mere 5,000+ days. The changes in the next 5,000 will be no less significant.

I’m looking for someone who is not afraid of people who are different.” We live in a country in which people of many colors are soon to be a majority. Only when we have leadership that embraces citizens of all hues will we truly harness the energy and human resources of this great country.

I’m looking for someone who angers slowly and takes time to consider the many sides of an issue before responding. In these times of proliferating nuclear weapons, I come down solidly on the side of caution and considered decision making rather than rash acts.

I’m looking for someone who knows how to build trust by charting a steady course within the rapidly changing realities of the world. This person must be able to find just the right place between consistency and flexibility, so that the decision making is clear and principled but the short-term decisions can flex as needed.

I’m looking for someone who is so smart that he can chart a course based on rigorous, clear thinking and can then articulate that thinking process so we can all understand it--someone who can use the position of President to convince and sway both the citizens of this country and people around the world with his oratorical skill.

I’m looking for someone who can articulate complex ideas simply and in a way that inspires us to our better selves.

I’m looking for someone who has traveled widely to many continents and has an appreciation for the astonishing array of cultural diversity on this shrinking globe of ours.

I’m looking for someone who understands that global resources are finite, and that if we don’t unite to be responsible about our use of these resources, we will undermine the future for our children and grandchildren.

Finally, I’m looking for someone who represents the future and who will have the courage and ability to lead us through the upcoming years of challenge with new ideas and a willingness to find ways in which this country of ours can once again be a respected leader in the world.”
This person appeared tonight with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes.  We owe him, our country and this world a second term.

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