Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama's Two Achilles' Heels

Senator Barak Obama, now surfing on the crest of the wave of rock stardom, appears to have the Democratic presidential nomination in easy reach and a head start on winning the presidency. No candidate in the history of presidential politics has ever attracted crowds like those of a rock star. No, not John F. Kennedy. No, not Ronald Reagan. But the question comes.

Will Senator Obama sustain his successful surfing on the crest of the wave of rock-stardom?

If he does, he will have written a new chapter in the history of presidential campaigns. But if he does not, he will prove his subservience to the law of presidential campaign history. Here is that law:

“Long and sustained public careers together with stable political and public policy strategies usually mark successful presidential candidates and presidents. Thus, presidents have customarily had their personal abilities, character, and policy inclinations tested along the way. The political system customarily filters out candidates with policy ideas outside the mainstream of American politics, making 'centrist' candidates and presidents the norm.” Charles W. Dunn, The Seven Laws of Presidential Leadership (Prentice-Hall, 2007).

So what are Obama’s two Achilles' Heels?

First, unlike all modern presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt through George W. Bush, Senator Obama has not had a long and sustained public career. His very brief tenure in the Illinois Senate and the U.S. Senate pales when compared to the public careers of all of our presidents, notably those in the modern era.

Second, Senator Obama has not yet faced the intense scrutiny of the high-powered media microscope. His abilities, character and policy inclinations are largely untested.

The question becomes: Will Senator Obama become a falling star or the author of a new chapter in presidential campaign history?


B Hedberg said...


You have correctly identified two of Obama's weak points.

"Stars" glitter brightly in the lime light; however, they are less durable in a presidential campaign than those equipped with experience and substance.

jswezey said...

After going 10-0 in the latest primaries and caucuses it will take a major reversal for Clinton to earn the nomination. However unlikely, it is never wise to underestimate their political machinations.

Only time will tell if Obama authors a “new chapter in presidential campaign history.” As for his Achilles heels, the first likely will only play a major role in the electoral decision if there is a major crisis, especially a foreign one. America would likely turn to the “grown up” John McCain if it feared for its safety. Secondly, anyone who looks to the media to deter Obama’s election will be sorely disappointed. As much as they may like McCain for sticking his thumb in the eyes of conservatives, they’re fawning over Obama. (Just ask Hillary) Obama’s ability to handle himself in the fall presidential debates will prove critical in the finals hours leading to the election.