THE PLANK NOVEMBER 5, 2008
I believe in the power of personality in presidential politics as much as anyone. And there's no doubt in my mind that Obama won not so much because he had the superior message (which he did) but because he was by leaps and bounds the superior messenger.
That said, his win is also a win for everyone who admires boring, everyday competence. Obama picked competent people to advise him and those competent people helped him run a killer campaign. They were smart, organized, calm, unified, focused, innovative, flexible...in short, everything that the McCain campaign was not. (Ditto Team Hillary.) And while there is a certain romance to the idea of a candidate running a by-the-seat-of-his pants campaign fueled by chutzpah and a willingness to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks--the model that so obviously appealed to Team McCain's image of itself as scrappy and unorthodox--the idea of a president who would govern in that way gives me the willies.
Don't get me wrong: Being a maverick is great and fun and sexy. I mean, who didn't love the pre-nutty Tom Cruise in "Top Gun"? But it bears recalling that Cruise's showboating Maverick didn't win the honor of best flyboy. Rather, he crashed his plane and killed his best friend and came in second to Val Kilmer's not-as-flashy-but-eternally-unflappable-and-brutally-competent Iceman.
So while I'm thrilled that Obama had the necessary flash, I'm deeply relieved that his team also had the fundamentals down. He'll need an abundance of both just to survive the next four years.