Benny's World

Friday, August 19, 2005

Daily Kos: Clark is Like JFK, Edwards is Like FDR

by Stirling Newberry

Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 05:33:59 PDT
As potential challengers to Hillary, these are the two people I take the most seriously. For the moment I'm going to set aside the horse race thinking - and focus on the personal qualities of these two men.

The reason Wes Clark creates such excitement is that he has the quality of incandesence which JFK had, the belief that he represents a bright light which is dawning over America. Edwards, by contrast, while he looks more the part, is far more like Franklin Delano Roosevelt - a man with an affable surface, but a deliberative core who offers himself as being the tide of an awakened America.

Stirling Newberry's diary :: ::
If you look at Wes Clark, you can tell that he is not only bright, but brilliant. His eyes pierce every individual, grab every topic. His movements show a man with overflowing energy, who wants to talk to every person, examine every problem, and look into every detail. Nothing seems to escape his notice. If one is from the military, this is an almost essential way of being to cultivate.

His writing merely enlarges this impression, he presents himself as a warrior and a leader. No political figure in the last 40 years has made the idea of leadership and courage so central to his image.

His leadership is the kind of beckoning call to complete the mission and go over the next hill, and in the tradition of American military leadership - his basic philosophy is "follow me". Clark is the techno-optimist, but also the believer in what the ancient greeks called "arete" - excellence. Clark's speeches are loaded with references to what people can do at their best, when they go beyond what they thought was possible.

This quality is matched with a devotion that has taken on a legendary quality. Talk to a long time Clark supporter, and almost everyone has a story that runs "and so I got in the car and drove all night"... You can here it from Eric Massa, one time aid and congressional candidate, but also from any number of other people who have crossed the state - or the country - for Wes Clark.

Part of this is because he has an intensity of personal connection, when he listens it seems as if he is listening to one person only. He seems to be the person that every smart person in the country believes will listen to the importance of a particular problem, and could be convinced if only there was a chance.

Clark makes its seem like he will get the best people and get the most from them, driving them forward, and taking endless pains to hold the world together.

His personal motto is "be all you can be". And he makes many want to be all that they can be.

- - -

John Edwards is a man whose public image does not capture his essential strength as a political leader: John Edwards draws out the thinking of those who work for him, and comes to judgement. He is also a man who relentlessly critiques his own judgements and his past - but on stage before others. If Clark looks and leads, then Edwards listens and pulls. If Clark is "the light", then Edwards presents himself as the tide of the inevitable. If Clark presents himself as the future, Edwards is the present.

Looking through how different presidents have run the office, there is one President whose ability to reach down to local political leadership, and tell them that the time has come for change - and that President is FDR.

FDR's personal political style, in how he ran his organizations, is also as close a match as one could find. FDR had a boundless capacity to absorb what people told him, the ability to find out the structure, and the ideas that animated what they presented, and then he drew all of this in, and deliberated in a place where no one else could reach. It was both his great gift, and made him maddeningly enigmatic.

There is no sign on Edward's face of his personal tragedies or trials. And in this, people underestimate the emotional depth that allows him to mask them. The same was true of FDR, who in the run up to 1932, was written off as a genial dilletente by the press.

It allows him to present one face to the world, smiling or conscientious, forceful or wise - all of the while searching for that emotional balance point. It is more than an intellectual process, it is a matter of instinct.

And what it allows Edwards to do is to look out over the broad sweep of America, and embrace all of it at once. He feels for millions who have been left out of American prosperity, for the millions whose prosperity hangs by the housing bubble, and for their children who are having opportunities foreclosed and foresaken.

This is what makes Edwards a compelling figure when persuading individual politicians and local people - in the end, he creates around him the belief that there is a vast ocean of America, ready and able to turn the tide against our problems, and that he, most specifically he, is at the crest of that tide. A tide that will push out fear and hesitation, and will act from that deep heart of America, urging us to do what is right.

Not willing to buy the concept that Clark is like JFK.


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