Thursday, November 27, 2008

The confidence of Barack Obama (part 1 of 2)

Whether it's self assuredness or cockiness, a lot has been made of Barack Obama's confidence. It's only natural, any person who seeks to become the "leader of the free world", especially at this moment faced with consequential world challenges (facing 2 wars and global economic collapse) needs to have a measure of confidence.

The odd thing about confidence is that for some it's perceived as a positive whilst for others a fatal flaw. Many of the outgoing President's detractors believe it has been George W Bush' hubris and stubborn confidence that has led to the turmoil that the new President now faces. Ironically it is Obama's confidence that is expected to lead the world out of these crises.

George W Bush' confidence has already been likened to the Obamas':
White House transition: Barack Obama exudes confidence as George Bush swaggers
...the next First Lady was leaning forward, looking excited, even ambitious. Like her husband, she brims with self-assurance.
Famed journalist Bob Woodward, who has covered George W Bush intimately speaks of his "lack of self doubt" in a revealing interview with Der Spiegel:
"They Believed There Was a Risk," Interview with Bob Woodward (July 2004)
Of course. Doubt isn't a bad thing. You can learn from it, and your resolve can even grow once a decision has been made. But that's not Bush' style. I couldn't find anyone who could tell me that they had experienced the president having a moment of doubt.
Whilst Obama will not be tested as Commander-in-Chief till his inauguration (Jan09), he has been projecting confidence through his Cabinet selections during the transition period. As columnist David Brooks noted on PBS' Newshour:
David Brooks and Ruth Marcus Discuss Obama's Cabinet Picks, Economy's Woes
... Obama is a confident guy, because he's surrounding himself with a lot of very smart other people... it's a continuation of the Obama pattern over the last week of naming very, very smart, independent people, not cronies... he's just stockpiling brains here. And I don't know how it's all going to work...there's a lot of very smart people, and it's a testament to Obama's confidence.
It's worth noting Brooks has also been impressed by Bush' confidence

Whilst Bush and Obama share a confidence, it has produced two different styles of leadership. For Bush it makes him more insular and more steadfast, placing trust in his gut instinct and faith. For Obama, he invites being challenged allowing for a broader perspective, valuing homework and intellect to arrive at his conclusions.

Barack's confidence is more nuanced and has gone through at least three different arcs.
1) Running for President after only 2 years experience
2) "Not waiting his turn" by challenging Democratic presumptive candidate Hillary Clinton
3) Obama "already measuring the drapes" during the General Election against McCain

This arc will be highlighted in part 2 of 2

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