Conservative New York Times correspondent David Brooks used his column today to venerate President Obama, a rare enough sight indeed in this polarized and heavily partisan era, but it appears that the vicious and low-brow nature of this year’s flock of Republican candidates have him missing the “ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance” that characterized both the President’s campaigns and his presidency:
But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.
Brooks narrows down five particular aspects of the President’s conduct – his integrity, his basic sense of humanity, his soundness of decision-making, his grace under pressure, and his resilient sense of optimism – and proceeds to lambaste the Republican candidates for lacking these key qualities that are only found in true leaders. In particular, he raked the candidates over the coals for their tendency to spout outrageous hyperbole about the state of our nation and vastly over-blowing the severity of the problems facing our country, which, as he notes, are serious, but are small potatoes in comparison to some of the constant crises facing other nations.
To hear Sanders, Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth. People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions.
He goes on to praise the way our President has skillfully navigated our nation through the sharp shoals of partisanship, his empathy for humans of all race, nation, and gender, his pragmatic approach to resolving situations while still holding forth to his ideals, and the wisdom with which he made difficult decisions. Brooks also took a moment to single out Marco Rubio’s tendency to crumble under pressure that couldn’t be refuted with a stump speech: “a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. After [the Republican debate on] Saturday night, this is now an open question about Rubio.”
It is a beautiful and honest ode to one of the most successful Presidents to ever grace the Oval Office; while he has had his failures as well as his victories, he has rammed through enormous accomplishments despite the entire Republican Party rewiring their efforts to oppose his every move, triumphing despite inheriting a financial crisis, two interminable wars, and a catastrophic deficit.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.