Monday, December 10, 2007

C minus 24 - the ice storm cometh

After struggling yesterday to try and set down my thoughts on leadership, I came across a piece today that typifies the obverse, or what might be called anti-leadership. The piece discusses concerns raised by hard core democratic voters about Hillary Clinton. Here are some typical quotes:

The concerns about Clinton, 60, a New York senator, are that she is devious, calculating and, fairly or not, a divisive figure in American politics.

Those are a lot tougher to overcome.

It was revealing, too, when Hart pushed them to envision these senators as leaders of the country or, as he put it, their ``boss.'' Obama, they say, would be inspirational, motivating, charismatic and compassionate. After praising Clinton's experience and intelligence, they say she would be demanding, difficult, maybe even a little scary.

Now in some ways, this is unfair. A scary leader may not be a bad leader, but there is unfortunately more bade news for Senator Clinton:

Candor and authenticity were repeatedly cited. ``I don't feel like I look at her and see someone who's telling me the whole truth,'' says Allison Lowrey, a 30-year-old human- resources consultant. ``I'd like to see her approach a problem without the polls'' helping her make her decision, says Andrew Alebergo, a 39-year-old tanning-salon operator.

Even strong Hillary supporters acknowledge the electorate's deep-seated concerns. ``She is walking a fine tightrope now, because she is such a divisive personality,'' says Lynda Connelly, a thoughtful 58-year-old Red Cross manager. She plans to vote for Clinton while fearing that, if elected, ``the right- wing noise machine is going to do everything it can to derail her.''

This isn't an anti-Hillary crowd. She gets high marks for her experience, intelligence and toughness; these qualities, they suspect, are what voters demand.

Their hopes and dreams, though, are with Obama, 46. If he can dispel misgivings about his electability or experience, the formidable Clinton forces may be powerless.

This is one reason why I was so impressed by Obama speaking out about social security. That was the mark of a leader - someone willing to tackle difficult issues even if they know that what they say will not be popular. If you are poll driven, then you will never have the courage to speak out like that.

In the long run, I think that leadership is what counts. There is a lot of discussion, for example, on right wing blogs about the stance that Bush took on embryonic stem cell research. Some agreed with him, and some did not, but as far as I could tell everyone thought that he did well to speak about it.

So, which of the Republican five have the most leadership quality in this regard. I think Fred Thompson has shown a willingness to tackle awkward topics well and has demonstrated leadership by doing so. I think Rudy has shown this by his forthright manner of addressing the differences he has with some on topics of abortion. McCain has shown leadership by the stance he has taken on immigration and campaign finance reform (although I think he is wrong on both counts). McCain may well be the one who shows the limitations on such leadership. People will follow a leader up to the point when that leader's views on critical issues diverge from their own too much. How much is too much? A very personal issue that each one of us has to decide! Sorry, but on that score there are no easy answers.

My apologies too for the rather cryptic title to this post. A major ice storm is forecast to start in about three hours, and will likely close down much of eastern Iowa, including Iowa City. I may or may not get to blog tomorrow - I know, the suspense is killing you!

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