From his very first moment in the national spotlighthis keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004Barack Obama has attached himself to the notion of audacity. He spoke that night of the "audacity of hope," a phrase he borrowed from his minister at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He used the phrase as the title of his second book, a best seller since the nanosecond it was available for purchase. And it's certainly audacious for a U.S. Senator with a mere two years of service, of mixed-race parentage and with Hussein as his middle name, to run for President of the U.S., challenging one of his party's best-known and best-financed politicians, Hillary Clinton. The whoosh of his candidacy, in the polls and in the amounts of money raised, has been audacious as well.
But Obama's is a determinedly conservative boldness. He is a lovely speaker, yet his tone is more conversational than oratorical. He offers little in the way of red-meat rhetoric to his audiences, some of whom are surprised, and disappointed, by his persistent judiciousness. He is solid on the essentials of most issues but daring on nonehe swims contentedly in the Democratic Party's mainstream, unwilling to lose any potential voters with, well, the audacity of his proposals. In mid-April, Obama, 45, gave a major speech on foreign policy and spent surprisingly little time or heat on Iraq. Instead, he talked about first principles: about alliances and the place of altruism in American policy. But that is the Senator's gamble, that in a time of rancid partisanship, after six years of a presidency dedicated to bullying its domestic adversaries and international allies, an Obama candidacy will prosper by offering the exact opposite: flagrant, thoughtful consensus seeking. Which is very audacious, indeed.
Next Michael Bloomberg