As Frank Rich noted in his Sunday column this week a whole lot of people suffer from the habit of comparing President Obama to past political heavy-weights. He’s either the “reincarnation of J.F.K., L.B.J., F.D.R., Reagan, Hitler, Stalin, Adlai Stevenson or Nelson Mandela.” Or not. At least according to New Yorker David Remnick today on Meet the Press, who noted that Obama “does not have the talents” of Ronald Reagan.
Remnick, who has just published (the really large…where does this man find the time?!) ‘The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama‘ was part of an admittedly refreshing MTP roundtable along with Time editor Rick Stengel (who just published his own large tome on Nelson Mandela).
This particular compare and contrast between Obama and past politicians was the result of MTP host David Gregory wanting to know whether Obama had problems inspiring people outside his own life story. “Has he found a way to reach people’s hearts when it’s not about him, and his historic journey?” Here is Remnick’s utterly grounded, not at all “gooey” response:
I don’t want to get too gooey about this, he’s a president, he’s not…he’s a politician. He’s out to make policy advances, policy victories. He does not have the same talents as Ronald Reagan, as FDR, he is himself and there’s a certain coolness to his affect. I think a lot of foreign leaders wonder why’s he not in closer touch with him, where’s the love — some of the Israelis certainly think in the last couple of weeks — and they’ve been struck by his reticence. His personal reticence. But the question is, what can he achieve. What are the major victories he can bring. And he just had a really historic victory, we shouldn’t forget, on health care.”
Sort of a breath of fresh air, no? Sunday morning meets actual conversation and leaves the shout-fest at home. Also, nice to see Obama being humanized as opposed to deified and/or buried. Something Obama apparently also likes. Remnick noted later in the program that this was Obama’s favorite New Yorker cover. Video below.
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