Don’t Go Smug on Me, Obama

Feb 10, 2008 Published under Leadership, United States

Barack Obama’s sweeping victory this weekend – he won all 3 states, Washington, Nebraska, and Louisiana, overwhelmingly – was an opportunity for him to show humility, to speak a little more about our shared responsibility to strengthen our country and our world and be global stewards to each other.  It was also an opportunity for him to speak a little bit about policy and vision – yes, to inspire, but to do so with some meat.  Most important, it was an opportunity to make it about "us."  Instead, the initial over-use of "my" and "me" felt like bragging about success with an undertone of entitlement and righteousness, and overshadowed his good moments. 

It is clear he is trying to assure voters that he can gain the nomination, that he can beat McCain, and that he can run the country.  But his speech in Virginia (where the next contest comes) had a cocky tone that is dangerous to his message.

Contrast that to the way Huckabee handled his similar victory on the Republican side this weekend.  Political commentators were scoring him points by praising him for being "understated" about his wins.

I have been inspired by Obama’s message and want to get behind his message of transcending divides.

And I reject general warnings about his smugness.

But power and popularity can be the biggest poisons.

Humility, openness and introspection are most critical when you are succeeding and winning.

John McCain has been around enough time that we know he is a principled person who puts the nation above himself.  He does not seem to let success get to him.

Obama is relatively young and untested, so it is all the more important that he be able to wear success with dignity and humbleness.

It is so important that he get back to message and be down-to-earth and not make this about himself but about the country, sincerely, not with cliches but with a true feeling that, if embraced internally, will then come out naturally to him and his speech-writer.

It is not too late.  But it is vital to his nomination.

PS: His brief talk about ending the mindset of the politics of fear was very good, and right on target.

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