Monday, May 26, 2008

Reverse of cool

My post on Obama and the coolness factor drew a response from Stuff Running 'Round My Head, who points out that Bush is pretty clear proof that being a bumbling oaf is ... brace yourself ... a detrimental quality in a president. If having the-opposite-of-charisma can impair a presidency, then doesn't it follow that charisma can strengthen a presidency?

Take a look at Bush's well-meaning but cringe-inducing attempt to ingratiate himself to the Irish people, for instance:

If you watch his answer around 7:25 - 7:35, he looks like a forlorn child: "Really what you're talking about is France -- and uh, um ... [shakes head] ... they didn't agree with my decision ..."

In Bush's defense, the interviewer certainly wasn't helping. (What a way to start an interview with a visiting head of state: "Unfortunately, the majority of our public do not welcome your visit"!) But an Obama, a Blair, or a Bill Clinton would have made it go more smoothly. Even Hillary Clinton -- not the most charismatic or likable politician -- can stand up to the most incessant bluster and keep her cool more than Bush.

At this point, I realize I'm going way beyond my original "coolness matters" thesis. After all, I used Bush as a positive example in my original post. So focusing on the superficial is a double-edged sword. Charisma, of course, doesn't do much on its own -- you want it to coexist with nuance, intelligence, the ability to think on your feet. Let's just hope we get this powerful combination in January 2009.