Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Contrast in Styles? Obama and Giuliani

For a moment I'm going to step out of Primary Mode and share these two contrasting pieces from the New York Times. One speaks to Obama's personality, background, and presence on the world stage. The other speaks of Giuliani's way of doing business.
On one hand we have a man whose own life story and background is unlike any other in the political field. He has an understanding of the world that is influenced by time spent in schools in Indonesia, Muslim relatives, and family in Kenya. Besides that, he has brown skin. Some might hold all this against him. But think about how differently he will be perceived by the broader world?
The question posed to Barack Obama concerned whether he was tough enough to be a world leader. His answer is yes. But listen to his definition of what it means to be tough enough:

“What I’ve always found is people who talk about how tough they are aren’t the tough ones. I’m less interested in beating my chest and rattling my saber and more in making decisions that build a safer and more secure world.”

Our current president likes to show off his Texas swagger and swing his big stick. But look at the world in which we're living. We're at war in two places. Latin America is running from us and embracing a megalomaniac. Russia is going back to Cold War status. But George and Dick sure sound tough.
Rudy Giuliani, is much closer in style to the current denizens of the White House. His style is brash and even brazen. He's kind of like the cop who shoots first and asks questions later. It was his MO as a prosecutor and then as mayor. He was known as the Crime Buster (Elliot Ness incarnate). It is a style that supposedly gets things done -- but it also tends to alienate people.

On a frosty January day in 1989, with his first mayoral race looming, Mr. Giuliani assembled his staff in the library at the United States attorney’s office and offered a goodbye salute. The once-chubby prosecutor now was almost gaunt, a thinning shock of dark hair combed across his scalp.
Look, he said, here’s what I have to say about my time here. We may have made our mistakes along the way, but I don’t think we ever made mistakes for the wrong reason.

Mr. Giuliani has held tight to that image, the jaunty chieftain and his legal warriors, many of whom have remained admirers and, in some cases advisers. But those who battled him remember most of all his near-overwhelming moral certitude.

It still troubles some.

“The public wants to see tough prosecutors, but being tough is not always best,” said Mr. McDonald, the former prosecutor who led the Organized Crime Strike Force. “If you’re always concerned with looking tough, you’re not always looking to be fair. I wonder about that balance.”

Whether or not these will be the choices we see before us come November 2008, these are contrasts in style. Personally, I'd rather choose Obama and trust his "softer" form of toughness, over Rudy's knock his lights out form.
Does one have to "look tough" to be tough? If so, then let's bring back Edward G. Robinson. He sure looked tough! Or, can there be a "velvet gloved" toughness that enages people with respect and with honor?
Hat tip to Jesus Creed for the references.

1 comment:

Drew said...

There is a toughness that we tend to associate with absolute and unwavering adherence to policy even if that policy goes against evidence that would not support it. It's the heroic image of one who does not negotiate or waver.

But we seem to have associated negotiation, flexibility, and compromise as somehow weak. This is so strange considering that our very system of government needs the latter to work.

So something or someone needs to change the image of the hero for us.