Is Barack Obama a Lightweight? (Yes, but in a good way)
In her NY Times column today, Maureen Dowd notes the incipient effort of some conservatives to discredit Senator Barack Obama by noting that not only is his last name a mere one letter different from “Osama,” but his middle name is Hussein. Dowd quotes Hussein-dropper Ed Rogers as denying that he was trying to link Obama to Saddam: “The context was, this guy’s a lightweight. Never have I seen so much swoon for so little biography.”
Lightweight? The guy was President of the Harvard Law Review. Although I haven’t been in touch with him in years, Obama was a year behind me in law school, and we took an advanced constitutional law seminar together. I have a hard time naming someone who had broader intellectual range or better judgment. To be sure, great academic minds have sometimes done poorly in public office. That’s the take-home point of David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. And it’s clear from the context that
In a way, then, a very brief term in the Senate may be the ideal resume for a Presidential candidate. It provides enough national exposure to gain recognition but not enough of a record to tie the candidate down. Yes, I know that governors have done remarkably well in recent Presidential elections (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 2), but I find it hard to believe that Tom Vilsack or Bill Richardson will out-poll Obama. Of course, anything can happen, and Dorf on Law doesn’t endorse candidates (as if the candidates wanted such a kiss of death!), but from where I sit, it looks like being a lightweight Senator—in the sense of not being weighed down by long tenure in the Senate—is just the ticket, especially against a likely Republican nominee whose 20+ years of mostly very conservative votes will be hard to characterize as “maverick” once they come under close scrutiny.