[digg-reddit-me][W]hen his Democratic crowds jeer at the mere mention of Senator John McCain, [Obama] offers a gentle scolding, “You don’t need to boo, you just need to vote.”
From Jeff Zeleny’s New York Times piece today. Contrast this with McCain’s and Palin’s escalating rhetoric and their seeming embrace of much of the negative attitudes of their crowds. McCain finally had enough and tried to calm some people down as the vehemence and extremism of his crowds became a political issue in and of itself – but you can still see him reveling in the boos at the mention of Obama, The New York Times, or other liberal bogeymen.
One of the essential elements of what makes Obama’s politics so compelling is that it is not toxic – as so much political dialogue today is. His attempt to raise the level of political discourse and to engage in respectful political dialogue has become one of his trademarks – even though his campaign has often failed to live up to this high standard.
Obama has proved that he is willing and able to hit back hard – and to land some low blows. But his focus has always been on the substance – for example, treating Keating Five as a distraction – producing an ad and holding it until McCain started his personal attacks on Obama.
All this reminds me of the story of the pro-life protestors at an Obama rally in New Hampshire the day before the primary election versus Hillary:
…the day before the New Hampshire primary, a group of pro-life protesters interrupted an Obama rally. They refused to stop chanting to allow Mr. Obama to speak, and after a few minutes, they were removed by security. The largely Democratic crowd was clearly on Barack’s side in this – booing the protesters, drowning their chants out. But after they left, Mr. Obama gently scolded the crowd:
Let me just say this though. Some people got organized to do that. That’s part of the American tradition we are proud of. And thats hard too, standing in the midst of people who disagree with you and letting your voice be heard.
Another story of Obama’s politically unnecessary grace comes Peggy Noonan wrote last Friday:
When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd “I have no comment,” or “We shouldn’t judge.” Instead he said, “My mother had me when she was 18,” which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn’t have to.
Let me be clear – Obama is no saint. But there is an uncommon grace about him, especially in contrast to our politics.
It is this grace that is the essence of Obama’s particular brand of post-partisanship. It is this grace that deflates the hyped-up fears that people like Fouad Ajami try to foment as they recall how leaders harnassing the power of crowds have brought down Arab societies. What Ajami misses is the relationship Obama has to the crowd – which makes all the difference.