Monday, October 27, 2014

Obama's Temperament

Matthew Yglesias commends President Obama's cool temperament on

Journalists have systematic professional incentives to overreact. You don't get ahead by writing boring stories, so you develop a nose for the provocative and start dealing in superlatives. Yet few people can make it through life acting purely out of cynicism. It helps enormously in this profession to be a genuine temperamental over-reactor. Certainly it's helped me.

The hot temperament consequently tends to dominate in the ranks of the media. And the media love nothing quite so much as a politician who shares their disposition. It's not a coincidence that McCain is, on a durable basis, the media's favorite senator.

He approaches his job as if you gave a Senate vote to a cantankerous but sharp newspaper columnist. But that path was never available to a young African-American liberal from Chicago. The alternative to cool and cerebral was "angry" and radical, a non-starter with white America.

But more than a political pose, an aversion to purely symbolic action has genuinely served Obama well at critical moments. Less cool heads would have abandoned Obamacare in January 2010. Obama persevered and it's worked. Obama's approach to the economy has been far from flawless, but it's not a coincidence that the USA has performed better since 2008 than Europe or the United Kingdom and weathered its financial crisis far better than Japan did in the 1990s.

The Deepwater Horizon crisis passed. The American Ebola crisis will also pass. got fixed. The Russian economy is reeling in the face of sanctions. Osama bin Laden is dead. The economy is growing. Obama hasn't always been a very effective pundit-in-chief (acute crisis moments aside, his inability to articulate public anger at Wall Street has been remarkable) but that's not actually his job. On the big stuff, he's been effective. And that's not a coincidence.

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