That’s basically how Andrew Sullivan describes Barack Obama in his Sunday Times essay. And there’s really something to this. First, Obama’s calm in the face of the Clintonistas drove Bill (“Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice”) Clinton and Hillary (“Shame on you, Barack Obama!”) Clinton to say things that they’d later regret, and that may well have lost them the primary.
Now Obama continues unruffled in the face of McCain/Palin onslaught of negative ads and tenuous connections to Bill Ayers and ACORN. I expect that we’ll see tonight, once again, Obama perform in the debate without any Goresque sighs or Nixonian flop sweats. Clearly, as Sullivan convincingly argues, Obama’s calm demeanor in the face of the global economic crisis has contributed to his recent surge in the polls.
And now to venture into the land of pure speculation: It seems to me that BO could not maintain this unshakeable calm were he not an exceptionally grounded, centered, and spiritual person. I suppose that some people are more “wired” toward calm than others, and I’m quite sure that our life experiences contribute to our personalities (like, say, 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton). But running a 2+ year presidential campaign entails an extraordinary amout of stress. Embedded journalists have repeatedly reported both Hillary and McCain regularly exploding in rage at their campaign teams. Unless I’ve missed it, there’s been nary a mention of Obama losing his cool, even behind the scenes.
As a person who tries, often unsuccessfully, to stay centered in the midst of crisis and stress, I cannot but believe that BO’s own spirituality contributes greatly to the preternatural calm that he exudes.