Is Obama Tough Enough? Part One Million.

David Brooks wonders if Obama has what it takes:

Their first concerns are about Obama the man. They know he is intellectually sophisticated. They know he is capable of processing complicated arguments and weighing nuanced evidence.

But they do not know if he possesses the trait that is more important than intellectual sophistication and, in fact, stands in tension with it. They do not know if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.

We've been hearing some version of the "is Obama tough enough" argument since he started running for president, and as always, it's really less about Obama's individual tenacity than whether or not he possesses the same sterling moral qualities that led the questioner to their principled beliefs about public policy. In other words, it's not "is Obama tough enough" but "is Obama tough enough to do what I want him to do?" And in this case, Brooks wants Obama to show some Green Lantern-style willpower and let everyone know the U.S. is there to stay indefinitely.

"If the president cannot find that core conviction," Brooks writes, "we should get out now. It would be shameful to deploy more troops only to withdraw them later." Obviously that's not the outcome Brooks wants, but you don't even get the sense that Brooks thinks we should be leaving Afghanistan, you know, ever, or even under what circumstances he thinks that would be appropriate.

-- A. Serwer

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