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The Limits of Outrage --Part I

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Andrew Schmookler
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On a thread on my own website, an interesting conversation took place. It began with one reader lamenting this from a news article:

“In his speech, Obama called for an increase in defence spending and an extra 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines to “stay on the offense” against terrorism and ensure America had “the strongest, best-equipped military in the world."

This reader took from such remarks that Obama was really no different from Lieberman or the Republicans.

I replied that I doubted that these statements warranted drawing such dire conclusions about Obama:

My bet it that his political advisors have made the judgment –not at all implausible– that Obama is vulnerable on the “macho” posture requirement.

To be elected president in this country, they assume (again, not without reason), a candidate has to show the electorate that he’s “tough” enough to duke it out with our enemies (real or imagined).

Meanwhile, Obama has come across as an optimist and a uniter and a fellow who has vision for the “audacity of hope.” Those can be strengths (voters in the latest poll see him as the most “optimistic” of all the candidates).

But the weakness that goes with his strengths is that Americans will think him incapable of dealing with the dark side of the world. And so I imagine Obama’s political advisors told him something like:

“If you want to get elected, you’re going to have to make some tough-sounding noises.”

This elicited from another reader the complaint:

I don’t see how you (Andy) are not outraged over the fact that these are the requirements to be elected President.
About my saying that to be elected president, a candidate has to demonstrate that he or she is "tough," he went on, "I don’t think we can afford to placate this fact any longer."

In response, I asked:

Just what is the alternative to accepting this fact? Do you have some nifty way of transforming this fundamental aspect of the American (and of course it’s not just American) consciousness?

And this seconc reader, in response, asserted:

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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