It’s said that all Ronald Reagan had to do was convince the American people he was someone who could be trusted with the power of the presidency. Once he did that in the debate with Jimmy Carter, the election was over. Barack Obama obviously overcame that hurdle, too, or he wouldn’t have won by nearly 7 percent. But his “ordinariness” especially came through during the “60 Minutes” interview. I saw last night what all those who voted for him saw. He came across as calm and reasonable and thoughtful, someone you wouldn’t be worried about taking that 3 a.m. phone call.
On policy, it was a mixed bag. The best thing was that he listed assembling a national security team as his top priority, recognizing that the period of transition is always when America is most vulnerable. The worst was that Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt are the presidents he said he is studying and most hopes to emulate. Lincoln and Roosevelt are two of the presidents who made the most profound changes in the way this country operates, especially in the scope and reach of the federal government, so it’s not really comforting that Obama says he is attracted by those two’s pragmatism and willingess to experiment. And Lincoln and Roosevelt were reacting to serious and immediate threats to the nation’s health and security. In the absence of such a grave threat (let’s keep our fingers crossed about the economic meltdown), we should all hope he proceeds with a little more caution.
But this is all second-guessing before the fact, isn’t it? We still really have no idea how Obama will govern, so we’ll just have to judge him as he acts. He will be only the 43rd person to serve as president — what a remarkably small number. The FBI has a bigger pool than that to come up with its serial-killer profiles.