Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Attitude Étude

Included in the ever expanding catalog of negative black male stereotypes is the cool pose. It has received serious scholarly attention from the eminent Orlando Patterson. But like most attributes it can be quite useful depending on the circumstance. Last night Barack Obama utilized this trait quite masterfully. When faced with a threatening and potentially psychemotionally charged situation he adroitly diffused tensions. He appeared self-assured and casually confident.

The cool pose was crucial to Barack's ability to maintain equanimity under duress and provided sharp relief against Hillary Clinton whose emotions were always near the surface and threatening to erupt at anytime. Even the news anchors moderating the venue weren't immune when the senator from New York went into porcupine mode.
The popular but erroneous image of the glass ceiling conveys the idea that there is a single point obstructing progress. But the the more accurate image is a labyrinth. Leadership is a tortuous path lined with numerous hazards. Skill sets and personality traits that are a hindrance in one setting can be a positive asset in another.

Presidents are faced with multiple competing interests. The president must create space for him/herself. Constituents ranging from cabinet ministers to foreign governments continuously encroach upon the president to force his hand. The most successful presidents are those who can delay such decisions despite the sense of urgency.

John F. Kennedy's management of the Cuban Missile Crisis is an excellent case study of presidential decision making. With clamors from all corners for action and the later discredited domino theory still enjoying legitimacy, JFK's deliberation process is considered the ideal.

Hillary's defiant smirks, petulance, and pedantries displayed none of the detached coolness associated with paragons of leadership. As the only woman engaged in the male dominated arena, the audience would have naturally sympathized with Clinton. But Senator Clinton's confrontational, take no prisoners style was abrasive and evaporated any compassion for her, and in this case made Senator Obama's easygoing manner even more refreshing.

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