Charisma is a far cry from Character


  1. A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm.
  2. A personal attractiveness or ‘interestingness’ that enables you to influence others.
  3. Barack Obama

Yesterday I talked about the historic significance of Barack Obama’s presidency.  And certainly it is, indeed, historic.  But the question has been and will continue to be asked: How did he do it?

Many will say it was because of the economy.  Some say it is because they just wanted a black president.  Others because they wanted somebody totally different from George Bush.  And still others had other particular issues that influenced them.

And all of those things together affected the outcome – no doubt.  But I think it is also safe to say that there are reasons we can list that did not help him get elected.  These things include exhibiting good judgment (he has not), having a wealth of experience (he does not), believing in the redistribution of wealth, showing an actual record of “change” (he shows little), presenting a very clear view of how he will govern as president (he has not), everyone being familiar and comfortable with him (they are not), supporting extreme abortion policies, building a voting record that won him #1 most liberal member of the senate and the list goes on.

Recent polls are showing that a very large portion of even those that actually voted for Barack Obama are still very uncertain about him.  And rightly so.

The truth is that we’ve probably just elected the most unknown and untested president in the history of our nation.

So how, despite all of these strikes against him, did he do it?

I believe the answer is charisma.  It’s that certain something that some leaders just have.  And it’s the kind of thing – or nothing – that people get excited about despite all of those other issues.

And while electing a black president does indicate that our country has come a long way in regards to racism, I’m not sure we’ve got it right just yet.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

We’re getting closer. But charisma is a far cry from character.

17 comments Add comment

Joe Henzler November 6, 2008 at 9:06 am

You are correct. Senator Obama is arguably the charismatic man to have been elected to the preidency since Ronald Reagan ascended to the office.

Senator Obama defeated Senator McCain by a mere 7% of the popular vote. This is by no means a mandate when one considers that McCain represented the same party as a very unpopular president who had embroiled the nation in two wars simultaneously, in a race run during an economic crisis in a weak economy.

Mr. Obama has raised the expectations for his administration to a dangerous level. His promise to “unite” the nation and to bring “change” through some of the most leftist policies ever espoused by a presidential candidate are not reasonable. Mr. Obama was elected, not by an electorate considering his policies rationally, but on the basis of emotion. This has all the makings of a one term presidency.

Let’s hope that either Mr Obama drifts back to a moderate centrism, or that Americans find that “social democracy” is not the route to the American dream over the next four years.

Paul Nichols November 6, 2008 at 10:00 am

I agree with you, Joe, that he has the makings of a 1-term Presidency. By making “change” such a blank slate, there might very well be a large number of people who, after just 2 years, say “hold on, this ain’t the kind of change I was thinking about.”

He really has set himself up – almost as if he’s bound to be a disappointment to many. I certainly don’t wish him to be a failure, because that’s just not good for the country. If, as my daughter says, he turns out to be “not that bad”, then that would be a good thing.

But I think we’ll get a feel for things early.

Matthew Warner November 6, 2008 at 10:26 am

I agree as well. We will see very soon by his appointments if we are getting the extreme left-wing Obama of his record or the moderate-populist Obama of his campaign.

I think (and hope) he’s concerned with truly being OUR (all of our) president. There is no doubt that the majority who elected him are not near as liberal as he is. But then it was his extreme liberal supporters who have done him all the favors and given all the help throughout his career. So he owes some people.

It will be interesting to see who he chooses to please.

Phil November 6, 2008 at 10:34 am

Are these blogs the last two days just sour grapes? Why not “America First”? It is time to support your new President and the United States of America. The election is over. It is time to look to the future and not the past. I sincerely hope these anti-President elect blogs will not go on indefinitely.

This election was close to a landslide. The electoral map has been reshaped, perhaps for the foreseeable future. The Republican party in the Senate has been completely diminished (and further in the House). Were all those Democratic Senators more charismatic than all those Republican Senators? Charisma alone does not win one the Presidency or a seat in the Senate.

The people have spoken. And they haved done so in a convincing, confident fashion. They listened to debates, they heard the issues, and they made an informed choice. Of course people have doubts – how could you not at a time like this? But why feed the fire and create more doubt with blogs such as this? Is further dividing the Country the right thing to do in times like these?

Follow in the footsteps of the leader of your party, Senator Mccain. It’s time to unite and support our country. Something historic has happened as you have noted. Why not cherish it with admiration and unconditional support rather than mock our President-elect or make excuses for why he was elected and your guy wasn’t? At least give the guy a shot. As one of your great blog viewers noted, “As Christians, we are not supposed to judge people, but we are certainly supposed to judge actions.” Let the guy perform some actions AS PRESIDENT – then judge him AS PRESIDENT.

I for one am going to continue to look forward to the future. I hope you will start to do the same.

Matthew Warner November 6, 2008 at 10:58 am

I’m not being sour – I’m being cautious. And I think rightly so. Just because a slight majority of people elect the most unknown and untested president of all-time does not mean he gains everyone’s “unconditional support” as you so willingly offer.

Look, I’m the first one to agree we need to respect this president more than many in this country have respected our current president. We have to stop with the hate. Of course, as an American I support our president. But there is plenty of room for analysis, discussion, and disagreement. You can call it sour grapes if you like. I call it trying to get down to some substance – I don’t know…maybe figure out the true character of the man we’ve just elected.

I know it may be hard to understand for somebody who truly believes Obama is “the one.” But for the rest of us, it’s going to take more convincing. So please excuse me if I don’t hop on the train just because half the country gets a warm tingly feeling when the man speaks.

This is a man who has vowed to do many things that go directly against my morals and principles. I have admired him and been respectful in doing so. But it doesn’t mean I all of a sudden think he’s good for America.

I agree – as I indicated in my last comment – that we need to see what kind of president he will be. We will see if HE further divides us or unites us.

Phil November 6, 2008 at 11:02 am

Well this man has vowed to do many things that go directly against John Mccain’s morals and principles also. But he seems to stand behind his “America First” slogan. It remains to be seen if others do as well. Love your blog by the way.

Phil November 6, 2008 at 11:14 am

And one other comment – comparing critisims of the wavering support for Bush to that of Obama is apples to oranges. Bush has a record of actions taken as President upon which to be judged, Obama does not.

But in time Obama will. And I am all for reviewing his track record at that time to decide whether or not he is good for this country. Due process.

Joe Henzler November 6, 2008 at 11:23 am

I’m perfectly willing to give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. I will stand firmly behind any of his policies or prgrams which are in the interest of the common good. On the other hand, where his leadership runs contrary to the common good, I will oppose them.

I must say that I am sceptical of the overall benefit to the country of an Obama adminsitration based on his record. I further believe that the “real” Barack Obama is the leftist Obama and no the moderate, but only time will tell. This is not “sour grapes”, it is rationality. I’m basing my forecast of what an Obama presidency is going to look like on the man’s record (sketchy though it is) rather than on his rhetoric.

As opponents of the Bush Adminstration constantly remind us, opposition is not unpatriotic. It is possible to be a “loyal opposition”.

Matthew Warner November 6, 2008 at 11:25 am

Phil – I wasn’t talking about “wavering support”, I was talking about outright hatred. And I don’t care how much you disagree with Bush, he doesn’t deserve that. And neither does Obama. That was my point.

Joe Henzler November 6, 2008 at 11:48 am

Bravo, Matthew!

Paul Nichols November 6, 2008 at 12:14 pm

There are many of us who didn’t vote for Obama who, nevertheless, will support the President IF he has to call out the military. I want him to be successful. If he uses “diplomacy”, and it turns out good, then great. If he has to use the military, none of us would root against America just in the hope that it makes Obama look bad.

I hope he does well also on a cultural level – as the first black president, if he does bad, it will set “them” back – there will be plenty of people who will say “Well, blacks obviously can’t handle it”, which isn’t true. I think to really put race behind us, it will do wonders if he’s successful. And I mean successful in a good way. He could be a successful leftist, but that’s not the kind of successful I’m hoping for.

Andy November 6, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Interesting how the expectation for our new president is that he get a fair shake and be given the benefit of the doubt….too bad Bush didn’t get that! Many, many partisan politicians, media members and citizens alike, were on hair-trigger alert to take our president down at every turn. Now, all of a sudden, we are all supposed to be civil again. I was most disturbed by the many Democratic politicians who breached what had been a most sacred “American” tradition of leaving our politics at the shoreline. I can think of at least 5 occasions when major house and senate members pandered to not only our European “friends” but also our avowed enemies, to slander their own country for their own self-percieved political advantage. Treasonous to me and any other “real” Americans !

It’s funny how the rules go out the window whenever the Dems are involved. The double standard is incredible ! They make all the good people feel guilty for making any negative comments while they carry on with the most egregious behavior you can imagine ! Sorry but that doesn’t work with anyone who can really see what is going on. Amazing what you can pull off when the mass media is on your side. Different standards for different people. They equate things like Ted Kennedy killing someone, or Barney Frank running a homosexual teenage sex operation out of his apartment to Mark Foley tapping his foot on the floor…and get away with it! While Mark resigns but the others continue on as if nothing ever happened. Crazy, huh? Guess that’s the difference between the 2 parties……thank God !

We will support Obama on matters that make our country great. We will fight him on matters that take us down towards mediocrity, like socialism, which will increase our “welfare class”, something the Europeans know all too well, will take the whole of society DOWN. I was proud to see a black man able to gain possession of our highest office ! It speaks to the greatness of our country. It really is true that anyone can aspire to greatness and achieve their goals in America. If Barack governs for ALL the people he will be gain even more support. If he governs for those that propped him up…he will be a one-termer. Let’s see what the first 100 days brings. Will it be the Nancy and Harry show….or can Barack really lead us thru our mounting problems. I really hope he can and will. One thing for sure. You won’t see any Republicans spewing venom about his performance in front of outsiders and enemies. We are Americans first and Republicans second. Like never before, we need to pull together and solve our problems. Traditional Americans do it by hard work and grit, not by standing in line waiting for the government to bring them prosperity. Let’s see what Barack thinks will get us going. The stakes are high, the climb is steep, and our leader, whoever it is, needs our undying support. We will be there. Too bad the rules were different for Georgie.

bubba November 6, 2008 at 11:43 pm

The undertones of this (familiar) argument imply that charisma is more a kind of sleaziness, like somehow Obama has weaseled his way into the presidency.

My opinion is that he actually has little charisma when compared to other politicians. Many people, including democrats, have described him as being too cool-headed and aloof. I think he has excited a great many people, but this is partly due to the fact that he is a gifted writer and has crafted some great speeches. I think he’s also shown himself to be a brilliant strategist–his campaign is already being described as historic in its innovation and systematic discipline.

One could easily argue that our current President was elected due to empty charisma. But that would be ignoring the immense significance of the “ground game” waged in the last two elections by people like Karl Rove.

I think that many conservatives are beginning to dismantle their ideological machinery and start to really question its effectiveness. This is a good example–there are better arguments for discrediting your political opponent than “people really like him a lot for some reason.” Many of the conservative talking-points in this election have not been effective in convincing voters, partly because they’ve been untrue. (A lot of would-be McCain voters expressed their disappointment with this, hoping to see more of the integrity he is famous for.)

If conservatives are going to rise from the ashes of this election, they need to focus on ideas and how those ideas affect reality (the lives of real people). If there’s any reason for their failure in this election, and conversely Obama’s success, it has been because they have strayed so far from a thoughtful, rigorous ideology.

Matthew Warner November 7, 2008 at 12:45 am

Bubba, I actually agree with you quite a bit on this! And you said it very well. Here are my comments:

1) I didn’t mean to infer that Barack Obama has an empty charisma. I think the other positive attributes you noted are all heavy contributors to his overall charisma.

2) I disagree with you that he has little charisma compared to other politicians. I think most other people would disagree with you on that as well.

3) I don’t think that I inferred any kind of undertone of sleaziness. And if you think I was calling Obama “sleazy” with this post – I must have done a really bad job writing it. I don’t think Obama is sleazy.

3) Yes, he is a brilliant strategist (with a heck of a lot of charisma). He ran an excellent campaign – perhaps the best in history. But this goes precisely to my point: Many votes were cast in response to that great strategy and charisma – not his principle, policy, or ideology.

4) It’s a familiar argument to you because it’s a common situation in politics. Too often Americans elect people based on emotion (provoked by a good strategy) and charisma – instead of the content of their character or the principles they stand on. I think this was just a more extreme case than most due to the outstanding strategy and charisma exhibited by Barack Obama. That was the purpose of the post.

5) You are wrong that conservatives are “beginning to dismantle their ideological machinery and start to really question its effectiveness.” Conservatives started doing that a long time ago. The last president that actually stuck to true conservative principles was Ronald Reagan (despite first being told to abandon them if he wants to win). And he proved to be one of our most popular and successful presidents. Every republican president since then has gradually abandoned more and more of those principles and has succeeded less and less.

You are right though, conservatives must get back to the rigorous, thoughtful ideology they have traditionally relied upon. And they must be able to articulate it anew in order to explain its relevance to the lives of real people, right now. When they do that, they win. When they waver and begin to dismantle them they lose.

Thanks for your thoughts, sir!

Phil November 7, 2008 at 10:50 am

Andy, you are missing the point. You say “Interesting how the expectation for our new president is that he get a fair shake and be given the benefit of the doubt….too bad Bush didn’t get that!”

Bush WAS given a fair shake and the benefit of the doubt. Rememeber, Bush was VERY popular at the start. But in retrospect some of his decisions are not viewed by the American public as the right ones. He WAS given a fair shake and he failed the American people (or at least 80% of them feel that way). If Obama fails us in the same way, he SHOULD be viewed with the same unpopularity. But let him succeed or fail based on his own right before dismissing him as unqualified. Even Bush was given a shot. Due process.

The point I am trying to make is give the guy a chance (as we did with Bush). No one was critizing Bush when he took office. Going from an all time high in President popularity to an all time low in President popularity is not a coincidence. His track record is what got him there, not the haters.

Your last paragraph is spot on. Bravo. Only, again, I disagree with your “Bush” comment (see above). I can not believe you actually think that folks have this personal hatred for Bush and that is why he is so unpopular and it has nothing to do with his track record. Give me a break!

Paul Nichols November 7, 2008 at 11:35 am

The point I am trying to make is give the guy a chance (as we did with Bush). No one was critizing Bush when he took office.
Uh, Phil, have you taken even a casual look around the internet at the Bush haters? It started with day one, from the “stolen election” stuff and never let up. Those people hated him from the start.

Now, “haters” isn’t the same as those who disapprove of the job he’s done. I dissaprove myself. Except for Alito and Roberts, I can’t think of anything he can hang his hat on – except – Iraq; and ONLY IF that country maintains it’s fledgling democracy. He needed the surge to work because he totally underestimated the height of the cliff he’d jumped off.

I’m totally against Obama simply because he’s a socialist. The only redeeming quality is that he’s apparently a good family man. In that regard, he’ll be a role model (knock on wood).

DerJimbo November 9, 2008 at 9:24 pm


You said that “Bush WAS given a fair shake and the benefit of the doubt. Rememeber, Bush was VERY popular at the start. But in retrospect some of his decisions are not viewed by the American public as the right ones. He WAS given a fair shake and he failed the American people (or at least 80% of them feel that way).”

Hold on just a minute there, sunshine. We must not be thinking of the same president…you DO mean George W. Bush, right? Because if so, “VERY popular” doesn’t seem the correct description of a president elected with a minority of the popular vote (but a majority of the Electoral College) in perhaps the most acrimonious election in US history. Although I wasn’t alive for the Hayes vs. Tilden election; maybe that one was worse, I dunno.

But I’ll tell you what I DO remember–as a registered Republican–I very clearly remember being told that people who voted Republican were “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals” who all lived in “flyover country” and had “sex with their own relatives”. And I seem to recall other voices offering their considered opinion that Republicans were all uneducated, bigoted, fearful small-town hicks who still wore polyester pants and picked their noses all the way through the local Kiwanis club meetings in Hicksville, USA. I also remember certain Hollywood Democrats vowing to leave the country as long as Bush (which soon got modified to “Bushitler”) remained president. I remember the bumper stickers about how “a village in Texas is missing its idiot.” And mind you, not all of these views came from Democrat partisans; some of them were aired in respected journals of opinion like the New York Times…

Oops! My bad…

Maybe all of this has just flown out of your memory, but I remember all of it as though it were yesterday, which, in a sense, it still is. I remember all of this, and much, much more along the same lines. So here is my promise to you and every other erstwhile Democrat: I promise to give Obama as much support, and show him as much courtesy and respect, as the Democrats did for George W. Bush–maybe even more, if you get my drift.

Now, who can say fairer than that?

And if that strikes you as unfair or un-Christian or something, well, so be it. I am a sinner, and I still struggle with my weaknesses, and try as I might, I cannot believe that it is wrong to put the Golden Rule into operation, especially when the Democrats have had an eight year head start and given me such a fine example to emulate.

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