Josh Marshall, on Obama and the presidency:
Obama isn’t so much running for the nomination in the sense of reaching out and taking it. He’s trying to show us how marvelous he is (and this isn’t snark, he’s really pretty marvelous) so that Democratic voters will recognize it and give him the nomination.
But that’s not how it works in this country. I don’t know if it really works otherwise anywhere else. But you have to really want it, come out and say it, take it. … You have to want it enough that you reach out and take it. Which isn’t always pretty and admirable. But that’s what it takes.
I’ve had many conversations with Europeans, mostly Germans, about US politics and about presidents in particular. I’m surprised (though I shouldn’t be by now) at how often people say they’re put off by how arrogant, how grasping, how pushy people in that position seem. But it’s absolutely built in, and that’s a good thing. Leading a large country is about setting the agenda. It’s about making things happen. It’s about getting large numbers of people to do things that you want them to do. Shrinking violets need not apply. And indeed people who do not want the job badly enough to reach out and grab it will not be very good at it.
It’s the same in the larger European countries, and most likely in the small ones, too. (Except Belgium.) Angela Merkel seems all nice and pleasant, but competitors who underestimated her all have one thing in common: They’re not chancellor. Stoiber, Schroeder, Koch, and probably many more back through the years. Schroeder was a famous showboater, and Kohl’s ego was every bit as big as his waistline. And that’s just Germany. Why would anyone think that Mrs Thatcher or General De Gaulle were any less arrogant than American presidents?
I’m inspired by the thought of an Obama presidency. He could be brilliant. But it takes more than brilliance to get to 1600 Pennsylvania, and Obama has to show that he can reach out and take the prize.