Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Balance Between Contemplation and Action

Politicians are generally persons of action. Academics and scholars are persons of contemplation. There is a distinct tension between these two modes of thinking and living. One of President Obama's problems is that he is trying to straddle these two worlds, with a foot in each camp.

Obama is recognized by virtually everyone to be a very intelligent, very thoughtful, literary, visionary type of person, all of which falls into the contemplative camp. It is not at all surprising that he was editor of the Harvard Law Review and an adjunct professor of constitutional law in the past.

On the other hand, he is living and working now in the political field, which is a camp of action. He has to make decisions, sometimes based on inadequate information, he has to twist arms and make difficult political compromises to get laws approved, he has to command a nation's miliary machine and be responsible for the deaths that follow, etc. The choices are not often ideal. As he said several times over the last couple of days in seeming recognition of this, let's not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the absolutely necessary.

The tensions between the two worlds are very real and probably very excruciating, both for him and for his followers. He will be adjusting over the coming months to a new Oval Office situation, which will require a new balance between the two, with much greater weight on the action. Those of us who support him will need to be patient and understanding as he makes this transition.

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