This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.
Before a camera, they can do no wrong. And the president himself, well, if you didn’t watch his speech in Cairo, you should have. The guy’s impressive. Truly. He can speak to multiple audiences–Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians, as well as a staggering range of Americans–and somehow just about everyone comes away hearing something they like, feeling he’s somehow on their side. And it doesn’t even feel like pandering. It feels like thoughtfulness. It feels like intelligence.
For all I know–and the test of this is still a long, treacherous way off–Barack Obama may turn out to be the best pure politician we’ve seen since at least Ronald Reagan, if not Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He seems to have Roosevelt’s same unreadable ability to listen and make you believe he’s with you (no matter what he’s actually going to do), which is a skill not to be whistled at.
Right now, he and his people are picking off the last Republican moderates via a little party-switching and some well-crafted appointments, and so driving that party and its conservative base absolutely nuts, if not into extreme Southern isolation. In this sense, his first Supreme Court pick was little short of a political stroke of brilliance, whatever she turns out to do on the bench. Whether the opposition “wins” (which they won’t) or loses in any attempt to block her nomination, they stand to further alienate a key voting bloc, Hispanics. Now 9 percent of voters, Hispanics went for Obama in the last election by a staggering 35-point margin. Next time their heft might even bring solidly red-state Texas closer to in-play status in the two-party system. In other words, the president has left his opponents in a situation where they can’t win for losing.
Mix Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan…
All this is little short of amazing, particularly if put into even the most modest historical context.