I wrote this article for Helium. It was part of a debate entitled US elections 2008: Will Rev. Wright’s radical views harm Obama’s chances? I defended the “No” side.
Barack Obama is a smooth operator. Ronald Reagan was called “the teflon President” because nothing could stick to him-he always found some way to deflect attention from his mistakes. When Reagan said that trees cause pollution, for example, that could have hurt him politically. But his mannerisms influenced the American people not to care so much about his errors or gaffes.
A similar scenario is evident with Barack Obama, only he is different from Reagan in his teflon nature. Reagan could dissolve criticisms with a joke, but Obama has other things going for him that make him unstoppable. First, Obama comes across as a friendly, level-headed, reasonable guy. He is the sort of person with whom you’d watch a ball game or have a beer (if you drink). He does not strike me as a wild-eyed fanatic, unlike his pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Second, Obama is able to distance himself from Wright while acknowledging that Wright raises some valid points. Obama simply says that he does not have to agree with someone 100 per cent to get something out of his message. American political culture loves to put public figures on the spot. It’s either all or nothing for a lot of these pundits and politicians. They act as if Obama’s only choice is to totally disavow and denounce Wright’s church, or to participate in it and swallow everything Wright says. But Obama can accept some things Wright preaches, disagree with other aspects, and remain a member of the church in good standing. And Obama points this out, which is why he doesn’t fall into the trap that American political culture likes to set for people. Because Obama pursues a third alternative, he will probably escape any political damage from his membership in Wright’s church.
And, third, when Obama does make a mistake, he admits it. For example, he said that his relationship with slum-lord Tony Rezco was an error in judgment. He doesn’t try to spin away his actions. We don’t hear him saying something like “I didn’t inhale,” as we did from a certain spouse of another Presidential candidate. Overall, Obama is open and honest, and therefore he comes across as human. Obama does a good job in explaining himself in a manner that appears genuine rather than artificial. Because of that, he will most likely survive a lot of political hits.