Comments: Obama: Reflections Of A Hard Core Negotiator

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John A.  Fiske, weston MA   01/27/08
Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune--without the words, And never stops at all.... Emily Dickinson, worth remembering this season.

Cookie , Chesterton IN   01/20/08
I have been thinking about your article for some time now and my current conclusion is "Dream on." Mrs. Clinton has won twice now by narrow margins and things are just starting to heat up. My concern is that while he was a community organizer, and now has some political credentials behind him, Mr. Obama has no significant failures. He lost one state political campaign. Unlike the others who have had failures in their political and personal lives, he presents this picture perfect fellow who seems kind and affable. Recently I heard him say (paraphrased), "When I am president I know I will make the absolutely right decision in difficult times." That kind of sounded like something out of a John Wayne movie. Kind of made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The democratic candidates have agreed to play nice while campaigning for the time being and this is American politics. Nice won't last forever. The gloves will get peeled off soon and then the test of grit will emerge. It is a telling story that the majority of members of the Black Caucus have not committed to him. There is also Richie Daly who is saying zero on the subject. I find that curious. At any rate, thanks for another great article. I can't help but add a comment on the getting married thing. At 60 I have learned to add an unspoken question that is harsh and true. When I go out on a "date" the question lurking in the back of my mind is "Would I be willing to diaper this guy?" Perhaps this is not so different from electing a President who has had no significant failures. Will we be willing to accept him with open arms if he doesn't make the "right decision?"

Larry , Lodi CA   01/15/08
I agree with Ron Kelly
I agree with Ron Kelly, and just returned from 3 days of door-to-door campaigning for Obama in Reno, Nevada.

Jennifer Kresge, St. Helena CA   01/12/08
Obama's optimism and community endeavors are certainly encouraging. His profound sense of commitment to the consideration of all, definitely inspiring of hope. However, when listening closely to the words he offers as his wisdom, he struggles with the ability to form the words, "yes" or "no" in response to direct questions. The question then remains, can you be a true leader if your goal of collaboration does not give you the ability to answer simple questions with a direct opinion and thus allow others to truly know your direction?

Ron Kelly, Berkley CA   01/11/08
Obama - A Mediator's Candidate?
I remember early on in the campaign, before I had formed a preference, I heard an experienced Washington reporter discussing the candidates. He found Obama puzzling. He claimed that if you were in a disagreement with Obama, he would summarize your arguments even better than you could yourself. This got my attention.

Then, in an early debate, Obama was asked if he would negotiate directly with the leaders of countries with whom we have strong differences. He said yes. He was attacked by many who said this just proved how naive he was. He didn't back down. He pointed out that we negotiated with Stalin and we negotiated with Mao. He asserted that you do not need to give away anything to enter negotiations with people with whom you strongly disagree.

In speeches, he consistently advocated sitting down to negotiate with, and respectfully listening to, the heads of oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, and health care companies. He was roundly attacked as "wanting to bring Kumbaya to a knife fight". He responded that he could afford to listen respectfully to the other side, especially if he was able to reach across the aisle to enlist even a few opposition Senators to his efforts.

I was skeptical. I read one of his books, "The Audacity of Hope". I went back to read an article he wrote twenty years ago on why he was a community organizer. ( I concluded he had been consistent his entire adult life about reaching out to those with whom you disagree to build effective working coalitions.

I listened to his January 3 Iowa speech( He said he understood 9/11 not as a way to scare up votes, but as "a challenge to unite America and the world against our common threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease."

I have not heard any other politician on the current national stage asserting these core beliefs as consistently and effectively as Barack Obama. I have great respect for both Clinton and Edwards. I will work for either of them happily in the fall, if either gets the Democratic nomination. But as a mediator, I have felt inspired and uplifted since deciding last weekend that I would put in some work for Obama every day until my state's primary. If you would like to help him, I invite you to go promptly to and begin now.

Roy Baroff, Pittsboro NC     01/10/08
Take the Leap
Greetings – Picking up on one of your comments, I often note that part of our job description as conflict resolution specialists is to be “eternally optimistic” even when appearances suggest otherwise. And this is required because we don’t always know what’s truly going on in the room or in the room across the hall when we are meeting in caucus with a participant to mediation. We use our optimism to fuel the mediation. In the same manner, I encourage your “optimism” with and for Obama in additon to and irrespective of your pro and con analysis. It is that optimism which we can’t see or hear or feel, yet we know exists that provides opportunity to resolve a difficult dispute and perhaps elect a President. So, go for it, make that leap - get married again! Roy Baroff

John Lande, Columbia MO   01/10/08
Hi Robert. I just read your Obama piece, which I loved. I think that some pieces are great because they elegantly express people’s semi-conscious thoughts and feelings. That’s what your piece did for me. I agree that Obama is probably more realistic than one might think from some of the rhetoric – especially the sound bites. The challenge will be to see how he – and we – deal with the nitty-gritty you mention. The benefit of Clinton’s victory this week is that it should help everyone get a look at that over the coming weeks.