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Saturday, December 11, 2010

On Strength

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, upon first meeting Barack Obama made a now notorious remark to an aide, ‘is he weak?’ The American people seem to be asking the same question.

Strength comes in many varieties. Obama’s predecessor took pride in his physical strength and his decisiveness. As Harry Truman might have said, there’s no distinction to be made between a man and his posture: I am my backbone.

But people can be strong in different ways. They can find themselves strong in the wrong way, that is to say, mismatched. The president values and promotes strength of character; the people appear to want strength of temperament.

The two may coincide at critical moments, of course.  A strong ruler can smell them. A wise leader may not be this lucky, and so must compensate in other ways.

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