- We see it in athletics, where the pitcher or the quarterback or the point guard is able to somehow control their emotions, stay in the moment, slow down the game and deliver the victory.
- We see it in business, where a trader or CEO keeps his head while markets are falling and scoops up assets at a fraction of their "real" price.
- We love to see it in Las Vegas. It's what the great gamblers have. It allows them to bluff and take pots when they have nothing, because they separate themselves from the emotions of the moment and take advantage of others' normal weakness.
- We see it on the stage, in the movies. We see it in religion. The greats all have it. That ability to be still, to hold a mirror to the audience and let themselves be the hero the viewer wants them to be.
We're seeing it in politics this week, in the person of Barack Obama.
It is an extraordinary talent.
In a crisis, you know you want the head.
Even President Bush's fiercest advocates would admit he leads with his heart. His is a politics of belief. Many of Bill Clinton's critics will note that he leads with another part of his anatomy. His was a politics of emotion.
This is the acting quality many saw in Ronald Reagan, although whether there was genius behind that calm remains a matter of debate. Certainly his supporters saw it as such. In the end the performance was what mattered most.
It's clear that such leaders as Nixon, Carter, Ford and even Lyndon Johnson lacked this quality. It is very, very rare. Lincoln had it, the Roosevelts had it, obviously Washington and Franklin had it. The ability to be outside yourself, take it all in dispassionately, and deliver a message that is sure and steady, committed and principled. Who cares what they are like off-stage. We need the performance.
Is this what you want in a President, someone who will keep their own emotions in check, analyze the situation clearly, step forward and calmly lay down a marker, fully conscious of the political risks?
And if you're a Republican, close your eyes and admit you'd like it too. You can have it. Just vote for it. Hold your nose if you like, but vote for it, as Democrats voted for Reagan and Republicans voted for Roosevelt. Vote for the more talented politician, the more politically courageous one, the point guard who you know will drain the three-point shot with the game on the line.
Because, this week, we're seeing it.