Is President Obama Too Soft?



In His Hands Politics Becomes a Sweet Science


Some Reflections On the President’s Political  Style

 In an elegantly worded cleverly argued commentary in the Financial Times of London, “Obama Must Punch Harder,” columnist Gideon Rachman thinks our President is hobbled by the fact that he  “floats like a butterfly and stings like a butterfly!”   Thus he argues that President Obama needs to pick a fightin public and kick some ass, sending an unmistakable message that he’s no punk.  In other words: Go gangsta on them!    But Bam has already demonstrated that he knows how to slip into a gorilla suit; like when he resolved a dispute over the Stimulus Bill by reminding the Republicans that they lost the election and he won!   Read my take on the encounter in “A Starboy in the Bully Pulpit.”

 Hence the Times columnist Gideon Rachman may be knowledgeable about politics, but he has exposed himself as a novice at boxing analysis, and this has distorted his view of President Obama’s statesmanship.  Every professional trainer and boxing wise guy understands that styles make fights. Boxing history is littered with examples of devastating power punchers soundly whipped, even humiliated,  by fancy dancers who seemed reluctant to brawl.  Since Mr. Rachman chose to set his argument in pugilistic metaphors, let me paint another scenario of Mr. Obama’s style in boxing parlance. 

In the boxing game a guy with a style like Bam is called a “cutie Pie;”  which means he is highly skilled, quick witted, creative, and unpredictable.  Therefore always dangerous!  Hence it is not without significance that Bam is a mega fan of  the ultimate cutie pie: Muhammad Ali.”   In fact, Mr. Rachman considered it such an important detail he tells us how the President kept that famous portrait of Muhammad Ali standing triumphantly over Sonny Liston, after knocking the Missouri mauler out and taking the Undisputed  World Heavy Weight Crown, on his office wall.  Back in the day when he was an Illinois state senator dreaming of running for President.  However methinks our intrepid British wag misunderstands the true significance of Ali’s virtuosity in the ring to the President’s political style.

The Sweet Science Was Never Sweeter!


 Ali taking A confused overly aggressive Forman out with the perfect shot!


 In terms of understanding Bam’s strategy in dealing with the Republican bullies, the fight to watch is the “Rumble in the Jungle.”  It was in this fight against the fearsome George Forman – who was bigger than Liston and just as mean – that Ali unveiled the brilliant strategy he called “The Ropeadope.” The way Bam is playing the Republicans just now is the political equivalent of the Rope a Dope!

The point of the Rope a Dope is to let your opponent take the offensive, while you slip and parry their murderous punches. In their mindless fury, obsessively focused on the knock out, they expose their weaknesses, and hence when you decide to throw the hay maker its lights out!  So let Mr. Rachman and the other Nervous Nellies cackle on like those who came to the Rumble in the Jungle expecting a blood bath, but were unwittingly exposed to art.  Since the game here is the art of politics, which Bam has transformed from a vulgar partisian brawl into a sweet science, when the deals go down I’m  placing my bets on Bam!




 Playthell Benjamin

Commentaries On The Times

Harlem, New York 

October 14, 2009

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