I am a pragmatic optimist and an activist citizen. I love America. I am a proud, life-long Democrat.
I am optimistic because I believe in the creative potential of freedom and the promise of democracy to evolve to meet the complex demands of the modern world.
I am a pragmatist because I know the limits of government to solve problems quickly and I accept the real-life constraints on the power of our elected leaders to simply will the rapid realization of their fertile imaginations to heal the world.
Because I am a pragmatic optimist, I admire President Obama and consider him one of the most remarkable leaders of this, or any, generation. My respect and admiration are based upon my belief that he is a profoundly thoughtful and now accomplished leader who possesses moral authority.
I understand why his generally non-confrontational leadership style, deliberative aura, and willingness to seek balanced solutions frequently frustrate some of his friends and enrage most of his adversaries.
I also comprehend why passionate partisan activists perceive him to be a weak manager, flawed negotiator, and tentative and cautious leader.
Particularly for those on the more strident Republican right for whom politics is war, and every policy battle is a mortal fight, a president who is respectful, gracious, and willing to compromise, who doesn't demonize and won't pejoratively label, is enticing to characterize as neither "tough" nor "strong" enough to lead effectively.
But to the contrary, respect for others, tolerance of difference, civility and comity, dialogue and deliberativeness are valued and effective leadership strengths, regardless of what the more bellicose among us may think. And these admirable qualities generally are not inconsistent with clarity of purpose, drawing sharp distinctions between competing views, and standing firmly on your core principles.
The president surely has his leadership imperfections and managerial shortcomings. Indeed, all human beings -- the least and most accomplished among us, Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as this writer, and you, the reader -- are flawed and inclined to human error, inconsistency and even broken promises. Welcome to the human race, Mr. President.
It is, of course, natural for each of us to want super-human qualities and perfections in our leaders, especially those who arouse our largest dreams and most cherished aspirations.
But, as a citizen, a mere mortal myself, and a pragmatic optimist, I know of no person better equipped in these complex, often frightening, times to navigate and negotiate the challenges confronting our country and the world more thoughtfully, or more maturely, than President Obama.
There are six reasons that I admire him as a man and a leader and enthusiastically support his candidacy for a second term.
First, he is an active listener who thoughtfully seeks, hears and integrates multiple perspectives. This greatly increases the likelihood that he is not locked into narrow, closed points of view that limit creativity, coalition, and success.
Second, while he confidently exercises his legal authorities, he understands the limits of executive power, the constitutional requirements of legislative and judicial prerogative, and the restraining effects of bureaucracy.
Third, because he is able and willing to process significant amounts of relevant information, understands constitutional checks and balances, and recognizes that powerful forces will oppose any policy or action he proposes, he is naturally and competitively inclined to intelligently embrace negotiation and compromise as necessary and honorable means of achieving meaningful political ends, even if imperfect.
Fourth, as a consequence, his legislative, administration and diplomatic accomplishments over the past 28 months are among the most far-ranging and ground-breaking in the history of the modern presidency.
Fifth, his achievements have been produced in the face of almost unprecedented economic turmoil, monumental domestic and international challenges, strident partisanship, and ubiquitous, convoluted media commentary that generally values controversy over accomplishment, and frequently equates even limited dissent with robust assent.
To his nevertheless disappointed natural allies who had hoped and dreamed that he could and would achieve more, quicker, I urge you to try to find a way to celebrate the totality of his record and to keep pressing for what more you hope he can achieve.
To his harsh, but respectful, critics -- be you center-left, independents, or moderate Republicans -- I urge you to continue to critique and criticize, as you must, and to keep the intellectual fervor of democracy vibrant, informed and civil. But it is to be hoped that you also can find it within yourselves, in spite of your disappointments and anger, at least to acknowledge the reality of our president's remarkable moral authority -- the quintessential litmus test of leadership.
Thus, the sixth and most important reason that I admire our president and support his re-election is his moral authority, the ultimate, and elusive, leadership status that few attain. While this quality of leadership may be hard to define with precision, we almost always know it when we see it.
It consists of a complex mixture of personal attributes and real world accomplishments that define the very essence and soul of the person. It knows no party label, no ideological bounds, and no gender or faith limitations.
Moral authority is the sum of a human's being. It includes qualities described above, but even more.
For President Obama it includes his intellect, his work ethic, his faith, and his patriotism.
But the president's moral authority emanates from even deeper places we cherish, including his consummate, traditional family values, his genuine respect for the dignity of each human being, his embrace of the beauty and inevitability of paradox, and his profound intellectual curiosity.
Moreover, we know empirically that the president has earned a portion of his moral authority through his profoundly insightful and elegant oratory. In moments poignantly ripe for public learning, he has opened our minds and hearts to a deeper appreciation of some of the greatest moral issues we confront as human beings and citizens, including race in his 2008 Philadelphia speech, religion in Cairo, war and peace in Oslo, and the triumph of the better angels within ourselves in confronting civic horror in Tucson.
And just last week, in another moment of eloquent clarity, the president presented his crystallizing views of, and invited a national debate on, a fundamental question about whom we are as a people: what rewards does our nation derive from free markets, and what government investments must be made and benefits provided, to assure shared prosperity, security and equal opportunity for all Americans in these unsettling and difficult times?
I, of course, am keenly aware that there are legitimate, strongly, and even hotly, held policy and political differences in America, that far too many Americans remain fearful of the future, and that many question the president's ability to solve our problems or improve their lives.
I share some of these anxieties and long for comprehensive solutions to many of our most vexing problems. But I also know that the president is endowed with qualities of leadership that are best suited in these times to helping us manage our fears and realize our hopes in due course and as political opportunities and the cumbersome wheels of democracy permit.
Finally, we are reminded daily that in this, the second decade of the 21st Century, economic, political and cultural forces are more unpredictable than ever, aggrandizing power of the wealthiest special interests continues to skewer our political processes, the frequency and devastation of man-made and natural disasters appear to be escalating, and our political incivility is too often corrosive.
Any of these can pose grave dangers, not just to our communities, country and the world, but to any presidential candidate from any party, regardless of his or her qualities of leadership. The volatility of elections is growing exponentially.
So to those who believe, as I do, that our nation will be more thoughtfully led and our people better protected if Barack Obama is elected to a second term on November 6, 2012, this is the moment to embrace this remarkable man and unique leader, and help him launch the most informative, civil, well-financed and successful campaign for president in American history.
Rob Stein is the Founder of the Democracy Alliance. All views contained herein are his personally.
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