Everyone I know who knew Adlai Stevenson loved him -- but also said that he wasn't savage enough to win the presidency -- or even if he did, to "be" president.
As things look now, Barack Obama is running an Adlai Stevenson campaign. He's smart. He's fresh. He's inspiring to many, including me. But he's also a bit of a triangulator. And he has not yet developed the cold, unsentimental confidence that a leader needs in reserve -- at least I haven't seen that in him yet.
Obama says he wants to differentiate himself from Hillary Clinton now -- but he's doing it in lukewarm, safe ways. He has my whole-hearted support in his views on reframing America's Cuba policy -- but he's still sort of squishy on Iran. He believes in vigorous, aggressive engagement -- but what about doing something real to preclude a war in the next year?
And what about the real issue in the Middle East? Israel and Palestine?
November will be a big month for the Middle East with November 15th being the date of release of Mohammed ElBaradei's next IAEI report on Iran -- and the Israel/Palestine Peace Summit will take place in Annapolis in a few weeks.
Helping to call for an end to the "fake efforts" in establishing Palestine and using his political weight to make the point that the only pro-Israel strategy for this country is not one that forsakes the Arabs in the region, or the Palestinians who have legitimate grievances that must be dealt with.
We'll see if November turns out to be a month in which Obama diverges or generally runs parallel with Hillary Clinton.
And as for Hillary Clinton -- "you" have the heavyweight status in the country now to call for a real solution in the Middle East -- and to move beyond the incrementalism of the Bush administration on Israel, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and the rest. If you want to really leap-frog out of the quagmire America is in today, we need to jump into a new set of bargains that re-establish a regional and global equilibrium.
I think Hillary Clinton actually has the advisors and the vision to engineer a leap-frogging effort out of Bush's nightmarish mess into something better and different -- but she must resist the urge to bandwagon Bush's Iran delusions and must get out of the zero sum game that she has been helping to promulgate when it comes to the balance between Israel and its neighbors.
I hope Obama rises to the challenge of saying what needs to be said about Palestine -- because whether or not he wins, that challenge may move the Clinton camp to realize that they too must get out of Bush's grooves in how the opportunities and constraints in the Middle East are defined.
-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note