Watching Barack Obama on Fox News Sunday, I was struck by something that hadn't occurred to me before: Maybe Fox News thinks they might have to deal with Barack being president and -- unlike Bill Clinton -- they see no immediate reason to try and destroy his presidency from day one.
How else to explain the civil tone of Chris Wallace's questions?... and the strikingly moderate analysis by the Fox pundits that took place afterwards?
I am no great lover of Fox News. And prior to watching the interview, I had been as prepared as a lot of people probably were to see a combative Barack Obama shining the light of truth on Fox New's real agenda. But when I saw the actual tone that Barack was using, I immediately realized that he was not there to accuse them of doing something negative towards him unless they did so in that moment.
This is called diplomacy... a largely forgotten skill... and the special quality that attracted me to Barack's campaign in the first place. Barack demonstrated that the foundation of his candidacy -- that the time for people from the left and right to talk to each other and seek common ground has come -- is still alive and well.
So, I applaud Barack for going on Fox News Sunday and giving Chris Wallace the benefit of the doubt... allowing for the diplomatic possibility that the interview could go well... which I think it did.
Senator Obama, you made a wise choice.
Comparing this to Barack's response to the reality-twisting, "do anything to win" behavior of Hillary Clinton, Bill "They played the race card against me!" Clinton, and the rest of Hillary's team... and I believe Barack has correctly decided that a "diplomatic discussion" -- (aka a debate on "the issues" that Hillary is demanding Barack have with her) -- is not going to happen. I think he realizes that any interaction with the Clinton campaign is going to be filled with "more of the same"... in other words, more of the politics of the past that his candidacy seeks to change.
We all know how every year Lucy promises Charlie Brown that she'll hold the football while he runs up to kick it. And we know that every year Lucy breaks her promise and pulls the ball away from Charlie Brown at the last moment, and he winds up flat on his back. It's called "The Leopard cannot change its spots."
So, in denying Hillary the debate she wants, he has made another wise choice.
I wouldn't be surprised if Barack is sad about having to choose to -- essentially -- let Hillary Clinton go. Because I believe that, in his heart, he really does want all of us -- including the Clinton's -- to work cooperatively for a better America... for a safer and healthier world.
But he has had to make a difficult choice. He has had to realize that -- until he is president -- he cannot attempt to work cooperatively with those who in actuality want to destroy the new politics he wants to bring to America. People for whom the politics of collaboration is either completely unknown or a psychological threat -- as the Clinton's have demonstrated is the case for them -- must be kept on the sideline at this point in time.
With Barack Obama's candidacy, this new politics is being given its best chance ever to reach the maturity necessary to become the mainstream way for politics to function in America. By appearing on Fox News Sunday, Barack showed us that this new politics can still happen...and that, at least in the case of Chris Wallace and the pundits who appeared with him, Fox News can potentially be part of the process of building this new political world. Barack showed us that you have to give "the better angels" in people a chance to show up. (And yes, I know that one Sunday morning interview show does not make for a completely transformed Fox News. But, as Chris Wallace said at the end of the interview, "Don't be a stranger." And I think Barack said "I won't be." I think Barack will be back on Fox News a number of times in the future.)
As for Hillary and Bill's "better angels"? Well, I'm sure they are in there somewhere. But given the campaign mindset the Clinton's have shown they will use for the rest of the nomination contest, I believe Barack is correct in assuming that the Clinton's will not let those angels speak until after the Democratic contest is over... if they let them speak at all.
In the movie "Sophie"s Choice," Meryl Streep's character is forced by her Nazi tormentors to choose between saving one of her children and letting the other be killed or letting them both be killed. The sight of her letting her little girl be taken was one of the most painful moments I've ever seen portrayed on film.
As I've already said, I'm sure it's been painful for Barack to choose to let Hillary go. Perhaps he'll be able to throw a "spiritual lifeline" to her later. But his first priority is to make sure that the politics of the future survives this challenging time.
I suspected he knew he needed to do this when, in his speech after losing the Pennsylvania primary, he said:
I also know that real change has never been easy, and it won't be easy this time either. The status quo in Washington will fight harder than they ever have to divide us and distract us with ads and attacks from now until November.
With his appearance on Fox News and his rejection of Hillary's call for a debate, I'm now sure he does.
Keep doing what you're doing, Senator Obama. You have made a wise choice.