Here’s what’s interesting about it. This video is the latest shot in Obama’s continuing campaign to highlight judgment as his key virtue. “Judgment is what we need from our next commander in chief,” retired Gen. Merrill McPeak tells us in the ad. “The old Washington hands have let us down.”
This is precisely right, I think. As long as a candidate is broadly in tune with my own ideological preferences (as all three of the leading Democratic candidates are), judgment and temperament are the most important qualities I look for. It’s what all the rest of us should be looking for too. The problem is that judgment is a famously nebulous characteristic and it’s really, really hard to signal it effectively. After all, in the same way that everyone thinks they’re a better-than-average driver, everyone thinks they’re endowed with better-than-average judgment too. That makes it tough to convince people that your judgment is really something so special that they ought to vote you into the Oval Office. What’s more, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, the spiel has to be pitch perfect. If you sell it wrong it can sound more grating than inspirational.
So it’ll be interesting to see how much success Obama has with this theme. It’s exactly the right theme to have, but it’s a helluva tough nut to crack. I wish him luck.