Will Obama Show True Grit?

Monday, 27 Dec 2010 02:11 PM

By Jon Friedman

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"True Grit," the remake of the John Wayne movie of four decades ago, is the best film I've seen in 2010.

It may not be the most profound or deep flick to come across this year — but no other movie was more entertaining. And that should count for plenty.

Plus, there is the title — a bold, splashy statement. The movie certainly has true grit. Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn is a classic Hollywood anti-hero for the ages.

Just thinking about the title in these tumultuous times makes me think. Barack Obama, the candidate, sure showed grit in 2008 on the campaign trail. In the White House, though, not so much. And that has been his biggest flaw as the POTUS.

He still has a flash of the Obama charisma that has served him so well, the quality that enabled him to sweep past Hillary Clinton, as if she had been standing still, and then racing beyond John McCain's lead-footed pose.

Charisma was invaluable to a relatively unproven candidate. But grit is essential to the prospects of a relatively unproven sitting president.

I suspect that the president will come through in 2011 and demonstrate that he is in full control of the government and the nation. He has shown signs already with the recent legislative successes. It wasn't charisma that passed those thorny bills. It was tenacity. You might call it grit.

In 2011, the president will have to keep up the winning streak. Right now, the Republican Party is in disarray — and that might just prove fatal in November of 2012 (which is not that far off, really).

This is both a blessing and a curse for Barack Obama. The president can be his own worst enemy, when he is far ahead. He doesn't always personify a killer instinct.

If he happened to be a sports team, the knock would be that his club couldn't close out the opponent or stand on his foe's neck when he has a lead. When he is ahead, the president reverts to the law-professor wonk posture that turned off much of America during the financial crisis and the BP oil spill.

That wonk displayed no real grit — and it showed in the polls when the president's approval rating plummeted for a while.

Presumably, Obama learned from this pitfall.

I expect him to come out swinging in 2011 — and showing the old true grit.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.

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