Dick Cheney is one of the few politicians who appears to really not care what people think of him. While some accuse other politicians of doing “whatever it takes to get elected,” Cheney has shown a complete lack of interest in polls. He certainly has never made any attempt to be beloved or popular. He barely even uses rhetoric, preferring to growl his statements with barely concealed hostility. He looks like a hunched over little man, with a sideways smirk perpetually plastered on his face.

In other words, Cheney is not charismatic. He is, in fact, anti-charismatic. But, unlike Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Martha Coakley, Dick Cheney knows he is anti-charismatic, and he has embraced it. He’s made it part of his image, to be the guy who doesn’t want to lead huge crowds, who doesn’t make big speeches, who prefers to be a lone, tough old bastard. He has worked his anti-charisma to its fullest, and has probably come further in understanding the nature of this phenomenon than any other anti-charismatic individual save Nixon. And Nixon’s success was, I think, more good luck than recognition of his own anti-charisma. 

The worst thing you can do if you’re an anti-charismatic person is try to something exciting and awesome and sexy like charismatic people are always doing. Hillary Clinton tries to make grand speeches and gestures like Obama does, and it comes across as irritating. Dick Cheney never attempts soaring rhetoric, and it’s a good idea.

Make no mistake; even when you embrace anti-charisma, it’s still no way to stop a true charismatic person in an election. Barack Obama (or Sarah Palin) would utterly defeat Cheney in a political campaign. But what embracing his anti-charismatic nature does for Cheney is grant him a remarkable confidence. Whereas Mrs. Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, Martha Coakley and even, to an extent, Nixon, were always making “gaffes” or being “boring” for reasons they could never figure out, Cheney seems to understand that he is never going to be personally appealing, and has simply said “To hell with this; I’ll be as unlikable as I can, and say what I want.” 

The Wall Street Journal notes:

“The President’s changes in antiterror policy have never been as dramatic as he or his critics have advertised. His supporters on the left have repeatedly howled when the Justice Department quietly went to court and offered the same legal arguments the Bush Administration made, among them that the President has the power to detain enemy combatants indefinitely without charge. He has also ramped up drone strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan.

However, the Administration has tried to break from its predecessors on several big antiterror issues…”

(Italics mine.)

Maybe I’m crazy, but the italicized portion seems to be implying that this is in keeping with Bush’s policies, when, in fact it is a break from them. “Ramping up” means changing the policy. It’s not as drastic, I admit, but nevertheless Obama and Bush are not the same when it comes to the drone policy. Obama is more aggressive. This probably part of the reason Obama’s track record vs. Jihadism compares favorably with G.W. Bush’s and Clinton’s over their first terms.

…is what the Republicans say the Democrats are.

First of all, why is this news? The Republicans always say that. Second, while his policies seem to be weaker, Obama’s track record against Jihadism compares favorably with George W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s after their respective first years in office. 

I’ll agree his position on torture seems naive, and his foolish decision not to fire Napolitano immediately after the December 25th failed attack ought to be ridiculed. But these apparent flaws cannot negate his success in objective terms. The arguments against trying terrorists in civilian court are, in my opinion, fairly weak. 

As of this moment, the case against Obama himself as weak on terror is basically a joke. Now, the case against the Democrats in Congress, particularly Harry Reid, is a much better one. Reid is a weak person by nature, and his infamous assertion that the Iraq war was “lost” is one that should haunt him. 

The Democrats overall philosophy intuitively seems to be weaker, but that is not backed up by the data.

That’s a huge exaggeration, I’ll admit, but a new poll shows that 52% still have a “positive impression of him.,” yet other polls indicate large majorities don’t believe some of his statements. 

How to explain this?

First of all, these are different polls, so it’s some different people responding, obviously. Secondly, there’s an issue of bias on the part of pollsters, which undoubtedly plays a role. The story sums it up by saying “People like Obama, but they don’t believe him.”

And that is how charisma works.

Obama has been making remarks that upset politicians from Nevada with his remarks about Las Vegas

I imagine it will go like this:

Harry Reid: Barack! You don’t talk about Las Vegas like that!

Obama: Harry, you’re the Senate Majority leader, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Party again. Ever.

Explanation here.

Sarah Palin endorses Rand Paul, saying: “It’s time to shake up the status quo in Washington and stand up for common sense ideas.” Paul himself vows “I will strive to capitalize on the support of Governor Palin… and fight for liberty and limited government.” 

First of all, Palin isn’t a Governor. The proper term of address is “Mrs. Palin”, or, for very formal circumstances “The honorable Mrs. Palin.

The other point, of infinitely greater importance, is to note how quintessentially American it is for “common sense” and “limited government” to go together. This distrust of the government is by no means universal, but it is the dominant characteristic of the American voter.

Most politicians cast themselves as rebels against the government, crusading to fight the misdeeds of the current government. I wonder to what extent this behavior is rooted in the history of the country and the revolution.

Those who claim the Tea Party movement is at heart a revolt against Obama because he is black are wrong. There may be the occasional racist in the Party, but in truth it is much deeper than that. The Tea Party crowd is a manifestation of the distrust of government power, but so too were many of the protests against George W. Bush; accusing him of various plots to destroy the country. His most vocal opponents were those who feared he was attempting to gain dictatorial power. 

Anti-government sentiment is part of what this country is. The only force more powerful than this essential American trait is, of course, charisma. And charisma is a trait that applies to an individual, never a group. So it behooves a charismatic individual to be–or to pose–as a rebellious, independent opponent of governmental power.

For that matter, what was something memorable that somebody said at a SOTU address?

Yeah, I can’t think of any either.

So, Obama certainly hasn’t got much in the way expectations to beat. I recommend he keep it short–about twenty minutes should do it–and make it consist solely of listing his accomplishments of the past year, and wind down by repeating a memorable catchphrase, such as: “Yes, we did.” There needs to be much fist-shaking and voice-raising while saying this phrase.

Arrogant? Yes. Divisive? Yes. But complete confidence in himself is what he needs to project. Obama is charismatic enough to talk people into agreeing with him if he seems sure of what he’s saying.

He won’t do this, I’m sure. He’ll probably try something bipartisan and conciliatory. Something like: “Well, this year sucked, and I know you’re all unhappy about it. In the coming year, I’ll reach across the aisle to work with Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate to pass bipartisan yadda yadda yadda.”

Oh, well.

Kathleen Parker asks: “Who is likely to be the first female president of the United States?”

Well, at the moment, the most likely is Sarah Palin. But, as Parker observes, even this is not likely. And the answer to this question, naturally, goes back to the Great Male-Female Charisma Gap. Palin has some charisma, but I doubt if it’ll be enough to win a general election. And there are, it seems, precious few women who possess the charisma that is needed to win. Poor Mrs. Clinton had Nixon-esque anti-charisma. 

I’ll say this, though. I think charisma is-at least partially-a genetic trait. So, I figure the most likely candidate for first female President is probably Malia Obama.