Of course according to his religion, he better be; he’s supposed to be divine in some way. The BBC says: “Those who have met him describe an intense personal charisma.” I seem to remember that, in one of his books, Christopher Hitchens conceded the Dalai Lama had charisma. (To Hitchens, of course, the Dalai Lama is bad because he has something to do with religion.)

The Dalai Lama is chosen when he is a small boy by a group of monks, I think. (It’s sort of like the Jedi.) If charisma is an innate, rather than learned, characteristic, it would not be too much of a stretch to suppose that he had it even as a child, and that this led to him being picked. 

This article describes Mullah Baradar being “regarded as brilliant and charismatic.” (Emphasis mine.)

It’s true people sometimes throw that word around without really knowing what it means, but if he really is charismatic, it supports the idea that charisma is a quality that is independent of character or morality. And if charisma is as powerful as it seems to be, that’s scary.

A former U.S. Representative named J.D. Hayworth is challenging John McCain for the GOP senate nomination. The obvious question: Does he have the charisma to take on John McCain? Looking at this video, it’s hard to say. Hayworth doesn’t seem to be an especially charismatic individual, and, in that video, McCain has a certain charm to him. Plus, McCain’s been around for a long time. As John Huston said to Jack Nicholson in the film Chinatown: “Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

But McCain has some charisma issues. At times he seems to have some–or at the very least he seems amiable enough. But watching his debates with Obama, or his acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican convention, he’s downright anti-charismatic. The debates can be explained by the presence of Mr. Charisma himself, but Obama wasn’t at the Republican convention. McCain seems boring and and dry–the worst things a politician can be if he wants to be elected. This Hayworth guy didn’t seem like much, but if the boring, cranky old man McCain shows up, he might have a chance. 

This is apparently his explanation for retiring. He says “I am not motivated by strident partisanship or ideology.” The article says: “Bayh is known more for the moderate tone of his politics than for any particular legislative achievements.” 

Well, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? You don’t achieve things by being moderate; you just get pushed around by people who there to get specific things done for a particular group. 

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.” 

So say scientists

To be fair, other scientists say that the world is, in fact, warming. I assume we’ll only know for sure when a) we are all burned alive or b) we all freeze to death.

I’ve always been sort of conflicted about the whole global warming/climate change/whatever debate. On the one hand, it always seemed slightly hysterical and a little too perfect in how well it suited the leftist worldview. On the other hand, common sense suggests that more humans engaging in new kinds of activities is bound to produce some of sort of change in the overall climate. Of course, part of the problem is that I’m not a climate scientist. 

Personally, I’ve been operating on the assumption that human activity affects the climate in ways that are variable and hard to measure, and that it’s a huge oversimplification to call it “warming”. The leftists say that this is a bad thing, and use it as an excuse to push for various changes in society; some of which are relevant, and others which are not. Because it is impossible to tell which is which, conservatives dismiss the entire issue as a hoax so they don’t have to deal with it. The upshot is that one side says human activity is very, very bad for the planet and should be minimized, and one side that says it has no effect.

FYI, my suspicion is that some country will ultimately figure out how to manipulate human activity (more precisely, chemical emissions) in such a way as to control the climate. Whichever country does this will basically rule the world. I suspect that most climate research is actually dedicated to figuring out the relationship between human activity and climate; so as to be the first country to harness this power.  (But remember, I’m not a climate scientist.)

I have discussed charisma so often on this blog that I feel like I need to talk a little bit more about what it actually is. 

I have previously wondered whether charisma is something that is learned or innate. Personally, I am inclined to suspect it is some sort of genetic trait, though I base this idea chiefly off of the example of the Kennedy family. Likewise, as I have said, wouldn’t people like Hillary Clinton, Martha Coakley and Richard Nixon, who were all anti-charismatic, have taken the trouble to learn charisma if they could?

I should point out that “Charisma” is derived from a Greek word meaning “favored by the Gods”. So, I suppose a religious person or person of faith would say that this is, indeed, what charisma is. I don’t just mean the branch of Christianity called  “the Charismatic movement“, but it seems to me that any religious person could argue for the validity of the argument that charismatic people are, if you will, touched by God. I suppose that such an argument might go like this: “God endows certain people with special gifts–quite apart from any of their other skills or traits–to make an impact on humanity.”

This is actually a pretty compelling argument, given the mysterious and rather mystical effect charisma can have on people. It does seem divine when you watch a charismatic person speak to a crowd.

So, do you believe this is a divine phenomenon, or do you incline to another explanation?