Paul Greenberg

Believe or disbelieve our new young president, trust or distrust him, agree or disagree with him, he is a remarkably persuasive advocate. As he demonstrated his first time up at a presidential press conference.

Maybe it's only because I've been re-reading John Updike's classic baseball piece ("Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu"), but while watching Barack Obama in action at the political equivalent of a season opener, I kept thinking about Ted Williams. There is the same cool competence, focused concentration, air of professional detachment, and complete mastery of the basics. In short, a natural talent assiduously developed.

It's been clear for some time that Barack Obama knows every technique in the debater's handbook, and he must have used most of them during the course of that first White House press conference:

There was the dubious revisionist history rolled out ever so casually, as if it were accepted fact (tax cuts don't work); the assumption that any fault lies not in us but elsewhere (usually with the Bush administration or those primitive Republicans in general); the dubious dichotomy (the stubborn, do-nothing opposition vs. us perfectly reasonable types willing to compromise, i.e., Democrats) and a host of suspect assertions tossed off with the calm conviction of "a Christian holding four aces."

The phrase is Mark Twain's, the imperturbable manner is Barack Obama's. The man can say the most unbelievable things in the most matter-of-fact way, for example, his claim that there's "not a single pet project" in his stimulus bill.

OK, one man's pork barrel spending is another's economic stimulus, but this horse-choker of a bill was laden with so much lard it's a wonder the pages didn't stick together. It almost oinks.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.