These two couldn’t be more different. Well they could, but nonetheless these two are pretty different. Obama is the new Kennedy of the American political scene, and in many cases Dion has caused his friends and foes alike to cry for a second coming of Trudeau – Pierre, not Justin. Still, I think it would serve each of their countries to elect both as leaders above and below the 49th parallel.
Obama is the saviour America has been desperately waiting for. Not because he has any earth shattering ideas, but because he has the story, the message, and the persona to reassure Americans domestically as well as to restore their reputation internationally. For Dion, his poindexterish demeanour is deficient in bravado but has the right ideas for a well managed country to remain on the straight, narrow, and prosperous.
In terms of their gifts, Obama is best in front of a teleprompter. Some of his critics might even propose that he’s very little sans teleprompter. For Dion, the opposite is true. As most of his speeches are done in his second language, it is seldom that you find him not tripping over his complicated proposals – not because they lack sense, but because his solid command of English might not be sufficient to explain his complex ideas in his naturally frantic cadence. Still, engage him in a debate or a discussion and that’s where he shines: he comes through as one with a solid grasp of not only the issues, but also their solutions. In this forum he speaks convincingly with passion and clarity. Contrast that with Obama who relies on his oratorical gifts to mask his vague pronunciations on policy specifics.
Their speaking gifts can be best explained by what Warren Kinsella describes as visuals. In a field that’s filled with rhetoric and talking points, he says, “it’s 70 per cent how you look, 20 per cent how you say it, and 10 per cent what you say.” Obama passes with flying colours in the first ninety percent, but on the ten percent that really matters – you know -- in terms of governing, Dion takes the crown. The challenge for Dion is that Canadians don’t watch with their eyes closed.
In terms of their accomplishments, their political careers too offer differing paths. Obama emerged as a star in what was likely a carefully plotted 2004 DNC convention speech that signalled a presidential run was not a matter of if, but when. As for Dion, he was recruited by former PM Chretien to fight for the unity of this country during the 1995 referendum. He’s not a natural political creature, but he was called upon to serve his country, and for that we were rewarded with clarity – the act. After his stint as Intergovernmental Affairs minister, Paul Martin put him as Environment Minister in a time when Al Gore wasn’t so Oscar worthy. Dion performed more than ably as President of the Montreal Climate Change conference, but a scandal plagued government put and end to any designs Dion had of advancing his environmental cause.
In Obama’s case, he is a Senator who prefers to tout his record a community organizer, suggesting his record in the Illinois legislature or on Capitol Hill might not impress the folks over at Guinness.
On paper it would seem that Dion is the clear choice as the better leader, but that is not the exercise. First, they’re not each others’ opponent or even in the same country. Also, their countries require different remedies to that challenges they are facing. The US is stuck in such a convoluted system of governmental irresponsibility that there is no panacea in the near future, regardless of the leader. For Dion, his country, due in large part to his former government, is in much better shape. What it needs is a leader who can mitigate shocks and prepare them for future prosperity.
Just for the record though, if they were running against each other, a reference to high school has to be made because that’s quite often what politics seems like. In high school, I would have much preferred to have the geeky kid with glasses help me with my homework rather than the popular guy or even the bully for that matter.