Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Clinton, Bush, and character archetypes.

Upon the recommendation of multiple friends, I recently began Tony Blair’s autobiography (if anyone is interested, the audio version is also very good - Blair reads it himself). It is full of sound political advice, which Blair drops casually into his narrative. But in the introduction, Blair describes working with both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Bill is an extraordinary mixture of easygoing charm and ferocious intellectual capacity. Probably, in terms of political intuition and certainly in terms of turning such intuition into analysis, he is the most formidable politician I ever met. My theory is that, in a curious way, the blessing of his times is the disadvantage of his legacy. As with any period, the years 1993-2000 were full of events, many of them hugely significant, But the world-changing events--9/11 and the financial crisis--happened in the next presidency.

Bill was actually a brilliant president. He made it at times look easy. He ran a good economy; made big reforms; handled, as I will relate, Kosovo with real leadership. But it is fascinating to speculate how he would have handled later world-changing events. There neither charm nor intellect would have been sufficient. It would have been pure calibre that determined the outcome. I believe he would have had it.

George W. Bush was straightforward and direct. The stupidest misconception was that he was stupid. He also had (has) great intuition. But his intuition was less--as in the case of Bill--about politics and more about what he thought was right or wrong. This wasn’t expressed analytically or intellectually. It was just stated. At times--since I was more from the Clinton school--I would find this puzzling, even alarming. I would be at a press conference with him, in the epicentre of those world-changing events, and I would think “George, explain it; don’t just say it.”

However, over time, and more even in retrospect as events have continued to unfold since I left, I have come to admire the simplicity, the directness, almost the boldness of it, finding in itn strength and integrity. sometimes, in the very process of reasoning, we lose sight of the need for a destination, for finding the way out of the labyrinth to solid ground that stands the test not of a few weeks, months or even a year or two, but of the vastness of the judgement of history.

I read that and suddenly realized that I’ve seen that personality contrast before. Recently, in fact. One character, a little awkward but with a deep black and white moral sense of justice that feels out of place, meets the epitome of the modern man, brilliant, tactical, ruthless, and charismatic.

Steve Rogers meets Tony Stark.

Think about it, it works. Startlingly well.

Photo credit: Marvel
Photo credit: AP

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