The Zen of Obama

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Reading this NYT story about Obama’s relationship with John McCain post-election, it strikes me that Obama–alone among virtually every politician I can think of–does not appear to hold grudges.

The ability to forgive and forget is probably a necessary character trait if you’re going to try to follow through on promises to end partisanship. But it’s interesting that this doesn’t seem to be just a matter of pragmatism. I don’t get the sense that Obama is gritting his teeth when he sits down with McCain or the Clintons or even Bill Kristol. That may not necessarily be a good thing–grudge-holding could be a perfectly reasonable defense mechanism to avoid being rolled by an enemy. But it is remarkable given how often long memories and paybacks pop up in political biographies.

UPDATE: A colleague reminds me that Obama does have in his chief-of-staff one of the world’s most intense grudge-holders. So maybe he doesn’t have to bother holding grudges himself. I was once told the same thing about my old boss, Tom Daschle, who comes close to holding that same no-grudges distinction with Obama. “Daschle doesn’t have to hold grudges,” said one close aide. “He has loyal people around him who do that on his behalf.”