Political Intelligence

The traits that make or break leaders

The Eleventh Hour Looms Again

The 59th minute of the 11th hour. We’ve been here before.

Sometimes people create their circumstances, other times, circumstances create people. Either way, we can often correlate certain people with certain situations. Obama is a last minute of the 4th quarter kind of guy. When he ran for President, the Clinton machine took round after round in the primary struggle to beat. He eventually won the Democratic nomination about as late in the nominating process as it’s possible to, without taking it all the way to the floor of the convention.

In the healthcare debate, all looked lost several times in the legislative struggle, then only after months of bitter wrangling did the bill finally pass Congress. And even then, it was at the very last minute – literally months before the end of his term – that the Supreme Court finally endorsed it. A similar pattern occurred through a succession of debt limit deals too.

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And so it did for this year’s election. Again, it looked like a nail biter for most of the year. Indeed, after the first Presidential debate, the result was as uncertain as ever. This last example is one in which Obama clearly had a role. It was almost as if the election was looking too easy for him, so he felt the need to inject some challenge into the dynamic.

And so here we are at another 11th hour scenario; the fiscal cliff. In this case, Obama can hardly be blamed for a Republican House caucus that can’t even seem to agree with itself. Although it’s unlikely that their response took him entirely by surprise.

It's interesting how circumstances seem to follow us around. Sometimes, it's obviously our fault, but other times, though it seems to be coming from the outside, it still resonates deeply with some energy within us. It might not be logical, but many of us can personally atest that this seems to be how the world works sometimes.

The whole 4th quarter dynamic is certainly one that keeps coming up for the President. So far, these high risk scenarios have tended to work out for him and, in the main, for the country too. Time will only tell – a very small amount of time, in fact – whether this remains to be the case.

Russell Razzaque, M.D. is a British psychiatrist and author of Obama Karma: Lessons on Living Inspired by the 44th President.

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