Barack Obama and John Roberts:
Maybe this is a quirky reaction, but the more I get to know Barack Obama, the more he reminds me of Chief Justice John Roberts. Their politics are very different, of course — perhaps 180 degrees apart. But there is something about the two men that strikes me as similar.

  First, it seems that both Obama and Roberts were identified at a very young age as having truly exceptional talents that would likely take them to the top. Both were naturals; not just bright and charismatic, but really standouts. As young men, both had an easy manner, and both got along well with others with very different views. And while both clearly had a side, both generally avoided taking controversial positions along the way. Both were very ambitious, extremely bright, and remarkably articulate, and they played their cards with a rise to the top very much in mind. They spent years building their resume and biding their time (eschewing high income positions, at least initially) until they would be ready for their chance.

  By the time they became nominees — Roberts as Chief Justice, and Obama as President — both men were the subject of tremendous admiration by their political allies. For many conservatives, Roberts was nearly ideal as a Supreme Court nominee; for many liberals, Obama is nearly ideal as a Presidential candidate. Of course, political opponents tend to see both men as wolves in sheep's clothing. For many liberals, Roberts is a hard-core conservative who faked being principled to get confirmed. And for many conservatives, Obama is a hard-core liberal who is just pretending to be some sort of post-partisan moderate to win the White House.

  And meanwhile, I think it's hard for outside observers to get a sense of either of them as people. Now I suppose you never actually really know public figures, so I'm just focusing here on public perceptions. But both Obama and Roberts come off as unusually measured and in control in public; public observers of them don't expect to see the kind of personal quirks that would reveal their personalities. Indeed, their most human public moments are when we see them with their adorable young children.

  Anyway, I don't want to take this too far. Obama and Roberts are obviously very different people in many ways. (Among other things, Obama was President of the Harvard Law Review and Roberts was Managing Editor — totally different jobs!) But I do see some interesting similarities.