Captains Courageous

Article excerpt

Byline: Tina Brown

We the people want our leaders to lead.

I'm Told that Obama seemed "almost giddy" after coming out with his milestone pronouncement in favor of gay marriage. The sheer relief of not being suffocated by hairsplitting political calculus and gamed-out spin control was a moment of moral liberation--not just for Obama but for America. On a less exalted level, it hasn't hurt Obama's campaign war chest either. "Yes we can" supporters who'd long lost hope of seeing any audacity from this hyperrational president are opening their checkbooks with fresh abandon. (Let's raise a cheer here for perennially ridiculed Joe Biden. Some flubs are self-defining, and this one was historically endearing.)

That dreaded reply, "Well, it's complicated," is the mantra of our age. The modern leader is essentially a castrato. Between media terror, poll-tested positioning, legal restraints, and crony capitalism it takes massive moral character to remember who you are. And once in a while act on it. Sometimes leadership is just saying what you believe. Susana Martinez, Republican governor of New Mexico, is a beguiling veep option for Mitt Romney. "I don't want to be a politician," snaps America's first Latina governor, reassuringly. "I want to be a leader." She's always been one. Growing up in a working-class Mexican-American neighborhood in El Paso, Texas, Martinez was known for ordering the other kids around. Her grandmother called her "la abogadita," the little lawyer; her older brother remembers her as "muy bossy."

When Martinez was 14, teachers invited female students to talk about their dreams: Where do you want to be in five years? In 10 years? When they got to a 20-year projection, Martinez confessed she was considering a career in politics. As a young Latina, "I didn't have a whole lot of role models to say, 'This much is possible, versus this much,'?" she explains. "So I finally said, 'I think I'd like to be a mayor.' And they said, 'Why stop there? …