Bob Schieffer On The Strength In Restraint

President-elect Barack Obama speaks to supporters during his election night party at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)[Click ima
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
Seeing the television pictures of that crowd in Grant Park that had come to celebrate Barack Obama's victory was a sight I'll never forget.

But I was disappointed at first in Obama's speech. I was expecting another of those rousing, old time, "Yes, we can" orations that had so captivated crowds during the campaign.

It was a fine speech, I thought. But why didn't he ramp it up as he had so many times before? Where was the punch line?

The next day I read something in the paper that helped me understand that wasn't what he had in mind.

I read that his campaign had planned a big fireworks display Tuesday night but Obama had said no.

He understood that the rally that night would speak for itself. There was no need to guild the moment with fireworks, nor would a stemwinding speech that rubbed victory in his opponent's face have been appropriate.

Tuesday was a night to say "thank you," not gloat. The faces in the crowd would tell the story.

That restraint, Obama's understanding of how it would all look - an ability so often lacking in today's politicians - may well be what brought him to victory.

Time and time again in a hard-fought campaign there were lines Obama could have crossed and didn't. He made no issue of John McCain's age; he raised no questions about his health; he never went after Sarah Palin. He knew how it would have looked.

Communicating, cutting through, connecting with people is more than the words we choose. It also means understanding when no words are necessary.