I’ve long had mixed feelings about Obama. I’m no Democrat, but during the primary campaign I was rooting for him. I have nothing but contempt for the Clintons, and it was gratifying to see someone defeat them and all their moral squalor.
But I realize that Obama was a lawyer that never won a significant case, and a law professor that never wrote a treatise. He was a community organizer that left no enduring legacy in his community. He is an orator who seems flat and uninspiring when talking about anything other than the meaning of his own personal story.
He is the perfect president for our age. We’ve long told ourselves that we can judge the quality of a person not by what they do, but rather by examining the strands of their ethnic and political genealogy. Like Germans measuring human skulls, we examine his past – half black, half white, both a Muslim and a Christian background, child of a single mother – and we convince ourselves that such a mix must be the sign of an extraordinary person.
Is he a radical, some secret socialist? I don’t think so. I don’t think he believes in anything. He has only ever been motivated by the search for praise he can believe in. He gravitated towards Ayers and Wright because they seemed to him like important people, they could set him up in politics, and they praised his wisdom as he sat at their feet. I have no doubt that if David Duke and Timothy McVeigh held the keys to Chicago politics and told him he had a mission for America he would have embraced them as well.
Being a Chicago pol is surely no mark against his character. Harry Truman allied himself with some pretty shady characters too. But Harry sought out politics as an avenue for success after a long and ignoble string of failures. He was looking for something to be good at. Obama was never allowed to fail - at anything. I think he’s spent all of his adult life around people that would never allow him to fail, because of what he represents. Oh, how much better I would feel about him if I could look in his past and see one, just one, failure! Some experience, some confrontation between the realities of the world and a personal limitation that would have taught him something.
So we’ve lifted him aloft, this person of no failure, of no success. He didn’t climb there. I’m convinced that he entered last year’s primaries in the hope he might establish a basis for a future run. Chicago politics teaches you to wait your turn. I think he was as surprised as anyone that his smug reliance on some Iraqi invasion position statement as his sole distinguishing asset from Hillary provided traction. I think he was as surprised as anyone at the way the strands of his identity captivated the media, and how the absence of any earthly accomplishment lent his identity a mystic, uncorrupted brilliance.
Nothing in his past suggests how he will handle criticism, or failure. There is nothing that suggests flexibility or determination or the ability to make an ally of a former enemy, and these are the key markers of a skilled politician. His rise was the rise of a balloon. He’s never fought a bill through a legislature, negotiated a compromise, cleaned up after a disaster, built a team (or anything else), or even dealt with a hostile audience.
So even if he is a socialist, like some Republicans claim, nothing in his background suggests that he has the skills or ability to realize a long-term political vision. So far all he is doing is pandering to the pent-up demands of Democrats, in the vain hope he can continue to live off their praise. We have a complex polity, and there is no telling how he will react when the inevitable fissures start appearing among Democrats. He’ll have to choose, and find some Republican allies at the same time as he prevents further Democratic erosion.
There is no reason to believe he’ll have the skill to do that. In fact there is no reason to believe he has the skill to do anything at all. Obama brings nothing to the office other that a thirst for reassuring praise.