Friday, July 18, 2008

Vanity, thy name is Krauthammer

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's all part of the Republican Smear Machine's ongoing efforts to brand/label Obama. Hillary helped out during the primaries, desperately trying to make the case that he isn't ready to be president, but the Republicans are on to the next stage of the game.

The Rev. Wright story had some staying power, though Obama diffused it both with his brilliant speech on race and by effectively distancing himself from his former pastor. With McCain running on his experience, as if being around a long time is qualification enough to be president, the Republicans are, like Hillary before them, arguing that Obama is unprepared. Which should be a worry for Obama. Whatever McCain's actual record and policy positions, the media have accepted his claim that he has what it takes to be commander-in-chief from the get-go, what with his "experience" in national security and foreign policy. And the American people, fed by these media, are still buying it.

But the Republican effort is actually much simpler than that, because, as with Republican efforts past, it's mostly about straightforward character assassination. Obama is a tougher target than, say, Dukakis, but the smears are flying: Obama is an elitist. Obama is an egotist. And now, via Krauthammer, Obama is an audaciously vain lover of self. Why? Because he wanted to speak at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate (he's speaking elsewhere, by the way) even though he's done nothing to deserve it (unlike, say, Reagan, in Krauthammer's estimation). And because he has an "elevated opinion of himself," because his campaign is all about himself (not the people: 'I,' that is, not 'we'), because he immodestly thinks of himself as a saviour, as Jesus-plus. Or so says Krauthammer.

All of which is nonsense, of course. Obama has a high opinion of himself, to be sure, but most politicians do -- and certainly anyone seriously running for president must be confident that he or she has what it takes, that he or she can look in the mirror every morning and say, "Yes, I want to be president." There is always the worry that self-promotion can cross the line into narcissism, or that popularity can breed a cult of personality, but Obama, despite a few missteps (talking about Whole Foods and arugula in Iowa, the stupid quasi-presidential seal, etc.) has been admirably modest even while being swept up in a wave of enthusastic support and victory -- even while turning into, and leading, what has become a massive grassroots movement to reform American politics.

Of course, some of it, much of it, is about Obama himself. He's the candidate running for elected office. But the "we" is not royal, as Krauthammer suggests, changing pronouns and taking Obama out of context, focusing on the line "We are the ones we've been waiting for" while missing Obama's meaning altogether. As Hilzoy puts it: "It's about the need to take action for oneself, rather than waiting for saviors to parachute in and do it for us." Obama wasn't saying, "I'm the one," he was saying, "We, with me as your candidate, we together..."

But Krauthammer keeps pressing his case: "Americans are beginning to notice Obama's elevated opinion of himself. There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?"

One name comes to mind (as it does for Hilzoy): George W. Bush. Think "Mission Accomplished." Think the Second Inaugural, where he presented himself as the spreader of freedome and democracy and the liberater of the world's oppressed masses. Think "I'm the decider." Think how he has been turned into a Christ-like figure by some of his supporters, and how he has bought into it.

But if it's immodesty, vanity, and narcissism you're looking for, how about Krauthammer himself? What does he do but pontificate without expertise in newspaper columns and on the Sunday talk shows, dishing out partisan hackery and vicious smears without ever being held to account?

The Republican Smear Machine will keep churning out its attacks, of course. And Krauthammer and his ilk will be there to spread the word.

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  • The hope was that Obama might be the first "post racial" President for the USA; as a mulatto, half "white" and half "African", it was hoped that he could transcend the American melanocyte activity neurosis that has so obsessed and crippled US society.

    If he does...fantastic...if he's a fraud in that regard then nothing is solved and social problems possibly aggravated...the world, that possesses goodwill towards the USA, hopes that he is genuine; those that bear it ill will hopes that he increases domestic discord within the USA accelerating its demise.

    His political philosophy outside of the pigmentary aspect is unknown; there have been a great deal of contradictory statements as pointed out by his critics...we should listen to both those who support him and who oppose him, the truth being likely found in the middle ground.

    The USA has lost its status in the eyes of the world for many has changed from being the world's largest creditor nation to being the world's largest debtor was once the bastion of capitalism now it has become quite is interesting to note that Communist China is now, perhaps, the most capitalistic state in the world with wealth rapidly being generated there whilst it is being dissapated in the USA as it approaches bankrupcy.

    If Obama's regime implies more statism and government interference then the process of wealth dissipation in the USA will accelerate with interesting results...including the further erosion of its status as a world power.

    Wishing the USA well, I hope that it makes the right decision between its two Presidential candidates....although, frankly, I have found neither to have been inspiring.

    Obama is presently in Europe attempting to gain some political gravitas...whilst his opponent remains at home trying to work out how telepromters work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:04 PM  

  • Krauthammer's article was excellent!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:24 PM  

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