Obama: Too Cool By Half?

August 28, 2008

Obama is the perfect candidate, not for the nation, but for Democrats, who have been waiting for Godot since George W. Bush’s first-term inauguration — someone to deliver them, to deliver America from the wretched George W. Bush.

The paradoxical Democratic Party, which holds itself as the party of the people, often manages to find a presidential candidate that is anything but a man of the people. From Adlai Stevenson to John F. Kennedy to Michael Dukakis to Al Gore to John Kerry, and now, Barack Obama. Elite, intellectual, erudite, sophisticated? Arguably so in most cases. But common? Someone who can relate? Only in their Utopian dreams.

This year, the party’s unspoken, perhaps even unrealized yearning for a super-elitist nominee is an outgrowth not only of the party’s self-perception as superior to red-state, flyover America but also eight long years of perceived suffering under the “reign” of George W. Bush.

We may argue over whether liberals are ashamed of their nation generally. But it is absurd to deny they’re ashamed of it as long as George W. Bush is its president. To them, he is a national embarrassment and, while he’s in office, America is an embarrassment.

They’ve demeaned Bush as a simpleton cowboy with dangerous bravado who has set us back decades in foreign relations. They can’t wait to put a different face on America, one that will, in the words of Bill Clinton, have “more partners and fewer adversaries” and “rebuild our frayed alliances.” One that doesn’t “assault science” or defend “torture.” Or, in the words of Barack Obama, an America whose people won’t embarrass us because they can’t speak French when in France.

Whether it’s actor Ben Affleck calling Bush “almost criminal” for “touting religion absent any thought” or Joe Biden suggesting that Bush uses religion “in a way … to avoid having to know the hard things,” they think he’s stupid, just as they thought President Reagan was stupid: the “amiable dunce.” Just as they think we’re all stupid.

Whether it’s leftist academicians hyperventilating over Bush’s “lack of nuance” and reckless worldview that clearly delineates between good and evil or 415 pointy-headed historians concluding “objectively” that the Bush presidency was a failure or professor Sean Wilentz discussing in Rolling Stone whether Bush is the worst president in history, these titans of tolerance are clamoring for a change.

They want a guy with the perfect SAT score, the Ivy League pedigree and the mellifluous voice, a polyglot who can hobnob with European elites, and a polymath with a far left-wing worldview that, through his sophisticated wiles, can be disguised as innocuous progressivism.

So along comes Barack Obama. He’s everything they could have hoped for. He’s not only perfect. He appeared out of nowhere in answer to their secular prayers. He must be the messiah.

Beware what you wish for. As this campaign season has unfolded, the Democrats are beginning to be victimized by their conflicting demands and aspirations for their ideal candidate. Barack is so ideal, it seems, so extraordinary, so superhuman that he can’t quite relate to the common man Democrats say they represent.

I don’t think this painful reality has quite registered with party leaders, though it obviously did with primary voters, especially in the later contests. Obama didn’t just project aloofness and superiority; he confessed it when he denounced small-town Americans as bitter clingers. And conceit? “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” (Read: “I am the one you’ve been waiting for.”)

But the self-absorbed liberal intelligentsia and the mainstream media are the last to catch on. More and more, they are acknowledging Obama’s strange detachment and his curious ability to rise above his emotions. But they’re straining to present those as positive attributes — “he shows remarkable self-control” — when they could very well be his political Achilles’ heel.

Among Obama’s formidable challenges, such as explaining away his indefensible relationships with terrorists and America-hating pastors, his super-cool remoteness may just be his toughest. He might just be too cool by half.

How can a guy whose fellow Harvard Law Review editors lampooned as just a “first among equals,” whose fellow Illinois legislators unflatteringly dubbed “the governor,” or whose own handlers intend to present at the convention as a Greek god descending from the Parthenon connect with that common man he so desperately needs in November?

How can a man who considers emoting a sign of weakness and who became upset at his friend for showing his emotions and being too thin-skinned “feel your pain” in the grand tradition of Democratic Master Empathizer Bill Clinton?

The answer is he probably can’t, but he better learn how to fake it pretty soon, or his bright shining political star just might flame out and fall as quickly as it ascended.