No, I’m not suggesting that everyone has to join the Obama worship. Criticism, in a democracy, is a healthy thing (pardon the cliché). But some of the conservative sniping is silly or downright ridiculous (dear Lord, not the “Bill Ayers ghosted Obama’s memoir!” story again), and some seems rather premature (this piece assumes that Obama will be a big-government guy, but Larry Kudlow points out that 40% of his proposed stimulus package now consists of tax cuts). Conservative guru Richard Viguerie is quoted as saying that the inauguration is no big deal: “we can be happy that we’ve taken another step in the racial progress, but I just am not about race, quite frankly.” And he puts up this quote on the “news from the front” on his website. Way to win friends and influence people. Can you say “tone-deaf”?
But there’s some pretty silly Obamania out there, too. See, for instance, this letter posted by Andrew Sullivan on his blog:
I remember with Bill Clinton, he had way of making people feel they were “the only person in the room:” and that they “mattered to him” as many articles during his tenure claimed. But what Obama seems to have is the ability not to appear as if he is acting, faking it. … [H]e is not a faker, not a schmoozer, not a dolt, not a skirt-chaser, not a charlatan, etc. etc. Obama has the realness that comes from the hard psychological work that it takes to really get to know yourself and come out on the other side unafraid of whatever might come your way.
And how does the letter-writer know that? Intuition? So far, Obama has done a pretty oustanding job of being all things to most people. I would say he’s a pretty impressive schmoozer all right. I’m sure he has genuine convictions, but I think he’ll have to be tested much more before we can truly judge his sincerity. Sometimes, “the ability not to appear as if you’re acting” is the best acting of all.
With that, of course, I wish Obama well. And frankly, whether he has that “realness” or not and whether he has completed that fearless journey of self-knowledge is not my first concern. He’s been elected president, not spiritual leader; and while moral leadership is often a part of the president’s role, especially in troubled times, his actual policy-shaping decisions count for more.