Monday, June 9, 2008

Sully's Obamaphilia

Andrew Sullivan's boundless enthusiasm for Barack Obama leads him to error:
The states that were critical to his nomination were Illinois, Lincoln’s home state, and the four southern states most associated with slavery: South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina.
Much has been made, and rightly so, of how Obama’s rise changes America’s relationship to the rest of the world. What has been less appreciated is how deeply Obama’s victory alters America’s relationship to itself.
Uh, hold on there a second, son. Don't you think a list of the "southern states most associated with slavery" might include Mississippi? (Which Obama also won handily, by the way.) Never mind the facts. Facts and sobriety are for cynics, says our breathless Brit transplant:
The cynics demand that we cease this kind of historical hyper-ventilation. It is deemed a function of drinking the Obama Kool-Aid, of insufficient scepticism, of Obamania.
But you have to have a heart of stone not to see what this has already done to race relations in America.
Please stop writing about my country, sir. If you hadn't gone to grad school at Harvard, you'd have never set foot in America, and to my knowledge, your list of stateside residences consists of Cambridge, Mass., Washington, D.C., and Provincetown, Mass. Your writing about America is almost as illegitimate as if I were to write about Britain, based on having spent a few hours at Heathrow Airport.

Why is it that no one else noticed the magnificent Obama Effect on race relations that Sullivan claims to see? But this is just the tip of an iceberg of nonsense. Look at this:
Without the disastrous mismanagement of Iraq abroad and hurricane Katrina at home, the logic for a transformational candidacy such as Obama’s would never have added up.
Iraq, OK. But "disastrous mismanagement of ... hurricane Katrina"? That hurricane hit New Orleans on Labor Day weekend 2006, and it's rather hard to say what that has to do with Obama's 2008 presidential candidacy, except perhaps, "Nothing at all."

What sort of fevered "logic" connects the Illinois senator to the Louisiana flood? Does Sully even comprehend that New Orleans and Chicago are 900 miles apart? The feverish Sullivan seems to grab whatever's at hand and throws it in, as if he were making a Sunday casserole of Saturday leftovers. And he is by no means finished with the recipe:
Obama has something that Reagan and John F Kennedy had: a charisma that seems to fit the presidency. And he is obviously more Kennedy than Reagan, with youth on his side. Give the American presidency the allure of youth and testosterone and it is an intoxicating mass media phenomenon. His personality could do for it what Kennedy did, what John Paul II did for the institution of the papacy in his first years and what Diana did for the institution of the monarchy: it’s a fusion of op-cultural mass appeal with highly authoritative institutions.
Right. We'll delicately pass over Sullivan's rhapsody about "the allure of youth and testosterone," and instead ask whether "charisma" was the chief qualification of Reagan and Kennedy.

JFK, whose father had been U.S. ambassador to England in the 1930s, was a decorated Navy hero of World War II. By 1960, JFK had spent six years in the House and another seven years in the Senate. Having earned a reputation as a hardline Catholic anti-communist during the McCarthy era, JFK in 1952 had defeated a famous Republican, Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1957, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage, and was re-elected to the Senate in 1958.

Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood leading man who had been president of the Screen Actors Guild during a crucial period of the late 1940s, when he successfully helped fend off the efforts of Communist-backed unions to shut down the studios. When his film career stagnated, Reagan hosted the popular "GE Theater" TV program and became a success on the speaking circuit, where his usual topic was a patriotic defense of the glories of free enterprise. In 1964, Reagan's televised "Time for Choosing" speech electrified the conservative insurgents who supported the doomed Goldwater campaign. In 1966, he was elected governor of California, and served two successful terms as governor of the nation's most populous state before mounting his unsuccessful GOP primary challenge to Gerald Ford in 1976.

Now, compare the pre-presidential biographies of JFK and Reagan to Obama, and what stands out? First, both Kennedy and Reagan were nationally well-known years before they won their party's nomination for the White House. Second, both were experienced politicians who'd twice won statewide elections. Kennedy had spent 13 years in Congress, and Reagan had spent eight years as governor. By comparison, Obama spent seven years as an Illinois state legislator before his 2004 election to the Senate.

Almost no one outside Illinois had heard of Obama until his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. He is not merely young and inexperienced, he is such a newcomer to national politics as to be a cipher.

If Obama got the nomination because Democrats "clearly wanted real change," to use Sully's phrase, then Nov. 4 will be a test of whether the rest of the electorate is so desperate for "real change" as to entrust the presidency to a callow parvenu. Maybe they are, but it would mark the sharpest turn in voter preference since Jimmy Carter smiled his way into office.

And, oh, the inspirational eloquence!

Via Ace of Spades, who gives us "The Sermon on the Mount, Obamafied."

No comments:

Post a Comment