I’m beginning to see that one of the sources of Obama’s appeal, especially to the young, is that he speaks their language. Although the man is forty-six, he comes across as much younger, with a certain “like, you know” improvisational attitude towards the Presidency, especially when speaking off the cuff.
Some no doubt find it refreshing. I do not. It’s reached its peak (so far) in a recent speech in San Francisco when Obama, asked what qualifications he might be looking for in a potential running mate, had this to say (emphasis mine on Obama’s youth-bonding language):
I would like somebody who knows about a bunch of stuff that I’m not as expert on. I think a lot of people assume that might be some sort of military thing to make me look more Commander-in-Chief-like. Ironically, this is an area—foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain.
It’s ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags ‘I’ve met leaders from eighty countries’–I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then–you go.”
“You do that in eighty countries—you don’t know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa–knowing the leaders is not important–what I know is the people. . . .”
“I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college–I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . .”
If there’s a better example of the arrogance of youth, I can’t think of it offhand. The glorification of “self-confidence” as an improvement on knowledge and experience. The description of the trips to foreign countries as meaningless, including those tedious briefings (sort of like a visit to a boring relative—can’t we go out and play now?) The idea that hazy memories of a few years spent in a country—in this case, Indonesia—about forty years ago as a child of six to ten years old would have any relevance to understanding what’s going on in terms of power or politics or economics in that country or any other part of the world today.
Likewise the college trip to Pakistan. Give me a break.
If Obama really were in his teens or early twenties, these sorts of statements might be understandable. And his “foreign policy” experience of living for a while in these countries would at least have the advantage of being relatively recent.
But Obama is now forty-six years old, and will be forty-seven at the time of the election. Not such a child after all. And although youthful exuberance and innocence can be charming even in an adult, youthful arrogance and ignorance never is.
Is Obama really this unaware, or is he faking it to appeal to the youthful demographic? I haven’t a clue, but I fear it’s the former—although, as George Burns once said:
“The secret of acting is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
And so it’s also possible Obama is a pretty good actor.