November 5th, 2010

Falling out of love with Obama: a midfall night’s dream

Even the left appears to have fallen out of love with Obama, and wonders how and why it all went wrong. Read as Tom Junod tries to puzzle it out in Esquire:

Though many Americans didn’t know very much about him, there was one thing that was never in doubt when we saw and heard Obama on the stump: his ownership of his gift. By the way he carried himself, we could tell that he had always had it, and because he always had it, we could be sure that he always would have it. How could we resist a man who simply by opening his mouth could move mountains — and who had ascended all the way to the presidency by staking his political life on his own eloquence? How could we resist a man who seemed so sure that we could not resist him?

Now his gift has all but deserted him, and all that prevents the story from becoming tragic is his own apparent refusal to be affected by it…In less than two years he had gone from sounding like a man who could always count on his ability to strum the mystic chords of memory to a man who, no matter what he said, sounded like a politician, and one in over his head at that. Now he sounded like a man who had already realized that he had lost more than he imagined he could but was just starting to understand that he was never going to get it back.

Junod is right, and he’s also wrong. He’s describing what he perceives to have changed about Obama, and it’s true. Rather like Dumbo when he lost his magic feather, Obama has lost some of the belief in his own invincibility that carried him along, and it shows.

But Junod thinks he is describing something that mainly has its locus in Obama himself, and that it is Obama who has changed. Not really, except for a slightly lower confidence level. Junod is actually describing the process of falling in and then out of love on the part of the viewer.

Obama never was a great communicator. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating now: he rode on a stump speech and a vague promise, and the fervent hope in people’s minds that he would be whatever they happened to want him to be. He was never articulate off the cuff. He was always condescending and cold once he left the confines of that set speech. He had a terrible and/or nonexistent political record. He had never run anything except the Annenberg Challenge (and that was done poorly) or the Harvard Law Review. He had no sense of humor.

They fell in love nevertheless. Love is great. It feels good, but it tends to be blind. And when you fall out of it, you wonder what happened. You can explain it by saying that it’s the love object who has changed. Or you can wonder whatever you were thinking of in the first place.

Junod and many Obamaphiles (is it premature to call them ex-Obamaphiles?) are doing the former. In one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Titiana does the latter:


Shakespeare’s play is an exploration of love and its mysterious qualities. When Shakespeare has the character Puck observe to the Fairy King Oberon, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” he’s talking at least in part of their propensity to be fooled—in the case of the play, by his own magic machinations, among other things. The play has the lovers manipulated in a curious way: Puck puts some drops in their eyes that alter their perceptions and make them fall in love with the first being who comes their way.

Thus, the locus of the change is placed in the beholder, where it often belongs. The object of love remains the same person, whether adored or despised. When Puck places the drops in her eyes, Fairy Queen Titania falls in love with an ass (that is, a rude laborer, Bottom, who has been transformed by magic into a man with a donkey’s head, but let’s not get too technical). When Puck later applies the antidote and she falls out of love, she can’t believe she ever liked Bottom in the first place.

Junod, on the other hand, doesn’t doubt that Obama originally possessed the sterling characteristics his admirers perceived in him. Junod sees the main locus of change as being in Obama, not in himself as Obama-watcher. When Junod writes, “How could we resist a man who simply by opening his mouth could move mountains?” he’s being hyperbolic (at least I hope he is). But Obamalove came close to being just that irrational and just that emotional.

In the play, everything comes out all right in the end (although, as the character Lysander says, “The course of true love never did run smooth”). In politics, not so much. Of course, 2012 is a long way away…and there’s a lot of room for reconciliation. But can one ever recapture that initial glow?

51 Responses to “Falling out of love with Obama: a midfall night’s dream”

  1. LAG Says:

    neo, I’m in the process of reading The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements by Erich Hoffer. Your comments are very similar to his. I haven’t the skill to show how accurately his analysis applies to the Obama mass movement, so I’ll recommend the book to everyone and offer a few short quotes:

    “Where freedom is real, equality is the passion of the masses. Where equality is real, freedom is the passion of a small minority.”

    “Failure in the management of practical affairs seems to be a qualification for success in the management of public affairs.”

    “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”

    “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.”

    “We often use strong language not to express a powerful emotion but to evoke it in us.”

    “Add a few drops of malice to a half truth and you have an absolute truth.”

    “There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life. Moreover, when we have an alibi for not writing a book, painting a picture, and so on, we have an alibi for not writing the greatest book and not painting the greatest picture. Small wonder that the effort expended and the punishment endured in obtaining a good alibi often exceed the effort and grief requisite for the attainment of a most marked achievement.”

    “The real “haves” are they who can acquire freedom, self-confidence, and even riches without depriving others of them. They acquire all of these by developing and applying their potentialities. On the other hand, the real “have nots” are they who cannot have aught except by depriving others of it. They can feel free only by diminishing the freedom of others, self-confident by spreading fear and dependence among others, and rich by making others poor.”

    “The awareness of their individual blemishes and shortcomings inclines the frustrated to detect ill will and meanness in their fellow men. Self-contempt, however vague, sharpens our eyes for the imperfections of others. We usually strive to reveal in others the blemishes we hide in ourselves.”

    “Nothing so offends the doctrinaire intellectual as our ability to achieve the momentous in a matter-of-fact way, unblessed by words.”

    and perhaps most appropriate:

    “…the technique of a mass movement aims to infect people with a malady and then offer the movement as a cure.”

  2. Mr. Frank Says:

    But have the voters learned anything from this? Can a Judd Gregg, Tim Pawlenty, or Mitch Daniels, all men of substance and experience, win the presidency? They would all get my vote, but, then, Obama did not.

  3. Curtis Says:

    Very appropriate and penetrating analogy.

    I hope, I hope, that the left–formerly hypnotized and now embarrassed–is less inclined to find true love . . . at least for a short while.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Mr. Frank: well, I did my bit for Gregg.

    But some thanks I get. He never calls; he never writes.

  5. Artfldgr Says:

    he is a post modernist..

    that is, he doesn’t understand how FEELINGS over Rational thought and empirical facts could be wrong…

    And that in truth, whether we like it or not, intentions are meaningless and only results count (especially when your supposed to deliver them to someone else)

    even funnier, the masses, as hitler said, is feminine…

    so this ‘chick’ of society, doesnt know how a player is a player… and has learned waht its like to give up the goods, and have nothing but regret in the morning, and again, wondering how your feelings of someone let you down

    (the more women in society that are political, and the more dominant their discourse, the LESS thinking and more emotional choices you get and by the few who are the head ladies dictating it to their unthinking followers)

    there is a reason why women for most of mankind were not in political areas – and its not male oppression from the beginning of time

    its because to have what they want NOW, they are willing to accept destruction later, and pretend its not empirical and follows from that.

    why are the borders open? because women want them open, and men wanting to keep them safe as a society so they are free has been negated.

    the immediate feelings of it, the immediate need for a babysitter, etc…. all add up to i want them in here cheap…

    caught between a rock and a hard place, the men let society fail… they can either do that, or they can just do what they need to do, and be hated, and so not mated.

    as long as her conflicted needs which do NOT take in the world outside the tribe (as that not her domain genetically) are what governs, she will invite enemies from outside like neighbors from inside.

    ERGO why every state wishing to cause a destabilizing and fall of a superior foe, gives them some form of such argument..

    feelings are not that bad a decision making thing within the confines of a safe zone…

    they are a disaster outside that or in terms of where that meets reality… as reality itself cant be made a safe zone, and so has to be met with rational thought which will accept right choices that are not emotionally satisfying

    this is what happens…
    cause, effect, and denial facilitates, not disproves

  6. Artfldgr Says:

    “…the technique of a mass movement aims to infect people with a malady and then offer the movement as a cure.”

    and the technique of infection is Consciousness Raising, as with women studies, race studies, etc..

    You learn to LOVE your condition..

    like loving a sociopath, your world can never return to any form of normal, safe, and sane until you eject the sociopathic person, organization, movement, or popular front…

    until you figure out who you love that is using that love or regard to hide behind, while hurting, and duping you to reach their goals (at your expense not theirs), while pretending that this is serving your goals.

    which is why they can say we want the destruction of family… and the women who want family, mates, good life, and what their grandmothers had, ignore it as hyperbolic speech, and then endeavor to make that which they dont believe reality while being told they are making utopia.

    the popular fronts are on a need to know basis, and they never need to know

  7. Adrian Day Says:

    A very subtle way of saying Obama is and always was an ass.

  8. Steve Says:

    Why are they falling out of love? Is it because he has lost his magic (communication) or is it because of his policies? I am sure if he was winning, his supporters would still be in love.

  9. Mike Mc. Says:


    “He rode on a stump speech…”

    Excellent! That’s as good an insight about Obama’s so-called super-intelligence, insight, capability, promise. talent, etc. as I’ve ever heard.

    It was a freaking stump speech. That’s all!

    We must continue to state the facts: He had no experience. He has no talent for what it takes to be a ‘good’ President. He has no economic knowledge or intelligence. He has no fporeign [policy knowledge or intelligence or plan. He is only, in the end, a stump speech.

    Even today, people like Chris Matthews talk as if O’s superior intelligence is obvious. You can’t reach that kind of brainwashing.

    The man was and is a stump speech. He does not have another one. He had the one, and the rest of him is clueless. I know why he is going abroad. The same reason he golfs. He has nothing else to do, or that he can do.

    America will rebound great if he just sits there and says and does nothing for two years. If he wants to prolong our pain and misery, he can continue to fake like he has the first clue about anything. He doesn’t, and never did.

  10. Mr. Frank Says:


    Your views of women are pathological. While I’ll admit that men are more likely to see through a Bill Clinton or Obama, many women do as well.

  11. Curtis Says:

    “How could we resist a man who simply by opening his mouth could move mountains — and who had ascended all the way to the presidency by staking his political life on his own eloquence? How could we resist a man who seemed so sure that we could not resist him?”

    Number 1: It’s creepy.

    Number 2: Eloquence and confidence? So he was an eloquent confidence man. Aren’t they all?

    Number 3: Just by opening his mouth. . . Admission of magical thinking, a quality highly possessed by the left.

  12. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Valerie Jarrett on Obama:

    “I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So, what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Wolla Dalbo: that’s one of the creepiest crawliest quotes I’ve even seen. To have Jarrett as his adviser borders on the pathological. She is more like a starstruck lovelorn worshipper.

    I cannot think of any figure in American life who has inspired that degree of adulation from his/her advisers. Not Lincoln, not the Founding Fathers, nobody. It is hagiography. And it is dangerous.

  14. expat Says:

    I think the total demonization of Bush may have been the eye drops in this situation.

    Wollo Dalbo: Valerie Jarrett is a complete idiot. If Obama wasn’t intellectually challenged, it was because he hung out with the likes of Jarrett. As to him being a good reader of people, weren’t those people at the town halls and tea parties or are clingers a different species? The truly brilliant are not bored because they ask questions no matter where they are. Einstein was working in a patent office. Obama is too self absorbed to ask questions that advance knowledge and understanding to threatened to seek experiences outside his comfort zone, and too lazy to work to find answers. I would love to hear a “deep” conversation between the two.

  15. expat Says:

    Neo: I agree; it is dangerous.

  16. Denise Says:

    I never got the great speech maker part of the Obama myth. I saw him speak once and he managed to be uninspiring and, thankfully, brief. I never quite got the “gift” thing that people keep talking about. He’s occasionally “on,” but more often than not a little flat. Neo-con’s got it right, people brought their own rose colored glasses when they looked at or listened to Obama.

    As for intelligence, he’s made some very strange mistakes for an educated person, like Auschwitz being liberated by Americans, etc etc.

    The psychology of the relationship between Obama and his cultists should be the subject of graduate student’s paper.

  17. Gringo Says:

    Valerie Jarrett on ∅bama:

    “He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

    Too bored to write any signed law articles when he headed up the review at Harvard Law, apparently. Too bored to write any law articles when he was teaching at Univ of Chicago Law School, apparently. Too bored to make an effort that the ~$100 million [including matching funds] of research funds he handed out when chairing the Annenberg Challenge actually went to research for improving public school education, apparently.

    Too bored to put in three weeks straight of work when in the White House.

    Too good for us. Yeah, right.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Gringo: and let’s not forget Michelle, who at least has the excuse of being his wife:

    “Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics,” his wife said a few weeks ago, adding that Americans will get only one chance to elect him.

  19. Norma Says:

    I was stunned when I read his first paragraph. I never thought Obama had any of those qualities–he stammered, was awful off teleprompter, had to imitate black speech and didn’t do that as well as others I’ve heard. But even then it was never his personality I didn’t like it, was his core beliefs. Plus he wasn’t cool–he was ice cold. No warmth at all. I voted for Clinton (first term) and I know what it is to be sweet talked. Only guilt can account for the way Americans fell for this. They’d been told for so long they were racists, they wanted an easy way out. I hope he hasn’t done so much damage to the American psyche that we can’t recover from this.

  20. Gringo Says:

    Neo: let us hope that Michelle is right and 2008 will have been our only chance to elect her husband.

  21. Bob From Virginia Says:

    Denise wrote “The psychology of the relationship between Obama and his cultists should be the subject of graduate student’s paper.”

    Hopefully there will be a book that will deal with that difficult subject. The applicability of parts of Eric Hoffer’s True Believer come close, particularly the section on the Bored, but I would prefer something more specific. Something to explain why legions of worldly knowledgeable people backed an obvious nutcase.

    Such a book would certainly be Obama’s one undeniable contribution to the US democracy; an understanding of why this demented ego attracted so much support. Hopefully it would include a method to assure that the next Messiah earns only laughter and contempt.

  22. kolnai Says:

    I saw that Jarrett quote and I had the same reaction as neo and expat: it sent chills up my spine.

    Later in the evening I got into a discussion with my foreign girlfriend (who knows nothing about American politics), and I found myself trying to explain to her why it is that the Obama phenomenon is so creepy.

    I wound up giving a lecture that relied heavily on Hoffer (kudos to LAG for bringing up The True Believer) and Aurel Kolnai (who I stole my nom-de-plume from). It reminded of just how horrifying Obama’s campaign was – remember the kids (“We’re gonna chaaaange it…”), the celebrity pledge to serve the Fuhrer as they dissolved into Obama’s face, the storm-trooper kids in military garb vowing fealty to the One?

    I bang this drum a lot in my posts here, so I might as well bang it again – the task we now have -including the Republicans in Congress – is not only to do all the policy things that need to be done, but to do our damnedest to take this cult-of-personality and drive a steak through its heart.

    2008 was one of the weirdest moments in American political history. The electorate was in a weird mood, the left was suddenly weirdly effective with even blatantly socialist-realism propaganda, and ultimately we elected a weirdo.

    What bothered me so much about it was, first of all, of course, that Obama was a socialist. But maybe even more than that was the sense I had from long exposure to his ideological type that he didn’t just disagree with me and my fellow conservatives, he HATED us. Personality cults usually serve to legitimate hatred, and it is no coincidence that the most devoted Obamabots were the very ones who had been emitting the hot winds of Satan at Bush for eight years.

    What I’m trying to get at is that there is something much deeper than policy driving the mounting revolt against Obamaism. Democrats often ask – “Why didn’t the Tea Parties get furious with Bush?” There are lots of reasons that I won’t go into, some good and some not, but the one I think that gets missed because it isn’t couth to say it publicly, is that deep down we are extremely bothered by the unshakeable suspicion that Obama and his minions despise what we consider to be the essence of this country.

    It’s like talking to someone who you knows hates your guts, but who is unfailingly polite. The pose only makes you angrier.

    And then the media flipped it around on us and said WE were the bad guys because we were, as the Hillbuzz boys like to put it, “RAAAAAAAAACISTS.”

    I’m suggesting that the suspicion that Obama’s socialism made his attitude toward this country very ambivalent (at best), plus the insinuation that we were all malignant demons for even bringing it up, put a lot of has in the tank of what would emerge as the Tea Party Express.

    Add in the attendant policies and the disgusting way in which they were often rammed through, and voila.

  23. Tatyana Says:

    In the play it is Titania, not Titiana

    [note from n-n: thanks, fixed.]

  24. Random Thoughts Says:

    When Junod writes, “How could we resist a man who simply by opening his mouth could move mountains?” he’s being hyperbolic (at least I hope he is)

    I don’t think he is. I think he’s still quite infatuated; he doesn’t understand at all what you so eloquently described via the Shakespeare analogy: Obama hasn’t changed much at all, but a lot of people have begun to see him clearly.

    Kolnai perfectly expressed what troubles me most about Obama:

    …deep down we are extremely bothered by the unshakeable suspicion that Obama and his minions despise what we consider to be the essence of this country.

    All of his actions (and I do mean all) since taking office seem to me to be based on a profound disdain for the vast majority of Americans, an overt dismissal of the intelligence of anyone who disagrees with him, and a blatant disregard for anything other than his own extremely socialist mindset.

  25. SteveH Says:

    I’m thinking the reason half the people are dumbfounded about Obama’s communication skill credentials and supposed uncanny intelligence can be found by thinking of him more as a very capable preacher. And a very capable preacher addressing those Americans least savvy to what a preacher even is or how a good one operates. It is at least the second oldest profession and one too many Americans have become ignorant of and vulnerable to.

  26. rickl Says:

    Tatyana Says:
    November 5th, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    In the play it is Titania, not Titiana

    Thank you. I’ve been wondering about that.

    Some of the earliest-discovered moons of Uranus were named for characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I know one of them is called Titania.

  27. Tatyana Says:

    rickl: I have checked it out after a distinguished elderly gentleman decided to pay me a compliment of being a namesake of a Bard’s character…

  28. jfm Says:

    Merle Haggard’s new album “I Am What I Am” has a wonderful, sardonic song titled “Love is Always Pretty (When It’s New).”

  29. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Obama is soooo 2008.

  30. neo-neocon Says:

    kolnai: I think it’s rather simple in some ways: people who didn’t like Bush’s policies (or those of Clinton, or of previous presidents) may also have thought in some cases those presidents were lying about this or that fact or detail. But there has never been a president before, as far as I know, who was lying about his basic essence or his basic agenda. Obama was.

  31. Bob From Virginia Says:

    SteveH, Preacher? The Home Shopping Network is his natural calling with occasional guest appearances on the SyFy channel (although their standards may be a bit high for any of his cameos).

    One way or another history is catching up with Obama. Gods aren’t supposed to bleed so perhaps the scales may fall from the eyes of a few believers (remember Captain Cook)? Next prediction, the MSM will gasp at straws to save their baby and make themselves a laughingstock in the process.

    Humpty-Dumpty may be the prefect metaphor for this administration.

  32. Beverly Says:

    M. Beck at the Belmont Club posted in a comment a shrewd analysis of Obama’s style and “gifts.”

    “I was not seduced by Obama’s so-called rhetorical gifts—gifts which he’s never been shy about attributing to himself, by the way. He seems to think that if he simply gets in front of an audience and “acts black” (i.e., if he apes the soaring brogue of a negro Baptist preacher), that he will have the simpering chorus of white Dufflepuds eagerly yup-yupping everything he says and eating out of his hand.

    His only talent was for playing the put-upon black man, plucking the heartstrings of white liberal guilt despite having been to some of the finest schools in the land and making more money than 95% of the white population.

    Receptivity to this sort of public persona has been carefully prepared by 40 years of Hollywood agitprop and “Black History Month”-style catechesis in public education, until several generations of Americans have been taught to believe that every time a black man says something in a sonorous tone of voice, his utterances carry the same spiritual authority that Moses had before Pharaoh.

    If we want to understand Barack Obama’s strange appeal to men like Chris Matthews, we need only look at the black male personas crafted by the mass media over the course of his lifetime. A Fourier analysis of Obama’s “music” yields the following principal waveforms.

    “1. The dominant frequency is the lilting rise and fall of an MLK mini-me, albeit distorted by a persistent whine in the upper register.

    “2. Major harmonics include a Lionel Jefferson-type ironic smartass and a Martin Lawrence-like racist undertone.

    ‘3. Nonlinear variations in intensity cause him to percolate and burble like Clarence Page on The McLaughlin Group.

    “4. Advanced component analysis indicates that Maya Angelou was reciting something in the background.

    “This isn’t going to cut it anymore. Americans now know that our first black president is also our first Affirmative Action president, even though they would never be so gauche as to say so out loud. But even the charge of racism is not acting as the deterrent it once did: the situation has become too comical for that.

    A president must be able to do more than oscillate between the postures of persecuted black solemnity and Jim Crow goofiness that made Barack Obama the darling of fiction-saturated white liberals and mal-educated suburban college kids. If we really want to face foursquare the catastrophe of the Obama presidency, we must also face down the absurd excesses, grotesque falsifications, and political hijinks of our hideous racial spoils system—for that is what created Barack Obama. Honesty with respect to race, the novel idea of judging people by the content of their character, is what will bring him down.”

  33. kolnai Says:

    neo – I think that’s true up to a point, but I have a hard time believing that if someone ran as a hard leftist and then governed as a centrist, or even if someone ran as a centrist and then governed as a hard conservative, that we would have seen this kind of reaction, even though proportionately they are lies of equal magnitude.

    And that’s my basic claim. Very few people think centrism involves in its essence a rejection of America as most people understand it. More think strong conservatism does, but most of them are on the hard left. Reagan governed pretty right-wingedly, and we didn’t see any movement with Tea Party intensity and coherence arise.

    Of course, he ran as a solid conservative, but I still don’t think we would have seen the equivalent of a Tea Party if he’d run as a center-right McCain-type moderate and then tacked hard right. There would perhaps have been anger comparable to that Clinton experienced when he tacked left in his first term after running as a centrist, but this Tea Party thing is just different from 1994. Not in all ways, but in crucial ways.

    I’m just saying that while the big lie does play a significant role in the backlash, the crucial factor is what the lie was about.

    I take it that this is the overarching point of Kurtz’s book. The fact of American politics is that a solid conservative can win an election honestly, but a solid left-socialist cannot. Partly, that is because socialists simply do not like this country very much. So they have to lie about it. The big lie, the socialism, and the ambivalence about country are all of a piece.

    Maybe another though experiment would work – imagine Obama ran how he did, as a squishy moderate lefty, and then governed like Reagan, because secretly he was a “Reagan Democrat.” Would there be a Tea Party, even though he would have lied about his essence? Yeah, the left would have been plenty mad, but I bet people would be wetting themselves with joy on the whole. (I certainly would be).

    This is just my sense of the thing, naturally. I don’t think this sort of phenomenon can be reached with surveys and polls. Maybe I’m just stating my own mind here. Can’t rule that out.

  34. ABC Says:

    The author Frank Herbert warned about this sort of thing – the tendency of societies to “give over every decision-making capacity” to a charismatic leader.
    Oh well…maybe The One’s presidency will teach the gullible not to drink the Kool-Aid NEXT time. (But don’t count on it.) 🙁

  35. Sergey Says:

    Another literary personage came to my mind when I muse about fall of Obama: Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober, by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann.

  36. SteveH Says:

    A preacher is different from a great orator or the common con man. He has to be seen as a man transformed and seemingly made whole by the message he carries. He doesn’t have to fake sincerity because he believes he’s been made better by the experience he relates. And he’s a really good one if he can compell his audience to want what he’s found, so much so that the core message becomes secondary filler material to the audience’s euphoric experience.

    I grew up in Pentecostal churches in the south. I know a preacher when i see one and it’s exactly what Obama reminds me of. And it explains alot of the irrationality of his followers from the perspective of us outsiders looking in.

  37. RickZ Says:

    When it come to Obama, methinks Valerie Jarrett confuses bored with lazy. Obama is lazy. I would love to see the hours Obama has clocked sitting at the Oval Office desk.

  38. LAG Says:

    This is kind of a half-formed thought, so maybe someone will understand better than I do what I’m sensing.

    I see something else in all this talk of overblown qualities of brain and pulpit-power, and it prompts another question. Why do the living ex-Dem presidents seem to be working the long-term legacy issues, while none of the Republican ex-presidents are?

    Jimmy Carter is doing it, Bill Clinton doing it. (I think even the Dem failures-to-launch do it, don’t they?) Both are still on the stump trying to convince the American people how consequential they were. I think that’s part of the mythology now being manufactured, perhaps consciously, around Obama.

    There seems to be some peculiar desire to emulate the sort of continuing adulation accorded to JFK in particular. Praise in the present simply isn’t enough. Something approaching martyrdom is needed. Hoffer discusses this denial of the present in exchange for the “future.”

    Bob From Virginia wrote: “One way or another history is catching up with Obama. Gods aren’t supposed to bleed so perhaps the scales may fall from the eyes of a few believers,” but I don’t think that has ever happened with Kennedy. He still gets photo spreads in Vanity Fair, for goodness sake.

    Can you imagine what BHO will be like in post-presidential times (may they come soon) if he needs to continue to pursue this course?

  39. SteveH Says:

    LAG: I think what we see in bygone dems blowing their own horn is a defensive posture. On some level they know the liberal facade as a poser for intellect and compassion is getting closer daily to its demise.

  40. anna Says:

    LAG, interesting connection with the adulation given to JFK. I myself have never been a fan of anyone Kennedy and I wonder how JFK can still get so much love even after everything that we now know about him. Was Kennedy a similar situation as here? Kennedy was a bit before my time since I was born during the Reagan administration, so maybe some people who were around then can enlighten us as to what the attitude towards JFK was like.

  41. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    What the JFK legacy would have been was forever altered by his assassination. People who had long mistrusted the Kennedy’s and hated Jack were nonetheless deeply sorrowful that he had been shot. William Loeb of the ultraconservative Manchester Union Leader mentioned only in passing his disagreement with JFK politically when editorializing over the subsequent few months. Robert’s assassination was treated similarly.

    While the hard left may have opportunistically encouraged the idea that “his political opponents killed him,” I think the idea was spontaneous without any CPUSA manipulations. In searching for explanations, people very naturally gravitated to the idea that important people wanted him dead, because he was so charismatic and dangerous to them. This was added to the idea already in place that Kennedy was going to lead us to a new place, a New Frontier of optimism, cooperation and can-do American spirit. These thoughts coalesced into an attitude of “JFK’s political opponents don’t want this wonderful new world, and will kill people to keep it from happening.”

    It was the birth of the violent left in America. From that day to this, liberals have excused violent rhetoric and even violence from their sector by painting it as a natural defensive reaction. Even people who are not violent themselves have adopted this attitude toward their political allies. I don’t know how much of this was the result of KGB manipulation. They certainly tried, and we now know in retrospect that influential voices of the time were paid by them and repeated their talking points. But as I noted above, plain-old political competition, independent of any outside influence, could have created the same thing. The result was certainly to the USSR’s advantage – it does not follow that they made it happen.

    It should, of course, make every Boomer liberal and Roosevelt Democrat examine exactly where their gut feeling that conservatives are permanently on the lip of fascism comes from, but don’t hold your breath. I have concluded that the belief is so psychologically important to them that they cannot question it.

    That the Kennedys were not then especially liberal (Joe McCarthy was godfather to one of Bobby’s children), and Lee Harvey Oswald was actually far left, was ignored, and the myth grew rapidly: liberals are good idealistic people who just want a better world, conservatives are a dark, violent group. Lyndon Johnson played on this with his mushroom cloud campaign ad. The political landscape was changed forever. Most liberals still believe that they are the nice ones and the conservatives the dangerous violent ones, despite 40 years of evidence to the contrary. (Not that there has been no violence from the right, but that it is dwarfed by union, radical, anti-globalist, black, environmentalist, and even anti-war violence.)

    What Democratic president wouldn’t want the same? Of course Carter, Clinton, and now Obama have been concerned with their legacy since the moment they took office. They all want to be figures in history, instead of merely doing their job. I actually give some credit to Clinton, who at least got the idea that doing his job and governing well was going to be his only shot at legacy unless some catastrophic external event occurred. Carter subsequently tried to keep recapturing the legacy adulation of Camp David, when people thought he had changed the ME forever – yet to his credit, his efforts did at least keep Egypt out of the fighting from that day to this, a worthy accomplishment. Not as grandiose as he wished, but good nonetheless.

    Obama seems to have none of this contact with reality. He seems to think he can have such a legacy by being black and elected, and repeating liberal pieties.

  42. expat Says:


    First, Kennedy’s was the first election that boomers noticed, which meant he had a lot of people paying attention. He represented a new generation just coming of age, and he was someone who set a direction for the postwar era.

    Second, he was patriotic. In many ways he gave my generation its Morning in America speech. His Irish Catholic heritage represented an opening of society to all. He was a war hero to us (PT 109), so he fit the John Wayne tales we had grown up with. His wife was Euro-savy, but with her WH tour, she reminded us to cherish our heritage. The kids were adorable.

    Third, we didn’t really understand the lead-up to the missile crisis at the time. What we saw was that he didn’t back down.

    And perhaps most important, he was killed before our eyes. I was in chem lab when the television was turned on with the report of what happened. We didn’t have the experience of hearing about the deaths in WWII or Korea, and we were facing the death of our president live on TV. We didn’t know what would happen next.

    The dirty laundry that came out later never really replaced that traumatic experience or completely countered our youthful dreams of Camelot. After Kennedy came race riots, more assasinations, and the social upheavals of movements like feminism. During the antiwar movements, Kennedy represented a good America we could be proud of. He was a resting place between decades of war and turmoil.

  43. Curtis Says:

    Steve H, you’re right in my opinion, by defining the difference between a preacher and Obama. The Pentecostal experience is not what is happening because for the vast majority of Pentecostal duets there is not an intentional deception between preacher and audience. Further, a true Pentecostal gathering, as you know, is quite democratic with various persons leading the charge. I think of the Obama/audience dynamic as a perverted Pentecostal experience where the leader, instead of sharing and truly leading, uses crowd manipulation techniques; and the crowd, instead of being focused upon God, is focused on the leader–the God substitute. Look at the cadence and involvement of Obama. It is nothing like a good Pentecostal preacher. Obama may or may not be a true believer. If he is, it is as a soul-less believer. How can any post-modernist be a true believer?

  44. Bob From Virginia Says:

    Since Eric Hoffer and JFK are both playing on this thread here is an interesting (IMHO) factoid. For years after the Kennedy assassination it was taboo to speak of the man without veneration. On his first TV interview (if memory serves) Eric Hoffer did the unthinkable, he said that if you look at the number of times Kennedy crossed the Atlantic and compare to the number of times he crossed the Mississippi you can see which side he belonged on.

    Hoffer always did his own thinking g-d bless him.

  45. anna Says:

    It appears that the Kennedy veneration is another case of projection, where the fans project their on hopes and dreams onto a smooth talker who can’t possibly live up to the expectations but still uses the zeitgeist to his own advantage. I confess I suspected as much.

    And BTW it is still taboo to speak ill of JFK. When I was in college (early Aughties), I got scolded by my peers for it – these silly kids who weren’t even born at the time. It is thought to be morally wrong to say that stuff – like as in “don’t speak ill of the dead”. Nevermind that one can speak all the ill they want of all the other dead in the world, just not JFK.

    So maybe we have collectively been down the Obamagasm road before.

  46. Jamie Says:

    Two thoughts came to me as I read this thread: First, thank God for George Washington, who had at least the humility if not the active forethought (I’m inclined to believe the latter) to limit his Presidential terms to two, because in doing so he saved this country from serious damage from cults of personality for a hundred and fifty years. And boo, Roosevelt, for deciding that only he could possibly get us through WWII. (I must add that, I don’t know, I’m not a good historian – maybe that was in fact a good decision. But throwing out a precedent that had existed since the country’s inception risked a whole lot, especially since it wasn’t – yet – the existence of the United States in question, as it was the existence of the U.K., France, etc., and a lot of Pacific nations. He decided to create a new precedent that would allow for a Castro-esque cult of personality, which thankfully nobody since then has had the ego or public support to try. But if Obama hadn’t been so miserably and obviously wrong in this term so far, I bet he would’ve been willing to give it a go.)

    Second, what a post-modernist, and what a solipsist, this President is. He really seems to believe that nothing is real except himself, nothing matters except his wishes, even those have few if any real consequences, and if the sometimes-amusing soulless constructs that comprise his citizenry disagree with his views, it’s only because he hasn’t explained them well enough, and all he has to do is make some more speeches and they’ll revert to their proper form: adulation and bovine passivity.

    Yikes. The reason the Tea Party arose at this time is because SOMEbody’s got to take a shot at convincing this President and his buds that we’re real. That effort – convincing him – may fail, but since we are in fact real, he’s going to be the ultimate loser; reality doesn’t indulge solipsism.

  47. Bob From Virginia Says:

    William Sargant, a late British psychologist wrote a book relevant to the Obama cult, The Battle for the Mind, about the physiology of brainwashing. It recommends laughter as a inoculation against the effects of groupthink.

    Obama should have been a laughing matter, with luck he may make it yet.

  48. expat Says:


    While it is true that in retrospect many have made Kennedy out to be a saint who would have solved all our problems, I think many still like him and his era because of his patriotism. He would never have made a bowing and apologizing tour of the world. You can’t really draw a parallel to Obama, although Obama certainly tried to do so. Also, Kennedy’s foreign policy stances were based on his real experiences in pre-war Britain and in the war itself. His Berlin speech certainly helped those in Germany who did not want a communism creeping from the East. Obama’s world views are fantasies, and if he draws a line in the sand, it lasts only until the wind shifts the sands. Kennedy was a flawed human being and a politician. Obama’s character flaws are an order of magnitude greater.

  49. Gringo Says:

    Anna, the song In the Summer of His Years, by Connie Francis, sums up pretty well the devastation we felt when JFK was assassinated. It still hits me, perhaps more now than ever.

    And BTW it is still taboo to speak ill of JFK.

    When I was in a high school American History class discussion about JFK back in the ‘60s, a classmate said that her parents never had thought much of JFK. A shock wave went through the room.

    Her parents were Republicans. JFK was a Democrat. That simple. My classmate was of New England Yankee Republican background, what is sometimes called old stock. Her brother was named for their ancestor, a Revolutionary War hero. Blunt, unpretentious folk.

    I had a Kennedy poster on my bedroom door until I left for college. My worship of all things Kennedy changed when a childhood friend worked at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis one summer. My friend summed it up by stating that while the Kennedys presented themselves as rich people with a conscience, they were simply rich people. He said that the employment agencies on the Cape that staffed houses with maids and such household help no longer dealt with the Kennedys because the Kennedys routinely didn’t pay for the last week or two of their workers’ employment.

    My opinion of Ted, Ethel, and Joe Sr. is a lot lower than it is of RFK, JFK, Jackie, and Joan. My friend who worked at the Kennedy compound said that Jackie was a concerned mother, a good mother. His opinion – and mine- of Ethel had to do with political hypocrisy, not with her conduct as a mother.

    I now view JFK as a skilled campaigner, probably the first to turn TV to his advantage. Those who listened to the Nixon-Kennedy debates on radio, such as my babysitter, said that Nixon had won. Those who saw it on TV said that JFK had won. JFK lied about the “missile gap” during the campaign. Perhaps one thing that in later years led me toward an analytical view of JFK instead of a hagiographic view was that for a Politics class in 9th grade I had to read and give a class presentation on Theodore White’s The Making of the President 1960.

    As expat points out , it is hard to see JFK making an apology tour, though he apparently didn’t do too well with Nikita in Vienna.

  50. Gringo Says:

    Anna, one thing that endeared JFK to us was that he had a sense of humor. Neo has posted several times some excerpts of his press conferences. He was a good extemporaneous speaker who could deflect a difficult question with a humorous quip. Not like someone we know.

    Vaughn Meader made several comedy albums about the Kennedy family in the early 1960s. They were very popular. My parents had them as did many of their friends. It was said that JFK enjoyed listening to them. Unfortunately, JFK’s assassination put Vaughn Meader’s career into an eclipse.

    One line I recall from Vaughn Meader illustrates what people thought of JFK’s wit, from the Press Conference skit.
    JFK/Vaughn Meader: “Here is the woman whose questions haunt me. Like the Asian Plague. Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gents, here is Mrs. Craig.”
    Reporter Craig: “I don’t want you to be angry. I don’t want you to be sore. Will Rockefeller be President in 1964?”
    JFK/Vaughn Meader: “If I were living in New York, he’d be my candidate. It’s the best way I know to get him. Out of New York State.”

    Granted, this is fictional, but this is an illustration of what people thought of JFK’s wit.

  51. Sam L. Says:

    Obama is like a dummy I saw at Coldwater Ridge Visitor Station on Mt. St. Helens in WA. The dummy is clothed, but the head is just a featureless head shape. When the display is operating, a face is projected upon the dummy.

    Far too many people have projected a face on Obama and heard what they wanted to hear in his words.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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