Years from now, historians may regard the 2008 election of Barack Obama as an inscrutable and disturbing phenomenon, a baffling breed of mass hysteria akin perhaps to the witch craze of the Middle Ages. How, they will wonder, did a man so devoid of professional accomplishment beguile so many into thinking he could manage the world's largest economy, direct the world's most powerful military, execute the world's most consequential job?
Imagine a future historian examining Obama's pre-presidential life: ushered into and through the Ivy League despite unremarkable grades and test scores along the way; a cushy non-job as a "community organizer"; a brief career as a state legislator devoid of legislative achievement (and in fact nearly devoid of his attention, so often did he vote "present"); and finally an unaccomplished single term in United States Senate, the entirety of which was devoted to his presidential ambitions. He left no academic legacy in academia, authored no signature legislation as legislator.
And then there is the matter of his troubling associations: the white-hating, America-loathing preacher who for decades served as Obama's "spiritual mentor"; a real-life, actual terrorist who served as Obama's colleague and political sponsor. It is easy to imagine a future historian looking at it all and asking: how on Earth was such a man elected president?
Not content to wait for history, the incomparable Norman Podhoretz addressed the question recently in the Wall Street Journal:
To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass.
Let that sink in: Obama was given a pass -- held to a lower standard -- because of the color of his skin. Podhoretz continues:
And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) "non-threatening," all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?
Podhoretz puts his finger, I think, on the animating pulse of the Obama phenomenon -- affirmative action. Not in the legal sense, of course. But certainly in the motivating sentiment behind all affirmative action laws and regulations, which are designed primarily to make white people, and especially white liberals, feel good about themselves.
True, Obama himself was never troubled by his lack of achievements, but why would he be? As many have noted, Obama was told he was good enough for Columbia despite undistinguished grades at Occidental; he was told he was good enough for the US Senate despite a mediocre record in Illinois; he was told he was good enough to be president despite no record at all in the Senate. All his life, every step of the way, Obama was told he was good enough for the next step, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary. What could this breed if not the sort of empty narcissism on display every time Obama speaks?
In 2008, many who agreed that he lacked executive qualifications nonetheless raved about Obama's oratory skills, intellect, and cool character. Those people -- conservatives included -- ought now to be deeply embarrassed. The man thinks and speaks in the hoariest of clichés, and that's when he has his teleprompter in front of him; when the prompter is absent he can barely think or speak at all. Not one original idea has ever issued from his mouth -- it's all warmed-over Marxism of the kind that has failed over and over again for 100 years.
And what about his character? Obama is constantly blaming anything and everything else for his troubles. Bush did it; it was bad luck; I inherited this mess. It is embarrassing to see a president so willing to advertise his own powerlessness, so comfortable with his own incompetence. But really, what were we to expect? The man has never been responsible for anything, so how do we expect him to act responsibly?
In short: our president is a small and small-minded man, with neither the temperament nor the intellect to handle his job. When you understand that, and only when you understand that, will the current erosion of liberty and prosperity make sense. It could not have gone otherwise with such a man in the Oval Office.
But hey, at least we got to feel good about ourselves for a little while. And really, isn't that all that matters these days?
Author's Note. A lot of readers have written in asking me how I came to the conclusion that Obama was an unremarkable student and that he benefited from affirmative action. Three reasons:
1) As reported by The New York Sun: "A
spokesman for the university, Brian Connolly, confirmed that Mr. Obama
spent two years at Columbia College and graduated in 1983 with a major
in political science. He did not receive honors..." In spite of not
receiving honors as an undergrad;Obama as
nevertheless dmitted o arvard Law. Why?
2) Obama imself as written e was a poor tudent s a young man. As the Baltimore Sun eported, in:
"'Obama's book 'Dreams from My Father,'....the president ecalled a time in his life...when he started to drift away from the path of success. I had learned not to care,' Obama wrote. '... Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it.' ut his mother confronted him about his behavior. Don't you think you're being a little casual about your future?" she asked him, according to the book. '... One of your friends was just arrested for drug possession. Your grades are slipping. You haven't even started on your college applications.'"
3) Most damning to me is the president's unwillingness to make his transcripts public. If Obama had really been a tellar tudent with impeccable grades as an undergrad, is there any doubt they would have been made public by now and rumpeted n he ront page of the New York Times as proof of is rilliance? To me it all adds up to affirmative action.