Thursday, October 8, 2009

And the word is.....

Conservative critics have of Mr. Obama have lately been commenting that he seems a trifle self-centered. "Is he vain?" has become the rhetorical flourish. He may be. He may also believe that he connects with the common person by relating anecdotes from his underprivileged background. I, for one, am moved to tears by the challenges he faced as editor of the Harvard Law Review.

I am more troubled by what he says in those rare instances when he is not discussing himself (admittedly, I am paraphrasing):
  • "Iran is a little country and far away; it's no threat to us."
  • "But for the war in Iraq, we would have the Arabic speaking soldiers we need in Afghanistan."
Iran is far away, but well placed to disrupt the world's energy supplies if it wants to. Arabic speakers would be of little use in Afghanistan, where Pashtun is the primary language.

Slips such as these, which occur with startling regularity when the teleprompter is off duty, leave me wondering whether Mr. Obama truly grasps the complexities of the real world.

Even his scripted words have a hollow ring. "Hope and change." I can't eat hope and the only change I've seen is soaring unemployment. I haven't even seen the shovel-ready jobs the stimulus package was supposed to provide. By the way, do those jobs - patching asphalt, painting street signs, changing bulbs in traffic lights - open the door to viable careers in this "Information Age?" Does Mr. Obama encourage either of his daughters to study hard so she can grow up to drive the asphalt mixer? Certainly if I had school aged daughters, I'd be telling them to study so they can invent an automated mixer, and make lots of money. Or maybe they could invent a new substance for road paving, something that would outlast asphalt and cost less. I am at a loss to explain Mr. Obama's apparent commitment to making Depression era jobs available to everyone.

I should not forget his acceptance speech, in which he declared a "rebirth of freedom." Some would forgive him for stealing from Lincoln, for Obama, like Lincoln, is an Illinois politician. That fact makes Lincoln's title "Honest Abe" all the more striking. But I found, and still find, the expropriation offensive. Lincoln used the phrase in the depths of the Civil War, when the nation was fighting for its survival, and thousands were giving their lives to end the scourge of slavery. The oppression Mr. Obama overcame was apparently the Bush Administration and its ugly willingness to use force to defend American interests and oppose murderous dictators. (Mr. Obama evidently sees nothing wrong with murderous dictators, but I must leave that for another day.)

In sum, Mr. Obama has a gift for a well turned phrase. More, with his stage presence and polished delivery, he can make even a passing remark seem profound. But in most cases, none of the words survive close scrutiny; the speaker is exposed as glib, but without substance.

In a word, Mr. Obama is fatuous.

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