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It’s All Academic: The Detachment of President Obama

The president seems to tinker from a distance, engaged in politics like an academic rather than a flesh-and-blood citizen.

by
Melissa Clouthier

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September 12, 2009 - 12:17 am
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President Obama possesses a distressing detachment from both his words and actions. His cool demeanor now seems cold. His movie star nonchalance, calculated. His soaring rhetoric, the words of a pastor who has long since stopped believing them.

Yet it is not Obama who has changed. After having had time to watch him make decisions, the world now simply can see and comprehend who he is.

During the campaign, those who saw this dissonance in Barack Obama could be dismissed as partisan. His most strident critics were accused of heartless cynicism, or worse — bald racism. As if critics of the man were driven primarily by his skin color or else hated all things Democrat. Senator Obama had the misfortune of being both.

Those who disagreed did so because of their “reptilian brain,” said Janeane Garofalo.

Barack Obama seemed right. Processing his words through the frontal lobe, they sounded good. Since he wasn’t pressed or questioned, since even Bill O’Reilly seemed beguiled by Barack Obama’s verbal deftness, he rarely had to prove or defend. He was always given enough rhetorical wiggle room. He still is given that room, by the the press anyway. But something always felt wrong. It wasn’t a primal reaction to the “other,” like Olbermann and Garafalo like to claim. It was something ethereal, because Senator Obama had no concrete policies or past accomplishments besides community organizing upon which to stand. His associations aroused some suspicion, but to most they seemed trivial and the press was uninterested.

His associations seem more important these days — at least to the voters. And they’re providing concrete evidence of why some voters felt discomfort before.

The intangibles manifest now because the rhetorical rubber is meeting the policy road. President Obama still tries to have it all ways, but the constraints of legislation do not let that happen. His words matter now and his actions have consequences.

While the unemployment rate continues to rise, the president extends his indulgent Martha’s Vineyard vacation. Worse, when he returns to work, he promptly goes golfing. Forget the optics of such actions. The actions themselves are callous.

Now 9/11 is here. Who can forget it? Evidently, President Barack Obama can. It’s not just that he seems to want to diminish it with a National Day of Service — turning attention away from those lost and the new era we live in — it’s that he seems to not think the day matters all that much. It was cruel to send Air Force One through Manhattan with a military escort plane over the Statue of Liberty. The people were terrified, and this fear was wrought by their own president’s administration.

In addition, one cannot help but wonder about the timing of President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress only two days before the 9/11 anniversary. It seems to display a gross lack of perspective. The health care debate won’t be solved in one peppy speech. Congress and Americans were told to sit and listen, not unlike the nation’s schoolchildren this week, and be lectured by the professor in chief.

Some humility in the face of such a great and terrible day would be wise.

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