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The Intellectual Class: New Book Calls Obama a ‘Philosopher President’

Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg makes a groundbreaking discovery: Obama is also ... wait for it ... a "true intellectual."

by
Barry Rubin

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November 13, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Just when you think the American intellectual elite has hit rock bottom, you discover that the elevator is still headed downward. Indeed, it is hard to believe that much of what we are seeing isn’t satire.

On both points, consider if you will (as Rod Serling used to say introducing the Twilight Zone episodes) James T. Kloppenberg, a historian from Harvard University. A New York Times writer positively gushes at Kloppenberg’s great discovery: President Barack Obama is a centrist and “a true intellectual.”

Professor Kloppenberg, an intellectual doesn’t need to use a teleprompter.

Kidding aside, Obama isn’t a true intellectual, and the reason has nothing to do with his policies or politics. An intellectual draws on a serious body of study and research.

Where is the depth to Obama’s speeches and actions? Where is evidence that he really has absorbed history, philosophy, or law? Where are the specific references to thinkers and writers that aren’t canned for him by his staff? Obama has no serious publications, not even anything of note in the Harvard Law Review which he edited.

Writing a couple of autobiographies doesn’t count.

The evidence just isn’t there. Obama is not an intellectual. He is someone with the reputation of being an intellectual, whose policies are congenial to the current dominant ideas among Western intellectuals.

As for being a centrist/pragmatist, Obama is definitely not that either. A pragmatist looks for policies that work and is willing to change his views and actions sharply if he understands that something different is needed. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton were pragmatists. Obama is driven to a greater extent by ideology.

Consider the failure of his economic policies. When Roosevelt concluded that laissez-faire wouldn’t work, he initiated a series of other efforts, dropping each one if it didn’t measure up. Obama simply moves straight ahead on health care, Keynesian economics, and other policies without significant compromise or adjustment to conditions.

Kloppenberg, in proclaiming views that are objective nonsense, gave “a standing-room-only lecture to prolonged applause about his forthcoming intellectual biography” of Obama. He explained — I’m not kidding — that he sees Obama (quoting the Times reporter who was present) “as a kind of philosopher president, a rare breed that can be found only a handful of times in American history.”

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