Where Next for Obama?
Magic can turn failure into a resume enhancement.
August 29, 2011 - 12:00 am
I was just leafing through a Spider-Man comic book, an ethnographic foray into lowpop and an instructive transit into the more colorful regions of the cultural code. Two pages in, New York City is trembling on the verge of chaos owing to the sudden apparition of the evil sorcerer Baron Mordo, hovering in the sky and about to unleash his wraiths and goblins to wreak devastation, first upon the city and then upon the entire globe. Spidey seeks help from his old friend Doctor Strange, “Earth’s policeman against occult bad guys,” who explains: “Mordo is always seeking for more power” in his quest to destroy the world. Spidey reflects: “More power. But the world is destroyed?” To which Doctor Strange replies: “He’s not a great thinker, but he is a master magician.” The application to the Illusionist-in-Chief is irresistible.
Rush Limbaugh is convinced that Obama is “engineering the decline of the American Republic,” giving us “Obamageddon. Barackalypse Now.” Donald Trump for his part believes that the president is incompetent but not malicious, which does not offer much in the way of consolation. Incompetence is as malicious does. Dinesh D’Souza in The Roots of Obama’s Rage thinks that Obama is taking post-colonial revenge on imperial America. Mark Steyn in After America pegs the president as resembling “a snooty viceregal grandee passing through some tedious outpost,” as if the job were really “too small for him and he’s just killing time until something more commensurate with his stature comes along.” Indeed, “America has no greater purchase on him than Papua or Peru.” Obama sees himself not as an American devoted to his people but as a citizen of the world, a far nobler commitment than merely serving an unexceptional country.
Like many others, I have been studying the Obama phenomenon since he first appeared on the national scene and although I could not initially quite make him out, I knew that he spelled trouble. My suspicions deepened as his candidacy soared and by the time he gave his Denver coronation speech I knew beyond the slightest hesitation that he was as fake as the classical columns he spoke before and as artificial as the teleprompters that accompanied him everywhere. From whatever angle one examined him, the man was unmitigated bad news for a country swept up in a protracted seizure of idolatrous frenzy. The ensuing years only confirmed the fact that, in electing him to the presidency, America had done itself megaharm.
Obama is a man whose essence remains an enigma — he himself writes in The Audacity of Hope that “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” This is why so many articles and books have been written on the president’s origins, ideas, motivation, and character, often arriving at radically different conclusions. At times, he seems humble; at others, arrogant. He proclaims himself as a peace weaver, yet his rhetoric and conduct often express a strong current of choler and resentment. He is regarded by the press and his acolytes as savvy and intellectually nimble, yet his many sophomoric gaffes and goofs (e.g., the “Austrian language,” “corpse-man,” “57 states,” constitutional principles set down “20 centuries ago,” “Mexicans” lived on the land “long before America was even an idea,” “the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor,” etc.) prove otherwise.
But although the man himself remains something of a conundrum, his formative principles are no longer a mystery. Irrespective of his protean nature, his political identity is fixed, as the roster of his affiliations, sources, mentors, friends, associates, and appointees renders undeniable, and as his executive decisions corroborate. He is a hard-left ideologue and socialist plutocrat who is intent, as he himself vowed, to transform the country into something its Constitution never envisioned it as becoming. As Norman Podhoretz has cogently argued in the Wall Street Journal, Obama is simply “the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president.”
At the same time, Mark Steyn is on to something, for the man who was reluctant to wear the American flag pin on his lapel and callously observed that the United States could absorb another 9/11 gives the strong impression of being coolly indifferent to his country’s real welfare. “He’s the first president,” Steyn writes, “to give off the pronounced whiff that he’s condescending to the job.” Obama may be a study in contradictions — playboy, party-animal, dilettante, neo-Marxist zealot, multi-millionaire, and, in effect, the only child in the room — but two things are reasonably clear. He is, in the larger frame, a community disorganizer, and he probably has his sights set on what passes in his mind for a higher calling.
And that higher calling is not especially hard to discern. If the timing is right, when the insipid Ban Ki-moon vacates his seat as secretary general of the United Nations, Barack Obama will almost certainly be acclaimed to succeed him. As Limbaugh said about liberals, “Failure is a resume enhancement.” The post is tailor made for a charismatic but reprobate ex-president with Third World credentials. The UN is plainly the most corrupt institution on the face of the planet, is massively anti-Israel, and is dominated by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It seeks to extend its influence into the sphere of transnational and perhaps even post-national governance, working in particular to supersede the purview and enactment of American law. It is flush with privilege and cash. Obama’s “reset” friends are Security Council heavyweights. And the UN secretary general commands the prestige that comes with the numinous accoutrements of supposedly beneficial authority.
This is obviously where Obama belongs, an office in which he can exercise his talent for mischief unencumbered by a restive Congress, fiscal constraints, and an increasingly fractious electorate. He would be in a position to facilitate legislation that redefines the nature of human rights, more in accordance with Islamic assumptions. He would not need to worry about having to veto Security Council resolutions against Israel so as not to alienate Middle America and Jewish campaign donors. The power he would wield might be indirect; nevertheless, with his wealthy and oligarchic friends, his (unearned) Peace Prize, his pectoral sense of self, his ideological convictions, and his gift for legerdemain and bewitchment, this caster of spells could do enormous damage. It would also permit him to exact retribution upon an ungrateful electorate — as of this writing, his approval rating languishes at 39%. He would, in short, be free to practice his specific brand of thaumaturgy.
I have no doubt that Barack Obama is an accomplished necromancer. Another way of putting it is that he is one of those “lofty barbarians,” analyzed by Lezek Kolakowski in The Presence of Myth. Such a person seeks to conjure what he conceives as “the perfection of humanity,” refusing “to admit the difference between good and evil” as something outside his circle of incantatory dominion. He controls and subsumes all distinctions of value within himself as he proceeds to work his runic will. He decides, invokes, summons, ordains, and finally implements, either in himself or through his subordinates. Whether by accident or intention, the result is always destructive. The ghouls come marching in.
“If Mordo can create enough magical chaos,” says Doctor Strange, “he can open a gate to the Eldritch Elder ones.” This seems a possible scenario and perhaps not even Spidey would be able to bring the Baron down from his hovering eminence.