Sometimes a conman makes a first impression so magnetic, the timing of the vaporwear he’s selling seems so perfect, and his marks so eager for his spiel, they eagerly hypnotize themselves without all that much coaxing. Victor Davis Hanson explores “The Madness of 2008:”
Pundits vied for superlatives. On little evidence, Christopher Buckley assured us that Obama possessed “a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect.” For some, proof of Obama’s godhead became almost physical — a “perfectly creased pant” for David Brooks, a tingling leg for Chris Matthews. For Evan Thomas he was a “sort of God”; for one blue-chip historian he was the smartest man with the highest IQ ever running for the presidency. And on and on, as huge crowds acted as if they were watching Paul McCartney on tour in 1966. After the election, there was real apprehension that the country might not make it for the two and a half months until an elected Obama could take power.
Given that there was no evidence from Obama’s legislative career to justify such superlatives, we can only assume that our intellectual elites got caught up in the faux Greek columns, the Obama tutorials for fainting crowds about proper first aid, the teleprompted emphatics of “Let me be perfectly clear” and “Make no mistake about it,” the Latinate motto “Vero possumus” on the faux presidential seal on his campaign podiums, the boast that Obama & Co. were “the ones we’ve been waiting for,” the messianic promise to cool the planet and lower the seas, the Lincoln self-comparisons, and the other embarrassing childish banalities.
Obama, it is true, ran a brilliant campaign in 2008, hinting to the Other that as a non-white he shared both their racial bona fides and their frustrations, hinting to white elites that his own unique heritage would end racial hostilities and thus allow them to square the circle of living largely separate elite lives and not having to feel guilty about it. He dropped his g’s and went into Southern cadences among African Americans, and then back again into wonkish academese to mainstream whites. It was well known that in impromptu talks he stuttered and stumbled with uh’s in deer-in-the-headlights fashion, and used the pronouns I, me, my, and mine ad nauseam, but such unease was ignored given his teleprompted eloquence and the considerable elite investment in his symbolism.
In sum, in 2008 Obama gave America more than enough evidence to doubt that he was ready for the presidency, but when a nation becomes unhinged by trivialities like “hope and change,” there is not much one can do — until the patient wakes up from his trance and in embarrassment asks, “What exactly was all that nuttiness in 2008 about?”
We will be fathoming that strange madness of 2008 for decades to come.
Afterwards, it’s all fun and games until the marks realize they’ve been sold a bill of goods, and then wonder where they go to get their own credibility back — which they’ll need to promote the wears of the next bunco artist.
Perhaps those who willingly allowed themselves to be sold a bill of goods in 2008 atone in strange ways. In his post on far left historian (and alleged plagiarist) Rick Perlstein’s new biography of President Reagan’s rise to power, Orrin Judd dubs Perlstein “The Accidental Hagiographer:”
As you can see here, the premise of this volume is not only hilarious but inflates Ronald Reagan into a mythical hero far moreso than any of the fawning texts we on the right produce: the gnostic reality, known only to the Left, is that America is nothing special and, for one brief shining moment, in the 70s everyone was about to realize that, but Reagan, through the exercise of little more than his personal will, restores the delusion that America is more important than other states.If Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh had given Reagan that much credit for reshaping the world around himself, they’d be dismissed as overenthusiastic cultists. But Reagan looms so large in the mind of the Left that Friend Perlstein can’t see he’s gone far beyond any Reagan fanboy of the right in his claims for the greatness (let’s say we use the term in its value neutral sense) of the Gipper.
Perhaps in writing about how the mythical heartland of his imagination (insert Pauline Kael reference here) was hypnotized by the ebullient speechmaking of an upbeat presidential candidate offering to restore his party to greatness after its recent, seemingly fatal stumbles on the national stage, and upend the perceived malaise of the times, Perlstein had the right notion, but the wrong presidential candidate. Or simply wished to project his own party’s gullibility onto the other side of the aisle.
Update: “Take a minute today, though, to appreciate that this guy, the epitome of in-touch cultural cool in 2008, is now so at risk of being seen as ‘out of touch’ that Axelrod and Bill Burton have to eat sh*t publicly as damage control. Oh well. As Amanda Curtis could tell you, sometimes even the most practiced Democrat run out of things to say.”