The Associated Press says people around the world are badly disappointed that President Obama failed to live up to their rock-star expectations. But many expectations were inherently contradictory to others, like wanting a ‘cheap expensive car’. Still they expected him to meet them. Somalians waited for him to bring prosperity to Mogadishu, Europeans hoped he’d be more supportive of a failing European socialism; Muslims were astonished at his support for gay marriage while waiting for his rapproachment to Islam. There is surprise that his repudiation of the policies of his ‘hated predecessor George W. Bush’ may now result in the restarting of genocide. “To be frank, the Republicans protected the Kurdish people, while Obama’s administration is not”. The Chinese are disappointed he still supports Japan, while the Japanese are sorry at his submissiveness to China. In other words, the Obama’s international supporters expected him to do what a domestic supporter hoped he would do: pay her rent and fuel bills.
Maybe that’s what happens when a person runs as a ‘blank screen’ on which everyone can project their expectations. The fantasy figure thereby created can hardly exist in reality. You can’t get a retreating, protecting, bill-paying, deficit-cutting, gay supportive, African-American authentic, metrosexual, SEAL buddy President.
Some of these inflated expectations are not Obama’s fault. They are not even Axelrod’s. They are the consequence of a journalism that sees politics as celebrity drama. For example, CBS’s Bill Whittaker describes the President’s arrival in Los Angeles to raise money from gays and lesbians in these breathless terms: “A-list actors and producers arrived in style. The star of the evening, the president, arrived at LAX in his private jet, Air Force One, then choppered off to join his soiree — a $40,000-a-plate fundraiser.”
Even though Whittaker may merely have been trying to write clever copy there will be readers — overseas if not domestic — who will actually believe that Air Force One, if not the entire United States is the private property of its new King whose armies are off fighting “on my behalf”, as the President himself recently said, probably without thinking it through.
The reason is that most of the world was once and in many parts still is ruled by strongmen who were virtual kings. So to describe the President in terms of Robert Mugabe is something many understand. But the wish should not become father to the deed. The post World War 2 “imperial Presidency” is now dangerously close to becoming a global godhood. That is a job that no man, however competent, can ever fill without disappointing his global constituents.
In the rush to make America ‘more like the world’ many forgot that much of the world wanted to become in fact like America. The oikophobic elite may not believe this, yet it may neverthless be true. Can the President ever become a mere elected official again, operating under the defined powers of the Constitution? Or is that idea now somehow unworkable, being already more than a hundred years old and like the similarly aged Constitution, completely irrelevant? Has Air Force One now permanently become a royal conveyance?