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Obama: a modern Gatsby? (Or, can you connect the dots?)

August 29th, 2008 - 7:12 am

Here’s a little parlor game while everyone waits around to see who will be the next Vice-President of the United States: Connect the dots and discover the answer to the $64,000-dollar question:

Who is Barack Hussein Obama?

This is a game for advanced players because:

You cannot see many of the dots!

For example:

1) We are not supposed to use Obama’s middle name, but why not? Other politicians are fair game for every sort journalistic tweaking, why is Obama exempt. His origins are shadowy, to say the least, why shouldn’t we signal our acknowledgment of that by mentioning, when we choose, his middle name?

2) Obama and Bill Ayers. Bill Ayers is the unrepentant terrorist (involved in at least twenty bombings across the US in the 1960s and 1970s) with whom Obama worked closely in Chicago in the 1990s. How closely? That’s a dot that Obama’s people don’t want you to discover. Obama said Ayers was “just some guy in my neighborhood.” In fact, Obama’s political life was launched from Ayers’s living room and Obama was chairman of a foundation started and largely guided by Ayers Ayers. Rather more than “just a guy in my neighborhood.” Fortunately, Stanley Kurtz and Andrew McCarthy are working away to uncover that dot and present it and its many tentacles to the public.

As you proceed with the game, you’ll find many other dots missing–but persevere! In his column today–aptly titled “The Perfect Stranger”–Charles Krauthammer describes Obama as “the ultimate self-made man, a dazzling mysterious Gatsby.” I seem to be immune to the dazzlement, just as I have never been susceptible to Obama’s “eloquence” (I find his oratory a teeth-grinding congeries of clichés), but I think Krauthammer is on to something with the allusion to Jay Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s brilliant, corrupt, anti-hero. “Who is this Gatsby anyway,” one character asks “Some bootlegger?” Well, it is hard to say. Gatsby worked hard at the art of self-creation and he burned with a ferocious but shatteringly evanescent light. “The truth was,” Fitzgerald says elsewhere in the book, “that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.”

Mark Steyn once wrote that he couldn’t listen to a speech by Obama without giggling. I know what he means. Obama’s campaign is like some histrionic Children’s Crusade, from the O-Bobma-the-Builder slogans (“Yes we can!”) to the Wizard-of-Oz-Meets-Wagner histrionics (who will ever forget the Greek theater stage set?). Gatsby, Fitzgerald wrote, “invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.” Just so.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Gatsby–I mean, about Obama–is the interweaving of charm and the authoritarian imperative. The steely face of the latter shines through whenever anyone tries to collect and connect the dots and answer the question “Who is Barack Obama.” Hence, for example, the disgusting and hysterical attack on Stanley Kurtz by Obama’s minions when he was interviewed on Milt Rosenberg’s Extension 720 a few days ago. A while back I noted in this space that “I used to think that Obama was a sort of updated version of George McGovern, with a generous helping of Jimmy Carter’s self-righteousness thrown in for good measure. I now believe I misread Obama. He is something far more grandiloquent, and far more toxic. He is a reprise of 1960s radicalism, burnished by a Harvard education, underwritten by the simmering resentments of an anti-democratic elite that never recovered from the shock of Ronald Reagan, the end of the Soviet Union, and the stupendous, historically unprecedented, prosperity of the last two decades. They will not easily forgive America for those victories, and an Obama presidency would make sure they were not repeated.”

I continue to believe that, only I now believe I underestimated the extent and virulence of those resentments and the disaster that an Obama administration would represent for this country. Fortunately, I grow more confident daily that Obama as about as much chance of becoming President as the Wizard of Oz.

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