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.”
He compares Obama to “John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Quincy Adams, then Abraham Lincoln and … Woodrow Wilson.”
Oh no, he’s quite different.
They never got the Nobel Peace Prize despite their great accomplishments. Obama received it and has no great accomplishments. The first three, for example, created the American system, and did write a great deal of political philosophy. As for the intellectual influences on Obama, Kloppenberg ridicules ideas that any of these come from the left or anti-colonialist factors. Oh, no: “Adams and Jefferson were the only anti-colonialists whom Obama has been affected by. … He has a profound love of America.”
Look, you can love Obama if you want to do so, and vote for him (given Chicago’s traditions, perhaps several times) because you like his views and policies. But it is not necessary to believe such nonsense to do so.
The dominant forces in the intellectual scene have gone nuts. The professors in too many cases have become the village idiots of America, as much out of touch with their own country and reality as the French aristocracy was at the time of the revolution there.