Ed Driscoll

All The President's Yes Men

With a line “He makes Richard Nixon seem almost normal,” Roger L. Simon delivers perhaps the ultimate insult to Obama:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I found Anne Kornblut’s report in the Washington Post — “Obama’s 17-minute, 2,500-word response to woman’s claim of being ‘over-taxed’” — to be deeply disturbing. Although I disagree with most of Barack Obama’s policies, I took no pleasure in seeing a political opponent wound himself by talking on and on to the point of agitating his audience. The situation is much too grave for that. This is our country — all of us, Republican, Democrat and Independent. And I am now convinced of what I have long suspected — the United States has a president with a serious personality disorder.

Now I admit I am not a professional psychiatrist or psychologist, nor do I see myself even remotely as a paragon of mental health, but I have made a decent living for over thirty years as a fiction writer whose stock in trade is perforce studying people and this is one strange dude. He makes Richard Nixon seem almost normal.

I first began worrying about this during the Reverend Wright affair. Obama insisted, as we all recall, that he did not know the reverend’s views even though the then candidate had spent twenty years in his church, been married by him, had his children baptized by him and taken the inspiration for his book from Wright. Now most educated people would have a pretty good idea about Wright after five minutes, let alone twenty years. The reverend is not a subtle man. Yet Obama told us he didn’t know.

Was the candidate lying or was he just so dissociated from reality that he didn’t see what was in front of his eyes? Or perhaps a little of both? Whatever the conclusion, it is not a happy one. The same man is before us now — only we’re not in the midst of a campaign. We have no way out. He is leading our nation during a time of economic crisis with a world changing so rapidly that our heads spin.

Therapists often speak of “inappropriate affect” — laughing at sad news, etc. — as an indicator of psychological disturbance. That is not far from what Obama displayed at the question-and-answer session in Charlotte described by Kornblut when he endlessly replied to a woman’s query about taxation. His response was inappropriate, to say the least. It also was a demonstration that at heart he does not believe his own ideas. Otherwise, why take so long? Methinks he doth protest too much, as the Bard said. And protest he does, like a comedian who knows he is bombing but keeps telling jokes.

Obama and Nixon share a couple of similarities: like Nixon, domestically, Obama is governing in the statist mid-20th century “liberal” command and control economic mold of LBJ and FDR. But its in how both men were treated by the media that comparisons get interesting. As Victory Lasky wrote extensively in It Didn’t Start With Watergate, by the time he took office in January of 1969, virtually the entire Washington press core was gunning for Nixon. Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean that the Washington Post isn’t out to get you.

Meanwhile, Obama’s worldview was warped in almost precisely the opposite way. Having been described early on by the legacy media as literally the second coming of Lincoln, FDR, and JFK (though not Woodrow Wilson, curiously enough), Obama, egged on by his sycophantic inner circle, seemed to internalize his own press clippings.  The detached tone of the Is Barack Obama the Messiah? blog is curious — it’s hard to tell if they’re for or against the idea — but in its own weird way, its archives do a great job of documenting the feedback loop between the man and his most extreme sycophants.

By the time of Obama’s camp classic 2008 nomination speech in which he promised “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,”  a smarter and less self-obsessed man would have said to his speechwriter, “What, are you nuts? I can’t say stuff like that. People will laugh.” And indeed, the media would have, if it were any other man. As the great coda spoken by George C. Scott at the end of Patton goes:

Patton: [voiceover] For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph — a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.

Instead, in 2010, our president has Frank Rich whispering in his ear that he’s a comic book hero.

Update: While the media were out to destroy Nixon, former Washington Post journalist Lloyd Grove wonders if technology is about to do return the favor: “Is the White House press corps teetering (possibly tweeting) on the brink of obsolescence?”

Which of course, as ABC and Pajamas’s Michael Malone wrote at the tail end of the 2008 campaign, goes far to help explain the Fourth Estate’s near monolithic subservience to The One.

Update: Related thoughts from Jennifer Rubin: “Eloquent No More.”

Update: And of course, while Nixon had his famous 18-minute gap, Obama takes 17-minutes away from his audience that they’ll never have back. Meanwhile, GOP Congressional hopeful Kerry Roberts responds, “I just timed myself. I can say “no, it was not wise” in under two seconds. Next question, please…”