“Obama Scores as Exotic Who Says Nothing,” which, as we mentioned yesterday, Froma Harrop wrote at Real Clear Politics at the end of 2006:
What Obama really thinks should be done about health care and the terrorist threat remain secrets that his book does not unlock. His two years in the Senate certainly haven’t revealed any bold policy ideas.
This leave-them-guessing strategy slips out in the book’s prologue. “I serve as a blank screen,” Obama writes, “on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” He notifies readers that “my treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete.” It takes some doing for a politician to write a 364-page book, his second volume, and skate past all controversy.
The leave ’em guessing strategy worked so well that two years later, Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose had the following exchange on the eve of the 2008 election:
CHARLIE ROSE: I don’t know what Barack Obama’s worldview is.
TOM BROKAW: No, I don’t, either.
ROSE: I don’t know how he really sees where China is.
BROKAW: We don’t know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy.
ROSE: I don’t really know. And do we know anything about the people who are advising him?
BROKAW: Yeah, it’s an interesting question.
ROSE: He is principally known through his autobiography and through very aspirational (sic) speeches.
BROKAW: Two of them! I don’t know what books he’s read.
ROSE: What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?
BROKAW: There’s a lot about him we don’t know.
Almost a month after the election, a CNN journalist wrote, “The Americans who are comparing him to those remarkable predecessors are putting a lot of faith in a man they barely know.”
Flash-forward to yesterday, where Jonathan Bernstein wrote at the Washington Post:
There’s a Republican-driven idea out there, one Sarah Palin is big on repeating, that Barack Obama wasn’t fully vetted by the press in 2008. It’s preposterous. The truth is that Obama has been the mainstream Democrat he ran as, and I’d guess that it’s very difficult to tie whatever idiosyncrasies he’s had within that to anything in particular about his personal history, and certainly not anything we didn’t know about in November 2008.
Which seems fair, when Tom Brokaw, Charlie Rose and a CNN staffer each admitted they didn’t know anything about the guy they had just voted for and for whom they and their networks had spent the entire year leading his cheerleading squad.
Speaking of not knowing the president, the Post today runs an excerpt from David Maraniss’s Oba-biography, focusing on Barack Obama, JFK-style liberal hawk:
On a personal level, he seems at ease in the presence of soldiers and sailors, more so than he would be in the midst of an antiwar rally; on a policy level he seems increasingly comfortable wielding the powers of a commander in chief.
Obama is the first president to whom Vietnam is ancient history. He carries none of the psychological baggage of that war, for better or worse. Every young man in the baby-boom generation of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had to deal with Vietnam somehow, but by the time Obama came of age, the war and the draft were over. His liberal mother felt at home in the peace movement, and he took many characteristics from her, but he also chafed at her idealistic naivete, which he viewed as a relic of the ’60s. From an early age he wanted to be harder and cooler than his mother, less Pollyannaish, more pragmatic. His use of the military option in his foreign policy reflects that dual sensibility. Clinton grew up wanting to be JFK, but Obama thinks more like him.
He does? The guy who launched his political career in Bill Ayers’ living room? Who spent 20 years at the foot of Rev. Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright’s pulpit? Who during his stopover for coffee in the Senate dressed down Gen. Petraeus? Whose early campaign ad promised he would gut military spending? Who returned the Churchill bust to England? The guy who says “Corpse-man?”
Incidentally, doesn’t this completely obliterate Bernstein’s column yesterday? Who in 2008 knew that compared to Obama, John McCain was such a dovish pantywaist?
Of course, to whatever extent Obama is comfortable with the military, it could be because he’d like more of civilian America to resemble them, as Matthew Continetti writes at the Washington Free Beacon on “Generalissimo Obama:”
The way to “honor” American heroes who serve overseas, Obama said, is “by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for—the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.”
What does “coming together” mean? Why, silly, it means passing Obama’s domestic agenda: more money for education and job training and to “jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil,” and just happen to be owned by donors to the president’s campaigns. Missing from the 2010 speech was a line saying the path to heroism is through support for the Buffett Rule, probably because David Axelrod hadn’t yet come up with that particular gimmick.
The nation-as-army metaphor reemerged, dramatically, as the 2012 campaign began. Jonah Goldberg was justifiably disgusted at the message of this year’s State of the Union Address, in which the president suggested that Americans as a whole might take their cues from uniformed soldiers who are “not consumed with personal ambition,” “don’t obsess over their differences,” “focus on the mission at hand,” and “work together.”
Obama finds inspiration in the most hierarchical and selfless elements of military life. “Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example,” he said. We imagine all of us would have to buy health insurance. Taxes and spending would be high. A new Volt would sit in every driveway.
The commander-in-chief issued additional orders in recent days. When he unveiled his latest campaign slogan Monday, he told his supporters, and presumably the rest of the country, that it is time to march “Forward,” lemming-like, off a cliff.
And on Tuesday, in the televised address at the close of his targeted Afghan night raid, Obama challenged his audience to “summon that same sense of common purpose” one finds in “our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians in Afghanistan,” and “redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.”
Obama’s social militarism inverts civil-military relations in a democratic republic. Traditionally—and one suspects that this is still the case for practically all servicemen—men and women join the Armed Forces because they believe America is worthy of their duty and protection. But Obama seems to suggest that, sorry, we are not quite there yet. The America that actually is “worthy of their sacrifice” has not come into existence. It exists “forward,” somewhere in the future. We must bring it into being by emulating the self-sacrificing troops, by suppressing our ambition and disagreement and differences, by “focusing on the mission” of building our country on a New Foundation.
The left’s century-old Moral Equivalent of War trope sure has some half-life, huh?