More Rubes Self-Identify

Frank Bruni of the New York Times has second thoughts about the man his paper was and is deeply in the tank for:

While most politicians write their stories once they’ve laid some claim to the spotlight and are already operating in its skeptical glare, Obama did so years in advance, setting the stage long before he strode onto it. The first edition of “Dreams From My Father,” a framing device for the campaigns and speeches to come, was published in 1995. He wasn’t even an Illinois state senator yet.

It was an act of careful and considered self-definition, and with the publication of David Maraniss’s new biography of Obama earlier this month, we learned just how careful and considered. Obama tailored characters to suit his themes and invented a few details of his family’s past, saying that a step-grandfather was killed in combat against Dutch troops in Indonesia when he really, according to Maraniss, died in a fall from a chair as he hung drapes.

One of the most widely cited observations in Maraniss’s biography, “Barack Obama: The Story,” is that he had a “determination to avoid life’s traps.” He refused to let circumstances box him in; craved room to maneuver; kept his options open. In college he floated between cultures and political and social groups, studiously avoiding commitment. In the Illinois State Senate, he stood out in part for the frequency with which he voted “present” rather than yea or nay. He wouldn’t be pinned or pigeonholed.

And now? He’s beholden to lawmakers’ whims, buffeted by global winds, as much a spectator as an agent of the most important developments around him, a leader of the free world who follows the news like the rest of us. Against Obama’s wishes and will, his attorney general is investigated and excoriated by a House panel. His jobs bill languishes. Egypt charts a once unexpected course, electing an Islamist president. The Syrian government pursues a bloody crackdown against its people, ignoring the Obama administration’s protests.

At times he looks dazed, and flails. To focus his economic message, he gave an unfocused 54-minute speech on the apparent theory that the more sentences in the mix, the greater the odds of a keeper.

But damn, aren't his trousers sharp? That was all it took to sway at least one of Bruni's fellow Timesmen.

Meanwhile, as Jim Geraghty of National Review Online's Campaign Spot blog writes today in his Morning Jolt email, "Every Once in a While, a Lefty Sees the Same Obama We See:"

Every once in a while, I begin to think that a big division in American life is not merely between the Left and the Right but the Informed and the Uninformed.

The lefties who cheer the individual mandate might have a worldview that is deeply disturbing to us, in its view of unlimited government authority and power, but at least they have a worldview. There are millions of Americans whose view on the individual mandate will change depending on how you phrase the question. Many Americans' views on health care are basically, "I should be given as much as I want, whenever I want, and someone else should pay for it," and they never think about it beyond that.

Liberal idealists and conservative idealists at least have a common passion, while the infuriating low-information voters who will decide this election cannot be bothered to pay attention long enough to make an informed decision.

And sometimes when you read a liberal idealist, you find them starting to echo some of your own themes.

I give you Matt Stoller, deeply disappointed lefty:

Jokes show how someone really sees the world, and the joke I'm thinking of is one [President Obama] made during a speech in March 2009, when the revelations of AIG's massive retention bonuses became public. It had been less than two months since Obama's inauguration, but the major policy framework of the administration -- the bailouts -- had been laid down. The AIG bonus scandal was outrageous to the public, a symbol of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars being funneled to an arrogant corporation that had helped destroy the economy.

Barack Obama had stepped up to the lectern to deliver a stern rebuke to AIG executives who had taken bonuses with taxpayer money. Obama talked of the outrage of an irresponsible company, and how his administration would do everything within its power to get the money back. But a few minutes in, he coughed, slightly, choking a bit, as his mouth was a bit dry. But after he coughed, he stopped, and reflected on the gesture with a joke. "I'm choked, choked with anger", he said. Obama chuckled. Reporters laughed. And it was funny, really funny. Because everyone in the room knew that Obama wasn't actually angry about the AIG bonuses, and never intended to do anything about it. No one there was angry about the bonuses, and everyone knew nothing would happen to AIG executives. The House would pass bills, which would die in the Senate. The only people angry were Americans at large, who could not believe that their government worked for Wall Street. So the joke was funny, ironic, cool. But the moment wasn't right for it, because this was a serious time for outrage -- so Obama quickly reverted to form, and the teleprompter took over. . . .

Yves wrote about this narrative a few weeks ago, when she pointed out his career in the Illinois state Senate was based on working for billionaire developers to destroy poor neighborhoods. Few really gets who he is, at his core, and almost no one is willing to publicly point it out. There are some who went to law school with him, who saw his enormous grasping social climbing tendencies, his eager corporate good old boy persona, his narcissistic calculations. But they are drowned out by the institutional left-wing voices, the fanboy reporters, the sycophantic labor leaders, the slavishly worshipful foundations, and the voters who cannot hear any alternative to the hope and change they know and love. The only mainstream narrative challenging hope and change is the stupid right-wing storyline that he's a Kenyan Muslim socialist. That's just racist idiocy. But there are those on the right who understand Obama's narcissism, and they may just make that their electoral narrative.

Think about this problem in a slightly different way. It's been three years. Why hasn't been there a great iconic impersonator of Barack Obama, like Tina Fey and Sarah Palin or Will Ferrell (or James Adomian) and George W. Bush? A comic impersonator reveals something about the core of an individual. The people imitating Obama seem to think that he's far more left-wing and principled beneath the surface, that if he let out who he really was, how really angry he is at the Republicans, that's the parody they hit. It falls flat, because it's not true to who he is. The truth is that he's a narcissistic sociopath dressed up as a cool corporate brand. The real Obama parody is an Obama who wears an Air Force One fleece over an Obama t-shirt, who says to a reporter "Now hang on, let me finish, speaking slowly and avoiding your question, which is, by the way excellent." He's President, and if you're upset with him, don't worry, look at that beautiful photo of Obama smiling and pointing.

As Jim writes, "There are large chunks of Stoller's blog post that conservatives will disagree with, but . . . it's pretty fascinating to see where his perspective of Obama as a narcissist overlaps with many conservatives."

And speaking of narcissistic presidents -- or in this case, an ex-president, Jimmy Carter shivs The Won. Or as Ed Morrissey neatly paraphrases, "Carter: My fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner is a 'widespread' human-rights violator, you know:"

Every President since Jimmy Carter left office has had reason to wish that Jimmy Carter had left the planet, too, perhaps to colonize Mars for future peanut farmers. Even Bill Clinton ended up tripping over Carter’s idiotic intervention in North Korea, which let Kim Jong-il off the hook that Clinton had carefully crafted.  Now Barack Obama gets to enjoy his predecessor’s political interventions, in this case aimed at Obama specifically:

A former U.S. president is accusing the current president of sanctioning the “widespread abuse of human rights” by authorizingdrone strikes to kill suspected terrorists.

Jimmy Carter, America’s 39 th president, denounced the Obama administration for “clearly violating” 10 of the 30 articles of theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, writing in a New York Times op-ed on Monday that the “United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.”

“Instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends,” Carter wrote.

What a racist that Carter fellow is for criticizing the president: