Belmont Club

Personal or Business?

Doug Ross @ Journal has an article up titled “Forever Six” which argues with some modicum of plausibility that poor President Obama is a victim of arrested development. It’s an entertaining essay and might even be true. It lays out the six characteristics of a narcissist and follows each with numerous examples from the president’s own behavior, taken from press reports or books.

This is an example of what might be called arguing from a character defect. Since Obama is ‘defective’ then he is unqualified to be president. Okay.

Four years ago a similar argument about the President was made from the other direction. It might be called ‘arguing from self-evident superlative genius.’.

Interestingly enough many of those who advocated the election of Obama in 2008 did so not for reasons of experience or qualification, but because they believed he possessed some transcendental quality. Confronted with his blank track record his advocates pointed to the success of his campaign as the proof of his competence. It was a classic case of begging the question which went unremarked because his personal genius was supposedly so self-evident that he could learn anything on the job.

Historian Michael Bechloss said in 2008 that “whatever one’s partisan views this is a guy whose IQ is off the charts … he’s probably the smartest guy ever to become President.” Nor was he alone. In the same year a Yahoo posting board concluded that he was the smartest President since Thomas Jefferson. Journalist Andrea Mitchell believed his administration consisted of an “all star” cabinet.

In hindsight many of those who claimed to be dazzled by his light will wish they had never said that.  If Obama proves less stellar than commonly thought he may also prove less defective than many now think. We will know all the answers — eventually.

These approaches stand in contrast to what might be called the Clint Eastwood school of thought. In the famous speech he gave at the Republican national convention Eastwood said who Obama was did not count for much.  It didn’t matter whether he dressed well, spoke eloquently or communicated nightly with the spirits. What counted was how Obama did his job. Here’s how Eastwood put it:

I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen.

Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we — we own this country.

We — we own it. It is not you owning it, and not politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours.

And — so — they are just going to come around and beg for votes every few years. It is the same old deal. But I just think it is important that you realize , that you’re the best in the world. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or whether you’re libertarian or whatever, you are the best. And we should not ever forget that. And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go.

Okay, just remember that. And I’m speaking out for everybody out there. It doesn’t hurt, we don’t have to be.


In the Eastwood analytical framework the question was simple: did he cut it or not? Nothing personal, just business.

In the Clint Eastwood formulation you could like Barack Obama. You could even admire him. You could argue that he might make a fine pitchman for soap, or a good father, or a great motivational speaker. But if he was a busted flush as President then he ought to seek employment elsewhere.

Roger Ebert thought the Eastwood speech was pitiful at the time.

“Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic,” tweeted film critic Roger Ebert as Eastwood ad-libbed to an audience of millions – and one empty chair – on stage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

“He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.”

Roger, he can still be your hero. It may turn out that Eastwood was the kindest critic on the floor that night — and proved far from senile.  He made the shot you didn’t think he could — and all because his mule was laughing.


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