Roger’s Rules

Obama and Capgrass Syndrome

Notwithstanding Inauguration Fever, there are signs of unhappiness in Obamaland. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is just about to begin her tenure as the first-ever female head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is deeply distressed by Obama’s pick of Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, to head the FBI [Oops: wrong acronym: as a reader points out, Obama picked him to head the CIA: “FBI, CIA, ONI. We’re all in the same alphabet soup.” –The Professor in North by NorthWest].  “I wasn’t even consulted,” sniffed Feinstein, dabbing her eyes (I paraphrase). And Obama’s choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inaugural sent poor Frank Rich into orbit. Reaching for his most opprobrious epithet, Mr. Rich warned that he discerned “a faint tinge of Bush” creeping into the otherwise immaculate reverie that was his image of Barack Obama. Any moment now, I expect an outbreak of Capgrass Syndrome to cascade through the ranks of the faithful.

Capgras Syndrome? That’s the delusion, named for the French shrink Jean Marie Joseph Capgras, that “a close relative or friend has been replaced by an impostor, an exact double, despite recognition of familiarity in appearance and behavior.” (See here for more.)

How could Obama, who promised Change, assemble an administration virtually indistinguishable from that of Bill Clinton? How could he add insult to injury by asking Bob Gates, George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, to stay on? How could he pick Lawrence Summers as his top economic advisor? Didn’t Obama know that Summers had trespassed on one of the most sacrosanct of prohibitions by offering an independent thought touching on what David Stove called “the intellectual capacity of women”? How dare he?

Yes, it’s cognitive-dissonance time among the Obamaniacs, and I fully expect widespread sightings of Capgras Syndrome among the faithful. (I also expect The New York Times to discover that the world is a complicated place.) It won’t be long, I predict, before you hear people assuring us that, really, the genuine Obama is locked up in Bill Ayers’s basement and that the chap scheduled to take the oath of office on January 20 is an impostor carefully fabricated by (say) Hillary Clinton.

How bad will it get? Hard to say. My own suspicion is that on the big issues–the “spread-the-wealth-around,” nationalize-health-care, rule-by-politically-correct-judicial-fiat issues–Obama will be everything that the Left could want. The question, of course, is whether it is what the country as a whole will want. In a recent column, Charles Krauthammer warned that delight among the center right about some of Obama’s appointments was likely premature, not to say entirely misplaced. “Don’t be fooled by Bob Gates staying on,” Krauthammer wrote. “Obama didn’t get elected to manage Afghanistan. He intends to transform America. And he has the money, the mandate and the moxie to go for it.”

In the end, it may be that paranoia, not Capgras Syndrome, will be the serious mental health issue of the day. And, as the poet Delmore Schwartz pointed out, even paranoids have enemies.