Saturday, March 24, 2012

Obama Embarrasses Himself and Us

American intellectuals embraced Barack Obama with a fervor rarely seen in deep thinkers.

After years of suffering the verbal infelicities of George W. Bush, they yearned to have a president who was one of them. No more mangled syntax and verbal blundering, Obama would bring rhetorical brilliance and pellucid prose to the White House.

They never even imagined that their love for Obama bordered on idolatry.

The cognoscenti and the intelligentsia believed that Barack Obama’s verbal brilliance would usher in a new era of respect for the great American mind.

They did not care that Obama bowed down to foreign potentates. They ignored his propensity to apologize for America. Clumsy diplomacy was irrelevant when balanced against Obama’s soaring rhetoric and outright genius.

You might say, as a college classmate of mine once did, that the gates of their perception were so cleansed that they were blinded by the sunlight. Or you might say that they had gazed too long at the last eclipse. You might even say that they were simply proving the truth in the old adage, that love is blind.

In order to sustain their belief in their idol, our greatest thinkers had to put their minds in sleep mode. They needed to ignore Obama’s factual errors, his verbal clumsiness, and his marked tendency to repeat himself… over and over and over again.

They were up to the challenge.

They might have noticed the stream of error and misstatement coming from their own favorite rhetor, but still, they knew how they felt. When your mind has been marinated in therapy what really matters is how things make you feel.

Intellectuals did not much care about whether Obama had embarrassed America. They are cosmopolitan; they live in the realm of ideas; they do not identify as members of nation states.

Even if Obama embarrassed that social construct called America, they knew that his towering intellect would never embarrass them… the class of self-proclaimed great American thinkers.

Well, not so fast.

Yesterday the Weekly Standard picked up on a comedic routine from a Danish talk show. While reporting on a visit by the Danish Prime Minister to the White House the host pointed out that Obama had said that the Danes were punching above their weight.

It’s a metaphor from boxing. It’s meant to be a compliment.

Unfortunately, it was not the first time that Obama had used the same boxing metaphor. In fact, the host pointed out, Obama had also used it when receiving leaders from Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, the Philippines, and so on.

Either Obama was so enamored of this metaphor that he had to keep repeating it, like a verbal tick, or else, the crack White House speechwriting team was so lacking in creativity that it could not come up with even a variation on this punchy metaphor.

If you watch the clip from Danish television, you will also notice that, every time Obama trotted out this beaten down metaphor, he spoke it as though it were a flash of brilliance. Our president seems to believe that no one will ever call him out on his singular lack of originality.

In one sense he knows his audience. The illiterati who run mainstream media outlets will never hold Obama up for ridicule. They leave that for those who possess journalistic integrity.

Unfortunately, someone in Denmark has noticed, so now the whole world will know that Barack Obama has found another way to embarrass himself and his nation.

It’s not surprising that this news should come to us from Denmark. After all, Denmark gave us Hans Christian Andersen and Hans Christian Andersen gave us the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

It takes a Dane to see through a collective illusion.

No comments: