Monday, February 15, 2010

Gimme the First One

The very best of the assessments of Barack Obama that I've read lately is this one by Michael Brenner that appeared in The Huffington Post a day or so ago. Brenner argues that Obama is a split personality basically, with one Obama superimposed on the other. He begins with this none-too-flattering observation:

A few elements of Obama's personality are now evident: a strong narcissistic streak, an ingrained sense of superiority, a nimbleness - intellectual and political - enabled by the incredible lightness of his conviction about anything, an audacious ambition yet no gumption for a fight.
It doesn't get any better from there. The Obama we all voted for is "the visible, surface man . . .  the epitome of an enlightened, Ivy League, socially responsible liberal." The community organizer, the orator, the optimist, the African-American activist. But what's lurking under this is the real Obama: 
. . . who has surfaced as he quickly shed his 'liberal' skin amidst the trappings of the White House. This other personality . . . is the underlying one - truer to the man's core nature. This is the Obama who twice in his young career sought out positions in big corporate law firms; this is the Obama who was raised by three Kansans who instilled in him conservative heartland values; this is the Obama who relishes wealth and what it can buy; this is the Obama who feels more at ease with his Wall Street buddies (Jaime Dimon, et al) playing golf than with anyone of the Move On American crowd; this is the Obama who chose as his trusted confidant that unscrupulous, liberals-be-damned fixer - Rahm Emanuel; this is the Obama who absorbed the spirit of Ronald Reagan's America he himself has said stands as the model of inspirational leadership.
If this sounds way too familiar to you, then you agree with me that Brenner is on to something here. The article continues with the dreary recitation of all our collective disappointments with this guy in whom we placed so much hope--I almost despise using the word now.

He placed his supposedly signature health care reform initiative in the hands of those dedicated to thwarting it, he has curried favor with the criminally incompetent financial establishment, he orphaned the proposal to help underwater homeowners through the bankruptcy courts, he stiffed the trade unions on the loosening of rules for organizing workers, he has retained all of Bush's policies on surveillance, he has refused the slightest chastisement of the CIA and their mercenaries, he has retained Bush's practice of Executive statements interpreting legislation, he has followed a behind closed doors style of policy-making, he has followed the Pentagon hawks in escalating the war in Afghanistan, he has made repeated advances toward the evangelical right. This is the behavioral pattern of a deeply conservative personality and conventional thinker who tips his hat to every establishment he encounters.
Hey, gimme the first Obama. Please. Even if he's phony as hell.
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