Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Barack Obama's Achilles Heel

As Barack Obama continues to rack up primary victories it appears that nothing can stop him. Commenting on his sweep of the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. primaries, CNN political strategist Donna Brazile called him "a metaphysical force in American politics." After watching Obama's victory speech, respected political pundit Chris Matthews sounded like a schoolgirl at a Justin Timberlake concert who doesn't quite understand the strange sensations she is feeling, when he exclaimed, "I felt this thrill going up my leg." But beneath Obama's air of superhuman invulnerability is an Achilles' heel, a potential liability that may shock many of his supporters if they learn the truth and could potentially derail his campaign. Contrary to the fervent belief of his most devoted fans, Obama is not superhuman, but is in fact all too human. Will Obama's supporters stand by him when they realize he is just a man or will their disillusionment prove to be a devastating blow?

Last year Tim Noah at Slate inaugurated the "Obama Messiah Watch," asking: "Is Barack Obama--junior U.S. senator from Illinois, best-selling author, Harvard Law Review editor, Men's Vogue cover model, and 'exploratory' presidential candidate--the second coming of our Savior and our Redeemer, Prince of Peace and King of Kings, Jesus Christ? His press coverage suggests we can't dismiss this possibility out of hand." A year later the idea that Obama is the messiah shows no sign of dissipating. A Google search for the words "Obama" and "messiah" yields a whopping 176,000 results. My friend Tom Watson has alerted me that there is even a blog called "Is Barack Obama the Messiah?" dedicated to collecting numerous messianic references to Obama in the press. "This is the New Testament," said his most devoted fan Chris Matthews. "The atmosphere at his events is such that one wonders if Obama is about to walk out with a basket with some loaves and fishes to feed the thousands," wrote Geoff Elliott in The Australian. "It's almost like the Messiah, you know?" said a young woman at one of his rallies, according to WCCO in Minnesota. "It was raw, naked, complete, worship, love, heart-whole passionate stunned and almost unbelieving but desperately wanting to believe him adoration," writes someone who attended an Obama rally in Virginia. "He is their Messiah. It's a cult. And they are going to be so disappointed."

Privately, many Obama advisors are also worried about a voter backlash if Obama does not manage to walk on water or raise Ronald Reagan from the dead before they go to the polls in November, and his advisors are already trying to dial back expectations just a little. Obama's wife, Michelle, pointed out in an interview with Glamour magazine that her husband has "stinky feet" and snores. "Barack is very much human," said Mrs. Obama, in case anyone was wondering. "So let's not deify him, because what we do is we deify, and then we're ready to chop it down." But her attempts at "humanizing" her husband may be too little, too late. In fact, some Obama devotees may just see these minor human failings as further evidence of his messianic nature. When Jesus took human form, He probably snored and had stinky feet, too, but that didn't make Him any less worthy of worship. Still, it's good to know that Obama has someone talking him down to earth every night while she is anointing his stinky feet with oil and drying them with her hair after a hard day on the campaign trail.

In a piece called "The Liberal Messiah" in the American Thinker, J.R. Dunn says that the cult of personality surrounding Obama is symptomatic of how liberals see their leaders. "A leader is a transcendent being, someone more than human, someone with a touch of the divine," writes Dunn. "Leaders don't handle tasks, they lead movements, they embody the spirit of the age. They transform. Leaders, to put it simply, are führers. This explains why liberals are so attracted to tyrants on the international scene." Unlike objects of devotion of these liberal fascists -- people like Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Stalin -- Ronald Reagan, he says, "didn't come across as anything preternatural." There is nothing unnatural or cult-like about Republicans' devotion to Reagan, of course. Republicans are not trying to secure Reagan's endorsement from beyond the grave, the way Obama seems to be trying to take on the mantel of Kennedy. And when Nancy Reagan looked up adoringly at the larger-than-life image of her husband behind her at the 1984 Republican Convention, it just emphasized his human qualities. (In fact, if Obama does get the nomination, Michelle Obama might want to try re-creating this touching image.) And President Bush always seemed like a guy you would want to have a beer with even when he was landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight jacket. Democrats, however, need to grow up and stop deifying their leaders. "While he'll never get my vote, he's an interesting and attractive figure," says Dunn, who can't help gushing a little himself. "And who knows, he may turn out to be the man who at last leads the Democrats beyond the need for this kind of adolescent hero worship."

Some conservatives, however, do not dismiss the idea of the messiah running for President out of hand, but they point out that He certainly wouldn't be running as a Democrat. "Obama is an advocate of gay rights, a strong believer in the concept of private property as social property, an abortion-on-demand fanatic," writes Ben Shapiro. "His pledge to move beyond the politics of the 1960s is a pledge to achieve unity in the fully triumphant program of the 1960s. If Obama is a Messiah, he is a secular Messiah, preaching the word of Tom Hayden." Joe Hirschhorn echoes the thoughts of many Republicans when he says that he might be willing to believe Obama is a political messiah and even vote for him if he took a strong stance against abortion, high taxes and illegal immigration, the way Jesus would.

While Obama may not do everything Jesus would do, many Republicans fret that if voters are convinced that Obama is the messiah it will be difficult to beat him in the Fall. Of course, Republicans would hate to throw the first stone, but there may be no other way of convincing voters that Obama is not the second coming short of muddying his white robes a little. Some Republican flacks are already trying desperately to point out chinks in Obama's armor. Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters reveals that Obama is not, in fact, as omniscient as he appears. A volunteer setting up an Obama office in Texas had a Cuban flag with a picture of Che Guevara tacked up in her office and Obama apparently knew nothing about it. How can he expect to run the government if he doesn't know what every underling is doing at all times? Morrissey said that Obama must immediately deny that he is an admirer of Che Guevara, but so far Obama has declined to take his advice. Meanwhile, Dean Barnett has discovered that when Obama is speaking without the aid of a Teleprompter, he sometimes pauses as if he is trying to think of what to say. Imagine what it would be like to have a President who is not as articulate when he is speaking extemporaneously as he is when reading from a speech. And as far as we know, Jesus didn't need notes when he gave the Sermon on the Mount. It could be a "real vulnerability" for Obama according to Jake Tapper of ABC News. These are just a couple examples of the devastating attacks that are already being levied against Obama. It can only get worse.

Some believe that the messianism surrounding Obama may actually be evidence of racism. It may be that our standards for a black Jesus are not quite as rigorous as our standards for a white Jesus. Ann Althouse points out that there is a bigotry of low expectations in the "presentation of Obama as godlike for accomplishing tasks that require skill within the range of mere mortals....What accounts for amazement to the point of adoration at the fact that a man possesses excellent skill at something like note taking? Is it not that he can do it and he's black?" In a piece in the Los Angeles Times last year, film critic David Ehrenstein, who is black and quite articulate, said that much of the fawning over Obama reflects a desire of many white Americans for a "Magic Negro" who can "assuage white 'guilt' (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest." This post-modern folk hero is seen chiefly in cinema, he wrote, from the characters portrayed by Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field, To Sir with Love and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner to Morgan Freeman's chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy. " Like a comic-book superhero," said Ehrenstein, "Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him."

But even if Republican strategists -- or even Hillary -- don't find the kryptonite that will bring this Superman down, it's difficult to see how Obama can sustain the level of excitement he has stirred for the next nine months as we get to know him better. As the VH1 show Scott Baio Is 46, reminds us, there comes a time in the life of every adolescent girl, and even Chris Matthews, when they peel the yellowing photos of Scott Baio they cut out of Tiger Beat off their bedroom walls and toss them in the garbage bin. Barack Obama will be 46 in August.* Will Chris Matthews and Obama's other devoted disciples still have his picture on their bedroom walls then?

*An alert commenter points out that Obama already is 46 and will be 47 in August. Thank you, Johnny Pez.

Illustration by Ray Noland a.k.a. CRO from the Chicago Tribune via the blog "Is Barack Obama the Messiah?"

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Unknown said...

Great food for thought, Jon.
I had no idea the guy was giving his audience "this thrill going up...[one's]leg."
Since I don't have TV and fear crowds, I wonder how I can get one one of those thrills.
For the record, though, I've wondered for years why neither party, at least to my knowledge, has tried to draft Johnny Depp.

Ajaz Haque said...

A Colin Powell Endorsement for Obama!
Is it possible that the former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican could endorse Barack Obama for President?

Colin Powell was very candid in his interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. He made it very clear that he will vote for the best candidate and not necessarily a nominee of his party. He also talked about Obama rather fondly.

Colin Powell may be reminiscing about the time when he was asked to run for President and he declined. I guess he feels Obama is competent, charming and fresh and could the take the country to a new direction so why not support him. Though not a done deal yet, but it seems very likely.

Colin Powell also has to wash off his own embarrassment of that Iraq war speech that he made in the UN and this may be the perfect opportunity to do the right thing. Despite that UN debacle, Colin Powell is still one of the most respected individulas in the United States and around the world. His endorsement will mean a lot for Obama. Imagine the experience he could bring to Obama's team as Secretary of Defence, charged to put an end to the war that he started.

Jazmatician said...

I think it's enlightening that the only people calling Obama the messiah are people AGAINST him.

It's pathological isolationism. It's an adolescent belief that somehow YOU have all the answers, that there is no greater knowledge than yourself.

Now, I agree wholeheartedly that the government needs to stay the hell out of my bedroom, and generally not tell me how to run MY LIFE. But to think that somehow you the person best suited to save Social Security? That you are the person who can talk Kim Jong-Il into, I don't know, feeding his people for starters? Just look at how well most people run their 401(k)s, leaving the money in a "stable value" fund. The acknowledgement of a need for leadership is not being a sheep, it's the wisdom of humility.

Anonymous said...

He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy.

Anonymous said...

I see the hidden meaning in your latest post.
Obama is the Anti- Christ. THE END IS NEAR!! THE END IS NEAR!!

Anonymous said...

I am just checking out your site as a new reader and I must say,
stupid, stupid, stupid.

If you don't have anything to say, don't post. K

No one but morons like you and Krugman talk about Obama as a messiah.

We see him, and I know him, since he is my Senator, and has been as good as it gets, as a helluva lot better then Hillary, McCain, and yeah, even the great John Edwards.

At least if you are going to steal Hillary's talking points, find something that is not a flat-out lie.

The Pajama Pundit said...

YIKES anonymous - that was painful for me to read.

... as if some anonymous coward can tell any of us what to write (or not to write).

Jon, I have to say that I think that Obama is a great politician. I think, despite some of his leftward-leaning policies, that he could help bring our country together.

I know you won't agree with that - but hey, it could be worse, right? At least the progressive movement hasn't deified Hillary!


Anonymous said...

I truly love your blog, Jon. It sends a thrill up my leg. Be prepared, as soon as word gets out, the OBots will be here to smite you mightily.

Anonymous said...

I have been seeking a place on the political spectrum for me to be safe from your barbds, Jon, but to no avail.

Unknown said...

Hello, John…

I REALLY enjoyed reading this blog!!! It’s ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!! …And although I’ve observed several of the key factors that have resulted in Obama’s elevation to demagogue, I couldn’t quite “pull it all together” as you have done - BRAVO!!!

You see - I'm a Princeton educated, African American woman who STRONGLY endorses Hillary Clinton because I HONESTLY believe that she’s the best candidate that the democratic party has to offer for the 2008 Presidential election. Sadly, I do realize that most other African Americans are supporting Obama just because he’s black, hence I understand why Senator Obama currently enjoys the support of approximately 80% of black constituency…

Conversely, I’ve been ABSOLUTELY PERPLEXED by the sheer number of White Obama supporters that are so mesmerized by his flowery rhetoric, they’ve completely overlooked his ACTUAL qualifications to guide our country through these extremely trying times…

However, you've managed to clearly articulate an explanation for the RAPTUROUS FASCINATION that the "media'" (i.e., Chris Mathews, Wof Blitzer, et. al.) has with the "Obama Phenomenon”. Furthermore, you’ve made a compelling argument that explains the messianic fervor that Obama currently enjoys from “White America”.

To that end, I’d like to thank you for providing a very succinct explanation for this bizarre Obama frenzy…You’re right – White America has anointed Obama as the “Black Messiah” (i.e., the Magic Negro that you referred to in your blog)…

• “White Guilt” regarding the enslavement of blacks

• The URGENT NEED that “White America” has to suppress the reality of the SERIOUS racial tension that’s currently “alive & well” in our country (The Jena Six is a PERFECT example of said racial tension)…

Hopefully, Chris Mathews, Wof Blitzer, and the rest of White America will “snap out of it”, and realize that Senator Obama is grievously under qualified for the presidency..

Hopefully, the aforementioned parties will realize that our country is facing so many difficult challenges – both domestic and foreign – That we simply CANNOT tolerate another president that requires “ON THE JOB TRAINING”….

Anonymous said...

And all this time, I thought he was Moses. As in Malone, the Postman, because he always delivers.

Chris Matthews has always been rapturous about every kind of Adonis that he fancies, which changes every day.

And everyone knows the real Messiah is Bill Clinton, because he keeps on coming.

Anonymous said...

I don't put much stock in Matthews' tingly groin. He will have gone through at least a half dozen man crushes before the November election.

Anonymous said...

"Hopefully, the aforementioned parties will realize that our country is facing so many difficult challenges – both domestic and foreign – That we simply CANNOT tolerate another president that requires “ON THE JOB TRAINING”…."

I totally agree. But of course, training isn't a generic thing; it's a specific thing. If Obama does indeed take the nomination, I suggest that the Democratic Party draft Hillary for the role of President's Wife, so she can put all of that experience she gained to work where it counts.

Anonymous said...

Laugh all you want Swiftboater, but I'm still taking 3000 gallons of water to the convention in the hope Obama can turn it into wine. I hope it's a smooth quality burgundy. Just think of the retail markup.

OutOfContext said...



Anonymous said...

It is station policy here at WNBTv to not acknowledge anyone other than our General Station Manager as 'the messiah', and then only behind his back lest his stigmata start to bleed.

However, the Editorial Board, having given the issue due consideration, arrived at the conclusion that WNBTv can and will support Barack Obama for Saint status.

Should the young gentleman from Illinois actually ascend to the White House, we would then feel it safe to confer Martyr status upon his remains, after a suitable mourning period, of course.

Carl said...

"Is Barack Obama--junior U.S. senator from Illinois, best-selling author, Harvard Law Review editor, Men's Vogue cover model, and 'exploratory' presidential candidate--the second coming of our Savior and our Redeemer, Prince of Peace and King of Kings, Jesus Christ?"

Maybe he's just the lead reindeer with the shiny red nose?

Carl said...

Obama's wife, Michelle, pointed out in an interview with Glamour magazine that her husband has "stinky feet"

Why is this whore not washing her husband's feet and anointing them with oil!?????!!!!

She is falling down on the job as wife-of-Messiah, I tell you what!

Carl said...

Be prepared, as soon as word gets out, the OBots will be here to smite you mightily.

I like to call them the "O-bombers", myself.

OutOfContext said...

What always killed me about the Achilles legend was why wear sandals? I mean that's taking fashion and comfort to far, don't you think? I think Obama's probably smart enough to get some metal boots.

slag said...

As John Edwards told Charlie Rose: The bully pulpit is the most powerful tool the president has. And he's right. I want someone who can use it.

Best thing about Obama: gets traditionally underrepresented folks to vote. The only way we're going to get change in this country is for people to start feeling like they're being represented. That's why the fundies were out in force for Bush. Now, it's backlash time, baby!


Anonymous said...

I think he is eminently qualified to run government NOT crooks like the Cheneys, the Clintons, and the like.

liquiddaddy said...

Mr. Swift,

This situation is much graver than once thought.

There is a female personality in the history of Christianity that is disguised to deceive Christians into accepting a powerful and subtle yet seriously evil counterfeit of Christianity.

That counterfeit personality, unfortunately, is "Mary"! She roams the land in the guise of Hillary.

Think about her walking the barrios followed by thousands of Mexicans like zombies, marveling at her cheap miracles. Two days ago in El Paso she shrunk a mariachi down to 18 inches on stage. In a McAllen colonia she changed a hundred babies with one pair of Huggies.

The struggle between black Jesus and lady Satan will be titan, and perhaps bring on the End Times.


kamakula said...

ksd. . Princeton educated huh. I had to break it to you, but The University of Princeton online is a scam! Those degrees are not accredited. Let me point out the problems in your reasoning that obviously a fake online education did not correct.

1. It's Jon, not John.

2. Barack Obama technically has more experience than Hillary Clinton. He was in the Illinois State Senate from 1996 - 2004 when he became a US Senator.

3. Just because you are black and support a white candidate because you "honestly" believe she is the best does not mean that other black people who support a black candidate are doing so because of his color, rather than "honestly" believing he is the best candidate. Keep in mind Barack Obama is NOT the first black candidate to contend in the Democrat party primaries. However, none have EVER gotten the kind of support he has. Clearly, there is more to this than race.

Now, I realize that its quite possible that you have an Ivy League education and my assumption that you were duped is incorrect and based on what seems to be a not well-thought out post (especially coming from someone who goes to great pains to highlight their educational background). So, if I am wrong, I apologize for casting aspirations on your scholarly capabilities.

Anonymous said...

I knew this post would be a magnet to the clueless, but this is just teh awesomest of teh awesome.

Mr. Swift I doff just not my hat, but all my clothes as well.

Anonymous said...

LOL...this is getting hysterical.

Obama is evidently so clean in terms of political mud that we have to make stuff up about him in as many different ways as we can.

Let's see...what other national politician do you know that can walk into a black congregation and tell them to stop being homophobic? Can address a group of automakers in Detroit and tell them they have to start making better, more efficient product? Can tell an adoring audience they have to start acting like parents, turning off the TV and video games? Can tell that same large audience he can't affect change by himself, that we can't go back and sit on the couch and complain?

Obama is far from perfect. I disagree with some of his stated policy, but agree with more. He has a way of telling us the truth without pissing us off.

I like that he worked the streets as an organizer and is not far removed from the state legislature which, after all, is the one place unfunded nonsensical federal legislation is most sorely felt.

He's young, he's fresh and he's inclusive. I like that.

And I'm a 56 year old white woman that Hillary could not reach with her 10 point plans.

A cult? A messiah? Nah...he's just not one of them...from either party.

G Davis

Comrade Kevin said...

I wonder what will happen when the news gets hold of the fact he's been hanging around Lepers, Thieves, and Prostitutes.

That will make for quite a scandal.

Unknown said...

No doubt he gets the nomination he will be crucified.

Jaesoreal said...

When I woke up this morning, Obama's imprint was in my pillow! I'm charging $10 a person to view it!

mls said...

Nice try, but you can't equate Kennedy/Obama worship with Reagan worship. Republicans admire Reagan for his principles and philosophy, and they like the way that he was able to communicate these to the general public. But they don't indulge the cult of personality that surrounds Kennedy (and, now perhaps, Obama), which has very little to do with principles or policy at all.

Truth be told, most Republicans would prefer a President with Reagan's principles and Calvin Coolidge's personality, who would tell rent-seeking voters to stuff it. The problem is it is so hard to get a guy like that elected.

Anonymous said...

I find it irritating that anyone who isn't supporting Obama seems to think everyone that is in some way too ignorant to do their own research, and come to their own conclusions regarding things such as Hilary's health care plan not being economically feasible, at least the way she presents it, without curtailing services and even then bankrupting the country, and John McCain's plan to have us in war forever bankrupting us in that regard, morally and globally.

I support Obama and never believed in a "Messiah", at least since the age of 12. I certainly don't believe in one now. I just see no other choice for a country most in my parents generation let fall greatly in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of the people.

Johnny Pez said...

Nitpick: Obama is 46 now. He'll be 47 in August.

Jollyjo said...

I always believed that if Obama was going to win and go all the way...he would have to be special...very special.

Truthfully...he is very special but there seems to be a bit of premature yellowing...which is not good considering that he has not even won the Democratic nomination yet...

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