Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Obama: The fine line between optimism and hubris

Yeah, yeah, I'm the only one here who think the guy is a cult of personality and little more. At least the article examines both sides...

Barack Obama no longer will settle for being president, said Rex Murphy in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The job, apparently, is now beneath him. During the last leg of his Obama-palooza world tour last week, the sublimely self-assured Democratic nominee drew huge crowds of enraptured European admirers and star-struck prime ministers and presidents, and generally presented himself “as some combination of emperor and rock star.” Obama’s hubris hit its apex at a massive rally before 200,000 people in Berlin. Declaring himself “a fellow citizen of the world,” Obama apologized for past U.S. misdeeds (“I know my country has not perfected itself”) while calling for a new era of international cooperation in which religious, racial, and national animosities would disappear. “People of Berlin—people of the world—this is our moment!” he declared. Maybe this sort of jaw-dropping presumption will propel Obama to the White House, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. But given his lack of experience and accomplishments, he may simply be encouraging millions of voters to ask: “Who does he think he is?”

As a conservative who has sometimes admired Obama’s optimism, said David Brooks in The New York Times, I’m a bit aghast myself. Before his messiah complex set in, Obama used to express a sophisticated awareness “that history is tragic and ironic and every political choice is tainted in some way.” Contrast that to Obama’s Disneyesque vision in Berlin of a world in which people inspired by his wonderfulness would link hands across borders and ideologies to magically alleviate hunger, genocide, global warming, and all other manner of human nastiness. This “hazy and unbounded utopianism” is doomed to fail, said National Review Online in an editorial, since it defies the selfishness of human nature. Europeans may applaud his call for international unity now. Just try, though, to get them to commit money or troops to Afghanistan or Darfur.

“Let’s see if I’ve got this straight,’’ said Bob Herbert in The New York Times. Obama stands a very good chance of being elected leader of the free world. Yet somehow, it’s presumptuous for him to meet with foreign heads of state and offer an uplifting vision of our common future? Rarely if ever has anyone been “so roundly criticized for such grievous offenses as giving excellent speeches and urging people of different backgrounds to come together. How dare he?” It’s not Obama’s fault that when John McCain visits foreign nations, he is so uninspired and so uninspiring.

Let me explain why we Germans are so enthusiastic about Obama, said Erich Follath in Der Spiegel. Like John F. Kennedy, he has a natural ability to inspire and unite, and is “the kind of man who comes along once in a generation.” After the arrogant, go-it-alone foolishness of the Bush administration, it’s thrilling to see an American leader who doesn’t scorn Europe or the rest of the world, and who wants, after Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and Iraq, to return America to its ideals. Call him messianic if you like, said Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker, but there’s nothing wrong with Obama presenting himself as the kind of leader who might restore the world’s respect for America. After seven years in which even our closest allies’ “contempt for Bush bled into resentment of the country that returned him to office, one would have to be an awful grouch not to be gratified by the sight of a sea of delighted Europeans waving American flags instead of burning them.”

Source: The Week (subscription required)

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