Friday, January 23, 2009

Did Krauthammer See the Same Inauguration I Saw?

Washington Post opinion columnist Charles Krauthammer's recent piece gives us yet another lesson in how far out of touch neo-cons are with the new American order and how their patronizing mindsets have led them to misread everything about Obama and the majority of Americans who supported him. His column is an example of stubborn and misguided projection. If only Krauthammer could be humble enough to see that he is the "puzzled" one when it comes to Obama, and not the rest of us.

In his column, Krauthammer expresses a kind of grudging admiration for Obama. But his admiration is a strange kind. Krauthammer thinks the inaugural address was kind of a dud, and he seems to have liked this about the speech; but Krauthammer also argues that this "flat" speech left his supporters uninspired and "puzzled." I don't know what inauguration speech Krauthammer saw, but I found it Presidential and inspiring. Of COURSE it wasn't a campaign speech. The campaign is over and Obama is now speaking the language of governing, not the language of campaigning.

But let me get down to a couple of the specifics in Krauthammer's piece that have to make one wonder about Krauthammer's capacity for clear-headed analysis. First, there's this:

When candidate Obama said "it's not about me, it's about you," that was sheer chicanery. But now he means it, because he really cannot part the waters.
Let me suggest that it was only "sheer chicanery" in Krauthammer's mind because he refused to ever entertain the possibility that Obama meant what he said both before and after the campaign. Furthermore, Obama never thought, nor did he ever say or even imply, that only he could "part the waters." From the start, Obama's campaign was never about him and always about us. Obama never claimed perfection. In fact, of all the candidates in the race, only Obama had the courage and the frankness to admit that his administration would not be perfect and would make mistakes. Obama, in spite of the silly conservative meme of Obama as "The One" or "The Messiah," was always down to earth, humble, and aware of his falliblity. In short, there is nothing new in Obama's sincere and earnest claim that this election and this moment was about us and not about him. And there is also nothing new that Krauthammer was part of the cabal that constructed the completely unfounded narrative that Obama was a egotistical fraud who only wrapped himself in the cloak of humility and deference to us, the people. And now, when Krauthammer actually deigns to believe in Obama's sincerity, he thinks it's pedestrian and tame. Granted, he thinks that this is a good quality; but, still, it's the "damning with feint praise" sort of good. What really chaps me, though, is now that Krauthammer finds himself coming around to a grudging admiration of Obama, he has to make it seem like his conversion is only possible at the expense of our (i.e. Obama supporters') disappointment and befuddlement. Krauthammer just can't bring himself to think that we were actually on to the Obama he is now starting to like, and that we still are jazzed about our President. If Krauthammer had asked me, I'd have told him that there was nothing disappointing or puzzling at all about Obama's inauguration speech; that there was nothing strange at all about Obama's reaching back to George Washington and our founding fathers for reference and inspiration. Obama always had this about him. It's nothing new to those of us who saw the truth about Obama from early on. That's one of the very reasons I liked him so much then. And why I continue to admire him as much now (if not moreso) than then.

It's like Krauthammer was seeing Obama upside down and now that Obama appears right side up, well that must mean that the world around Krauthammer has turned aright by joining him in his upside-down view, instead of Krauthammer himself turning rightside up and joining us!

I was talking about this with my better two-thirds, and we both marvel at Krauthammer's claim that Obama disappointed us with his speech. Notice that Krauthammer provides not even a single concrete reference to a person who might have expressed such disappointment. It is pure projection. And I would bet dollars to doughnuts that if he actually asked any Obama supporter how they felt, I don't think he'd find a single person who would affirm his claim. Everyone, and I mean everyone, that my wife and I spoke with about the inauguration and the speech found it no less inspiring and no less majestic than any of his campaign speeches. It was all there. The only thing different was that we have the confidence of a governing President behind it now.

Second, there was also this illustrative piece in Krauthammer's piece:
On the issue of race, he was even more withholding, and admirably so.
I read that and I thought: "Huh? Where the hell has Krauthammer been?" The fact is that Obama assiduously tried to stay away from "the issue of race" throughout the entire campaign, being drawn into this issue only reluctantly and primarily by folks like Krauthammer himself. If ever a black candidate tried to downplay his race in a campaign, Obama did it. So, then, it defies common sense to think that in his inaugural address, when there's no conservative pounding him over the head about his relationship to the black church or demanding that he express his thoughts on Louis Farrakhan, that he would all of a sudden make race a central feature of the moment. Krauthammer clearly expected Obama to raise the subject of race and the significance of his blackness to the high heavens in tones reminiscent of MLK, Jr. But, really, the rest of us weren't expecting this at all. Seriously. Obama didn't need to pound his chest in this regard. We all know of the significance of the moment given the history of race in our country; but I don't think it ever crossed our minds that his inaugural address would be anything but the seriousness of governing in this momentous and difficult time -- as any other President's inaugural address would be in this context. It was Krauthammer who apparently wanted and expected the BLACK President, while the rest of us wanted and expected simply a President. Yes, the significance of his being our country's first black President wasn't lost on us, but really we just wanted a Presidential inaugural address, not a "black" inaugural address.

The whole column by Krauthammer has a tone of surprised patronization towards the people who saw in Obama that which he couldn't see. And now that he has to come to grips with this fact, Krauthammer can't bring himself to join in with us simpleton "hoi polloi." Let go of it, Krauthammer. Yes, Obama is the kind of President even Krauthammer can admire. We already knew that. And there's no shame to Krauthammer to model a bit of that Obama humility in recognizing that fact.

[NOTE as of 9:30AM on Saturday, Jan. 24: I had more to say on this subject, so I amplified, added, and edited my original posting somewhat, which I put up last evening. The overall argument, though, is unchanged.]

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