Two Ideas in Two Dimensions
Mark Steyn had reason for a unique perspective, among pundits, of the presidential campaign:
I was away for much of the summer and, when I returned, the entire campaign felt like an absurd satire I wasn’t quite up to speed on. But truly, in a world in which the many illegal foreign contributions to the leading candidate’s unprecedented fundraising include his own deportation-ordered aunt, satire is dead.
This point of reference is apparent behind Steyn’s latest must-read column, in which he notes that Obama exists in the national imagination more as a literary character than a person drawn from the crowds of real life:
… Obama in the White House, Obama on the dollar bill, Obama on Rushmore would symbolize the possibilities of America more than that narrow list of white-bread protestant presidents to date.
The problem is we’re not electing a symbol, a logo, a two-dimensional image. Long before he emerged on the national stage as Barack the Hope-Giver and Bringer of Change, there was a three-dimensional Barack Obama, a real man who lives in the real world. And that’s where the problem lies.
The Senator and his doting Obots in the media have gone to great lengths to obscure what Barack Obama does when he’s not being a symbol: his voting record, his friends, his patrons, his life outside the soft-focus memoirs is deemed non-relevant to the general hopey-changey vibe. But occasionally we get a glimpse. The offhand aside to Joe the Plumber about “spreading the wealth around” was revealing because it suggests a crude redistributive view of “social justice.” Yet the nimble Hope-a-Dope sidestepper brushed it aside, telling a crowd in Raleigh that next John McCain will be “accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten.” …
In his Wednesday-night infomercial, Obama declared that his “fundamental belief” was that “I am my brother’s keeper.” Back in Kenya, his brother lives in a shack on 12 bucks a year. If Barack is his brother’s keeper, why couldn’t he send him a ten-dollar bill and near double the guy’s income? The reality is that Barack Obama assumes the government should be his brother’s keeper, and his aunt’s keeper. Why be surprised by that? For 20 years in Illinois, Obama has marinated in the swamps of the Chicago political machine and the campus radicalism of William Ayers and Rashid Khalidi. In such a world, the redistributive urge is more or less a minimum entry qualification.
In essence, then, Obama is being treated as if he were an historical figure. Evidence of his proclivities and policy instincts are treated as if they must be contextualized in circumstances that no longer exist. The people who float into and out of his biography are handled as if they are creatures of their times and, at any rate, are not available for comment. Not wishing to disturb that particular delirium may be, as Victor Davis Hanson suggests, the reason behind the decreased candidness from those connected to the Obama campaign. (Perhaps it partially helps to explain the candidate’s recent breaks from the trail.) It certainly offers a bit of complexity to Paul Kengor’s observation that the news-gathering armies have not sought comment from some central figures in the debate over Obama’s past and ideology:
No two figures relating to Barack Obama have been talked about as much as Ayers and Wright. That being the case, why aren’t these two figures talking? Why is no one talking to them, or demanding to talk to them? …
This is no minor, trivial point. I can’t recall a similar instance where two such controversial figures, so damaging to a presidential campaign, so quickly disappeared from the public eye. Conservatives often accused the Clintons of all kinds of nefarious deeds to quiet their detractors. Yet, Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers could always be hunted down for comment by reporters. But that’s not the case with Ayers and Wright.
It’s odd, isn’t it? For all the talk about Ayers’s significance in Obama’s political life, I don’t think I’ve heard a single comment from the man himself. It’s as if he’s not a flesh-and-blood person out there somewhere, walking the American street.
Somehow, I tend to doubt that the characters in the Tale of the One will remain abstract should their guy gain the power of the presidency.