Left abandons Barack Obamaby Jeffry Babb News Weekly
, July 24, 2010
What is it about US President Barack Obama that causes people to make deranged claims that to the average non-American seem clearly nonsensical?
Obama is one of the most popular recent US presidents among non-Americans. He is not a bombastic "C student", like George W. Bush, intent on remaking the world in the US image at the behest of a cabal of re-badged Trotskyite "neo-conservatives", nor a sleazy creep like Bill Clinton. He comes across as a natural, relaxed leader who, in common with his popular Republican predecessor Dwight D. Eisenhower, likes golf.
But this isn't enough for the American commentariat.
Take, for example, Maureen Dowd, who is one of the New York Times
's star commentators. Dowd is a graduate from the Catholic University in Washington DC and a political left-leaning liberal, writing for a left-leaning newspaper. Dowd has dubbed Obama as "President Spock", describing his reaction to BP's oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as "illogical".
"Once more," writes Dowd, "he has wilfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it."
Dowd continues that Obama should be offering former President Bill Clinton a job. She says: "Bill would certainly know how to gush at a gusher gone haywire. Let him resume a cameo role as Feeler in Chief. The post is open."
Obama's failing is that he generated unrealistic expectations. By stressing that he was an agent of change - "change you can believe in" - Obama told American voters he was not an average politician. Unfortunately for the true believers, Obama developed his political skills as a community organiser in a very tough school, Chicago Democratic Party machine politics.
Unlike most commentators on the United States, I was introduced to American politics in a formal academic setting, at the University of Western Australia in a course by one of Australia's foremost scholars on the United States, Professor Patrick O'Brien.
Professor O'Brien was a Fulbright Scholar and had a keen, intuitive understanding of American politics. One of our textbooks was Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago
(1971) by Mike Royko, the unauthorised biography of the Chicago mayor who ran that city's Democratic machine politics in the 1960s.
He was one of the last old-fashioned, big-city, political bosses in a tradition made infamous by New York's Tammany Hall machine. Royko was awarded the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for his book, the highest honour to which a newspaperman like Royko could aspire.
Daley ran a machine based on patronage and ethnic politics, and, while Daley himself lived modestly and kept his hands clean, the same couldn't be said of the lower levels of the Chicago Democratic machine. The Chicago machine helped John F. Kennedy over the line in the 1962 presidential election, aided by Lyndon Johnson in Texas, who, like Daley, benefited from a very strong voter turn-out, particularly from among the dead.
Obama was assisted in his rise by the fundraising skills of another Chicago institution, the Pritzker family. His chief fundraiser, Penny Pritzker, is one of the richest women in the world, with assets valued by Forbes
magazine at US$1.7 billion. She is the granddaughter of patriarch Abraham Pritzker.
Among other notable attributes, the Pritzkers control the world-wide multi-billion dollar Hyatt hotel chain and sponsor the Pritzker Prize, the architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize, for the world's best architect. The Pritzkers are Jewish, and the notion that Obama is anti-Semitic is purely fanciful.
Obama is under attack, not only from the Left, but also from the Right.
Take, for example, the claim that no-one remembered Obama at Columbia University, sometimes expanded to the claim that Obama never attended Columbia University.
Columbia University is in an area often delicately described as a "lower socio-economic area" - to translate, it is near the traditionally black area of Harlem, Visitors to New York who undertake a Harlem walking tour are frequently shown the back alley where Obama slept when arriving from California's Occidental College because he didn't have enough money for a hotel room.
The claim that no-one remembers Obama at Columbia has been disproved by his room mate Phil Boerner, who roomed with him in his first year at Columbia. His residences are recorded in the Columbia student directory.
Libertarians have a particular dislike of Obama. The Libertarian Party's vice-presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root, in Reason
magazine, was among the first to claim no-one remembered Obama at Columbia, but stopped short of claiming he never attended the university.
Root stated that a "vote for Obama is for four years of Karl Marx", a claim which hardly seems justified by Obama's legislative record, which so far consists of a long overdue healthcare reform, a finance reform bill to stop Wall Street bankrupting itself and the world again, and a climate change bill which is dead in the water.