Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Real “Age Issue”

I’ve finally figured out what’s been bothering me about the popular interpretation of one of Barack Obama’s recent slips. A few weeks ago, Obama was doing some handshake campaigning in a diner in Indiana when the establishment’s proprietor offered him a cup of coffee. When word got out that Obama declined and asked for some orange juice, the media took this as another sign of the candidate’s elitism or lack of common touch.

But that read doesn’t sit quite right. After all, Hillary looked preposterous when she tried to prove her working class credentials through choice of beverage. Yet there was something off about Obama’s response. Watching him sulk around this week, slightly traumatized by the betrayal of a father figure, I realized what the diner incident was: it was childish. The switch from juice to coffee is a rite of adulthood. It’s not that Obama seemed to hold himself above the coffee drinkers. It’s that he seemed to lag behind them. He’s still on fruit juice while the adults are sipping bitter and bracing coffee.

In the course of the past few months, Obama has gone from broadcasting a worrying arrogance to radiating a near-helplessness. The Wright affair has played out like a textbook teenage drama. Obama fell in with the wrong crowd, refused to stop seeing them, got into real trouble, and had to come to painful grips with the fact that his friends were just users. In this and several other respects, Obama seems, simply, young. The overconfidence, the need to be adored by everyone, the naiveté, and now the befuddlement.

Some months back, Obama said, “One of the things that I’ve known about myself for a long time is that, in difficult or stressful moments, I don’t get rattled And I don’t get rattled during campaigns. I don’t get rattled when things are up . . . and I don’t get too low when things are down.”

This was pure adolescent bravado. At that point, things had not yet been “down” for him, so he couldn’t accurately predict how he’d respond to crisis. Now, the evidence is in: Obama gets rattled.

In policy choices, he’s ordering straight off the kid’s menu. During the last debate, when Charlie Gibson asked Obama a very adult question about why he planned to raise the capital gains tax (as doing so would almost surely lower revenue), the candidate responded: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

Fairness.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time around children is all too familiar with the argument from fairness: This isn’t fair; that’s not fair; nothing is fair. In the adult world, it’s not that fairness isn’t an admirable goal, but rather that when fairness is imposed by the government you end up with something much nastier than unfairness: a parental state. (Something, incidentally, which a grown child would presumably want.)

His national security policy isn’t about national security. It’s about getting America voted most popular. We’ll meet with enemies in the hope that they will like us. As if the U.S. is the alienated kid who desperately tries to befriend the class bully in order to elevate his status.

Never mind John McCain’s actual age. While he is a senior, there’s certainly nothing quiescent about his approach to crisis or politics in general. It’s Barack Obama’s arrested development which is troubling.


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.