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Barack J. Gatsby

If you can wade through the snark here, you’ll find that Maureen Dowd has an insightful description of Obama — passive, scared, not in control, and ultimately weak. She writes:

He gives the impression of someone who would like to kid around with reporters for a minute, but knows he’s going to be peppered with on-the-record minutiae designed to feed the insatiable maw of blogs and Internet news . . . He’s an American who has climbed to the most rarefied stratosphere of American life, only to find that he has to make a major speech arguing that he loves his country. (A new CNN poll shows that a quarter of registered voters say Obama lacks patriotism.) He’s a man happily married to a strong professional woman who has to defend his wife, as he says, for being “feisty.” He must simultaneously defend himself for being too exotic and, because of recent moves, too conventional. (So conventional that he even refused to do a fist bump with a boy at a tutoring session for kids in Zanesville, Ohio.) . . .In this presidential race should be about how to fix the scary cascading crises in the country and the world. But as Obama offers himself as an avatar of modernity, the horizon fills with Swift boats against the current, and he is, Gatsby-like, “borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The 46-year-old is supposed to be the tonic for the culture wars of the 60s. In his patriotism speech, he said that “the anger and turmoil” of that generation had “never entirely drained away,” leaving our politics “trapped in these old, threadbare arguments.” But it’s Obama who seems trapped, sucked back into yesteryear.

But is Jay Gatsby really the model we want for a president? However idealized a vision of a candidate’s inner nobility (either misplaced or earned) supporters might have, presidents need to act, lead, set an example, and defend the country that they seek to govern. With Obama his supporters must feel like they have entered a never-ending episode of the Perils of Pauline: Look, he’s tied to the railroad tracks again! It hardly inspires confidence. Pity, perhaps. But even for those sympathetic to his cause that’s not a profile to which one can rally. And the fact that we’re at war makes it that much more difficult to get undecided voters to put their faith in him.



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