Commentary Magazine


Dispositive Disposition

With the sudden emphasis on temperament in election coverage, you’d think that Americans are going to the polls on November 4 to pick the White House dog. Focus on this farcical dimension is due to the fact that the MSM is madly in love with Barack Obama, but have run out of reasons to say exactly why.

They used to cite his objection to the Iraq War, but the U.S. is now winning, and a troop withdrawal plan has been negotiated without his input. They used to talk about his plan to tax the “rich” and relieve the poor, but with the market meltdown, raising anyone’s taxes sounds petrifying–plus Joe the Plumber brought out Obama’s socialist side on this issue and the press would rather try to discredit Joe. They used to praise his eagerness to re-establish America’s standing in the world, but in the nearly two years he’s been preparing his penance, America’s image has gotten a boost from its military achievement, the rise of the Right in Europe, the need for an ally against Russian aggression, and the call for leadership on the global financial crisis. They used to rave about his willingness to upset the status quo, but with his tacking to the center on a dozen different issues, that’s out the window. His outsider status? Sarah Palin swooped into the election from outside of the continental United States, while Obama is now running with a career D.C. benchwarmer.

They could never tout his experience.

So what’s left? This amorphous, quasi-mythical thing everyone’s decided to call temperament. And Obama’s, we’re told, is just right for the job: Measured, unflappable, and patient. And how far are legitimate media outlets willing to go to push the temperament line? Far enough to make Nancy Gibbs declare, in her contribution to Time, that “[t]he presidency is less an office than a performance.”

In other words, the MSM is now telling us this isn’t really Election 2008, but a spin-off of the West Wing, and we therefore should be superficial in choosing the leader of the free world. The problem is: when the world outside the borders of the television screen erupts, Obama is caught out like an Emmy-winner having a cue-card malfunction. After Russia invaded Georgia, Obama improvised some line about both sides needing to cease hostilities. It was only after John McCain identified the aggressor and where the U.S. interest lay in the conflict that Obama felt comfortable following suit. But while he was calm and collected, he said absolutely nothing about the potential start of the second cold war.

Here–after the most hyped-up, over-analyzed media-circus of an election in American history–is the distillation of the final pitch for the Democratic nominee: Vote Obama, he’s cool.