The word of the day is “temperament.” On PBS, last night after the final presidential debate, David Brooks was celebrating Barack Obama’s reassuring temperament. He told Charlie Rose that Barack Obama is like a mountain. When you go to bed–he’s there. You wake up–he’s there. You go to bed the next night–he’s there. Wake up–he’s there. It’s true: Obama does bear a striking characterological resemblance to a shapeless heap of non-living matter.
Moreover, he’s accomplished about as much as a massive hump of rock. I think if you look at his Senate record you’ll find that when a vote is called–he’s there. When another vote is called–he’s there. He is, to pick up on a campaign staple, eminently “present.” Mount Obama.
But how merely existing–without volition, cognition, instinct, or resolve–has come to be thought of as a temperament befitting a president, I’ll never know. After all, Mount Obama really is always present, which makes him an intractable obstruction to progress. You want to withdraw immediately from Iraq? Great, Mount Obama is there. But you want to listen to the advice of commanders on the ground and keep troops in theater? Mount Obama is there, too. You want to end new missile defense programs? Mount Obama is there. But you want to expand missile defense? Mount Obama is there, too. You want to allow partial-birth abortions? Mount Obama is there. Oh, but you want to ban partial birth abortions? Mount Obama is there, too. Somehow, this is called leadership.
No matter whom you are, wherever you turn, you’re met with the glassy smile of Mount Obama. You planted bombs to kill American targets? Let Mount Obama blurb your book. “God damn America,” you say? Mount Obama is seated in your pew. You’re a Communist looking for a successor? Look no farther than Mount Obama. Of course Obama said he’d meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions: His omnipresence is itself the only precondition necessary to address each grievance of any and every party on the planet, regardless of how extreme their worldview. Which actually makes him more like another abundance of non-sentient rock: the moon. No matter how many miles you drive, or how many turns you make, you can’t lose the moon. Obama is always there, glowing at some vast remove, the distance conferring a false perfection upon his form. Hovering above at all times, without friends or enemies, Obama, like the moon, is the subject of great systems of mythology. Like the moon, he’ll control the ocean’s tides and regulate the emotions of the world’s people. The cult around this lunar deity knows that his assent to power is inevitable.
Guy de Maupassant was said to take lunch every day at the Eiffel Tower because it was the only spot in Paris from which he didn’t have to look at the Eiffel Tower. If Maupassant were alive today, his best bet would be to bribe NASA and bring a brown bag up to the Sea of Tranquility.