Angelo Codevilla, who brought us last year’s stunning essay, America’s ruling Class, is back again with an attempt at filling in the many, many blank pages in Barrack Hussein Obama’s back-story:
In our time, asking how a young man of scarce achievement got into position to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president courts the contemporary synonyms for “impious”: “birther,” “conspiracy theorist,” and, of course, “racist.” Granted, to inquire into what formed a president is not as important as to understand what he does. Nevertheless, because fully to know where anyone is going requires grasping whence he comes, let us open ourselves to wonder how, minus miracles, a 10-year-old boy without obvious talent who had lived in Indonesia since age six ends up with an eight-year scholarship to Hawaii’s most exclusive school; a scholarship to Occidental College; a transfer into Columbia University; acceptance into Harvard Law School, and editorship of its law review; and how he goes from job to prestigious job without apparently mastering any of the previous ones. No wonder some of Barack Obama’s supporters treat him as if he were anointed by an extraterrestrial power.
No less an object of awe and curiosity is the seamlessness of Obama’s mentality. Without marbling or inconsistency, it is serviceable as a definition of contemporary American leftism, and leads one to wonder what earthly environment could have produced such a pure specimen.
Intellectually, Obama has always been a consumer, having left no record of formulating new ideas or of penetrating old ones. Politically, he is a follower and figurehead: having grown up in the ever branching stream of socialist voluntary organizations, he surfed its leftward eddies, never forming or leading a faction. He was handed a safe seat in the Illinois state senate, a nearly safe one in the U.S. Senate, and was surprised when Harry Reid informed him that influential Democrats wanted to run him for president. The Democratic campaign of 2008 pushed against an open door. As president, he rides his party’s center of gravity.
In short, Barack Obama himself is not that remarkable. He can give a rousing political speech, of course, but that is usually not sufficient to get oneself elected president. So, since he seems to have been reading from a teleprompter all his life, and since words certifiably his own are both few and opaque, it is most fruitful as well as relevant for us to focus on whom and what he has been following.
What accounts for his smooth, unlikely ascent? Both his advancement and his character seem most likely attributable to the network into which he was born, and out of which he never stepped for an instant. That network’s privileges, wealth, and intellectual-social proclivities always depended to some extent—and nowadays depend more than ever—on its connection with the U.S. government. Its intellectual and moral character, like that of modern government itself, has always been on the left side of American life and, as such, has undergone splits and transmogrifications surely the most important of which in our time combines upscale social norms with radical disdain for the rest of America. Barack Obama came of age through these.
Read the whole essay at The Claremont Institute.Related posts: