I used to admire Barack Obama. The Illinois Democrat won his Senate seat last year partly by not not playing the usual African-American victimology card and by instead invoking middle-class values of hard work and persistence that transcended racial and ideological categories.
Then Obama decided to make a fool of himself in Time magazine (sorry, it’ll cost you) when he decided he was the new Abraham Lincoln–or maybe that Abraham Lincoln was the old Barack Obama:
“In Lincoln’s rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat–in all this he reminded me not just of my own struggles.”
Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, nicely sinks in the skewer:
“Actually Lincoln’s life is a lot like Mr. Obama’s. Lincoln came from a lean-to in the backwoods. His mother died when he was 9. The Lincolns had no money, no standing. Lincoln educated himself, reading law on his own, working as a field hand, a store clerk and a raft hand on the Mississippi. He also split some rails. He entered politics, knew more defeat than victory, and went on to lead the nation through its greatest trauma, the Civil War, and past its greatest sin, slavery.
“Barack Obama, the son of two University of Hawaii students, went to Columbia and Harvard Law after attending a private academy that taught the children of the Hawaiian royal family. He made his name in politics as an aggressive Chicago vote hustler in Bill Clinton’s first campaign for the presidency.
“You see the similarities.”
And don’t miss the Journal’s signature dot-drawing of Lincoln, with the caption: “He’s no Obama.”
The problem, says Peggy, is that boasting of one’s own greatness seems to be the current hallmark of figures in public life, and she wants to know how permissible self-confidence has mutated into bloated self-regard–which she thinks is behind this month’s two stupidest sets of Supreme Court decisions–the ruling that allows munipalities to seize private property and turn it over to “redevelopers” and the ones that ban the Ten Commandments on some pieces of public property but allow them on others:
“Local government can bulldoze Grandma’s house because it’s in the way of a future strip mall that will add more to the tax base? The Ten Commandments can appear on public land but not in a courthouse, but Moses, who received the Ten Commandments can appear in the frieze of the House but he’ll be sandblasted off the Supreme Court? Or do I have that the other way around?”
Not principle behind the decisions but “vanity,” says Noonan. I’ve got to agree.