Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The President Is So Vain, I'll Bet He Thinks This Post Is About Him

George Will has a particularly good column today about President Obama and his trip to Copenhagen. I'm not terribly bothered by the trip itself, unlike some folks. If the president wants to spend his time trying to help Chicago (a city that certainly needs help), at least it keeps him away from his typical mischief. However, Will's point about the narcissism displayed on the trip is a good one. He writes that, "In the 41 sentences of her remarks, Michelle Obama used some form of the personal pronouns 'I' or 'me' 44 times. Her husband was, comparatively, a shrinking violet, using those pronouns only 26 times in 48 sentences. Still, 70 times in 89 sentences conveyed the message that somehow their fascinating selves were what made, or should have made, Chicago's case compelling."

One might argue that Will's point isn't a fair one. After all, counting pronouns is hardly the best way to characterize a speech. Let's examine the content instead, shall we? The president starts off well enough. The first two paragraphs talk mainly about the importance of the games, with only one reference to the president's personal history thrown in. Things go off track a little in the following paragraphs as Obama tells the committee that they should choose Chicago for the same reasons he did. This seems innocent enough at first, but as he continues, you realize it's just an excuse to tell his thrilling personal story for the 10,482,598,938 time. He focuses back in for several paragraphs extolling the virtues of Chicago and America. Then things go irretrievably off the rails as he finishes by using the games as an excuse to talk about the budding greatness that is the Obama presidency.

Michelle's speech is actually worse. At least Barack Obama has the excuse of being the leader of America when he too closely identifies selling the location with selling himself. Michelle on the other hand, tells of sitting on her daddy's lap at the tender young age of 20 (Carl Lewis first competed in the 1984 games) to watch the games and be inspired to achieve something great. I assume that means "graduate from an Ivy and marry well". You know, the feminist dream. She goes on to talk about how her father taught her to play sports despite a debilitating physical condition, and finishes with a challenge to give Chicago the games because it would have made her dad happy.

Ok, so perhaps it was just a failed attempt to personalize Chicago's already substantive efforts to land the games. What other evidence do we have that the president is self-centered? Remember the president's recent speech to the UN? That was the speech in which he said, "For those who question the character and cause of my nation, I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months." In the president's mind, defending America on the world stage doesn't involve pointing out that the previous administration spent more on foreign aid to impoverished African nations than all previous administrations combined. It doesn't involve reminding Muslim countries about the number of the times in recent decades that American blood has been spilled to protect Muslims, or reminding Europe of the sacrifices made to protect them in two world wars and rebuild them in the aftermath. Our Cold War defense of free nations doesn't even cross his mind. All that matters, all that can redeem America in the world's eyes is the fact that Barack Obama supports cap-and-trade legislation. No, no hubris there at all.

Will ends his column by pointing out that presidents often come to have a defining word associated with them. "Tricky Dick", "Silent Cal", "Honest Abe". The concluding sentence summarizes things nicely, "Unhappy will be a president whose defining adjective is 'vain.'" I apologize to George Will for this criticism, but he seems to have come up with only half a nickname. After all, it wasn't simply "Tricky" or "Honest", but rather "Tricky Dick" and "Honest Abe". To complete his point, I'd like to humbly suggest calling the president "Vain Hussein". That is, if using the president's middle name isn't racist this week. I have trouble keeping track.