Obama to Harry Reid: “I have a gift.”
“This column has referred previously to a January 2007 New York Times article about Obama at Harvard Law School. It has the best description I have seen of the “gift.” This was 1988 to 1991, one of the most politicized periods in the law school’s history, with divisive fights over ideas such as critical race theory. In the article Prof. Charles Ogletree recalled how the young Obama spoke to a public gathering on one particularly contentious issue, and both sides thought he was endorsing their argument: “Everyone was nodding. Oh, he agrees with me.”
“That is the “gift.” What is not clear as we approach the second year of Mr. Obama’s term is whether the gift can produce magic for a presidency.
“The American presidency isn’t like anything else in life. What was magic at Harvard or wowed independents in 2008 isn’t necessarily what works in the Oval Office or in a room with Vladimir Putin or Wen Jiabao, who are quite beyond the experience of political awe.
“The aspect of the “Obama” phenomenon that disconcerts me most is the sense that Barack Obama himself is at times oblivious of where it has taken him. The first time was his acceptance speech last year in Denver, in which he promised to solve, well, pretty much everything. Grandiosity is de rigueur on that occasion, but this was its antic cousin, grandiloquence.
“This week brought a more troubling incident. Harry Reid’s Senate had just secured its 60th vote for Mr. Obama’s health-care reform. Whatever one’s view, its trillion-dollar-plus cost is an agreed given. Days earlier the public saw Congress vote to raise the debt ceiling by almost $290 billion to make room for the needs of the $800 billion stimulus bill, the unprecedented $3.5 trillion budget, and the House’s approval Dec. 16 of a new $154 billion jobs bill. Amid this President Obama said Monday: “We can’t continue to spend . . . as if the hard-earned tax dollars of the American people can be treated like Monopoly money.”
“From the Wizard of Oz to Tiger Woods, the greatest danger to grand men is feet of clay. There are varieties of clay. For the politician known as Obama it is that if he is shown to be a cynic, he is finished. “Monopoly money” was an everyone-agrees-with-me remark. But to everyone, it was simply fantastic.
“The American people took a flyer on Barack Obama. If they conclude Obama is just the name of another lesser god, his fall could come as fast as his rise.”