Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Sam Smith

From the start one thing I couldn't figure out about Barack Obama was how come a guy with only about 140 days' experience in the US Senate decides to set himself up a presidential exploratory commission.

Nothing since then has been particularly reassuring, as I was reminded when Obama said that people who thought he was moving to the center "apparently haven't been listening to me."

Even if that were true, which it certainly isn't, there are a number of good and higher priority reasons they may not have been as attentive as the candidate would have liked, such as trying to hold on to a job in an economy for which Obama has no particularly good ideas, or fixing dinner, getting the kids to school or watching Jon Stewart.

Parents, teachers and spouses are entitled to complain about people not listening to them. Political candidates are not, because the relationship between the citizen and the politician is not that of a child, student or spouse but, in theory at least, that of a boss, or at least an equal. A candidate is supposed to listen to the people. If the people listen to him, it's because he has something useful to say, and sonorous, semantic slipping and sliding doesn't count.

Nobody talks about it, but Obama has a stunning ego and sense of personal entitlement, as Chancellor Merckel discovered as the candidate blithely planned to expand his campaign to German soil and the Brandenberg Gate. The whole campaign has a grandiosity and self-centered quality that makes it seem as though concocted by a Hollywood film producer rather than real politicians. Unfortunately, however, life isn't a film; it is still real.

There isn't much to do about it at this point given the politics of the situation and the dismal alternative. But it is a problem and we ought to at least not hide it under the Kool Aid.