The Corner

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From Behind the Unreasoning Mask


I liked this observation by Matthew Continetti, guest-blogging the other day at Jennifer Rubin’s “Right Turn” Washington Post blog:

Yes, plenty of Americans admire President Obama personally while disapproving of his job performance. But there is also a peevish side to Barack Obama that does not wear well. Remember “You’re likable enough, Hillary”? Or when the president dismissed Sen. John McCain at the health-care summit by saying, “The election’s over, John”? Or when he tried to exclude Fox News from interviews? Or when he got angry at a local television reporter for asking semi-tough questions?

Karl Rove’s right: The 2012 GOP nominee should “fiercely challenge Mr. Obama’s policies, actions and leadership using the president’s own words, but should stay away from questioning his motives, patriotism or character.” Still: If the GOP nominee uses good-natured humor to needle Obama’s record, then the president likely will show his bad side. And the country won’t like it.

Of course, the trick will be to find a candidate among this GOP lot who can thread that needle. But Obama’s peevish side — his fundamental lack of a self-confidence grounded in a history of real accomplishment (as opposed to unwarranted self-esteem, which he has in abundance, and which his improbable election only solidified) — is his Achilles’ heel. The Republican candidate will need to exploit that relentlessly, and let Obama reveal his true nature. As Melville writes in Moby-Dick:

All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! 

Update: This ought to help. There’s no drier wit nor someone with a more mordant sense of humor in the GOP than McCotter.