Barack Obama has at least one thing right: the author of The Audacity of Hope is certainly audacious.
The junior Illinois senator has been telling us for months now: “We are the hope of the future. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” If I believed that about myself, I’d be pretty audacious. Not to mention messianic.
And so the political savior went to Berlin to stand on the shoulders of giants, and didn’t even have the courtesy to tip his hat to the president of the United States — Ronald Reagan — whose monumentally historic rhetoric he adapted ad nauseam, showing an audacious disregard for creativity and originality.
But the Berlin speech wasn’t anything too new, save for a U.S. presidential candidate’s self-conscious embrace of a post-national identity as a “Citizen of the World.” Other than that, you’ve heard most of the speech before. It would be less disturbing if it were merely empty rhetoric signifying everything and nothing, requiring projection on the part of the unformed masses Obama seeks to give it meaning. But his substance is audaciously insulting, on top of the language.
Hillary Clinton, in retrospect, got a bad, perhaps unfair, rap for being presumptuous. Despite being a workhorse in the Senate and on the campaign trail, she was maligned by many, including this columnist, for her imperial arrogance, for thinking of her campaign as merely part of the inevitable and rightful return of the Clintons to their White House. It was foregone conclusion to which Team Clinton certainly did subscribe.
But at least she was willing to do the work she needed to do to earn the job. Barack Obama, by contrast, makes Hillary look positively meek, and does so without all the elbow grease. In his mind and in the minds of many a callow Obamamaniac, he is the “inevitable” one.
“We are the ones we have been waiting for”? Really? If all of American history has been waiting for me to be able to pull a lever for Barack Obama, I might have to rethink the greatness of this fine country. Fortunately I won’t have to. I hate to tell Chris Matthews and his tingling leg, but Barack Obama is not the source and summit of U.S. history. Barack Obama represents an obnoxiously elitist attitude that reeks of paternalistic government, the kind that folks like Reagan and the late, great William F. Buckley Jr. devoted much of their lives to pushing back, both here and abroad.
Obama’s European trip, of course, provided a wide stage for his self-assured pomp and inconsequence. The speech at the Berlin Victory Column furnished the fireworks of the trip, but it — with its Leni Riefenstahl-like rally posters translated into German — did not stand alone in audacity.
After conducting some would-be freelance diplomacy with the leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian states, Barack Obama presented himself in Europe as president-elect, rather than as a frosh senator who lucked out with a few good choices on either side of the aisle, and who is now clearly in over his head.
And considering the depth and extent of the grief George W. Bush gets for being stubborn, you’d think Obama would show some humility for being on the wrong side of the biggest war story of the last year, the troop surge in Iraq. The surge worked, yet he and his fellow Democrats opposed the considered advice and airtight plan of the commander on the ground in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. But what did a seasoned warrior know compared to this young politico from Chicago? Community organizing in the Windy City apparently made him a military expert.
Audacity is nothing new to Barack Obama. The book title, The Audacity of Hope, of course, comes from a speech by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for 20 years, from whom Obama decided to distance himself when it became clear that he would forever be a political liability if the senator didn’t “throw him under the bus,” in the parlance of urban wheeling and dealing.
Audacity can be a beautiful thing. Hope, surely. But when both are rooted in nothing but the well-crafted words (thank you, Obama aide David Axelrod) of a supposed political savior, I, for one, am not signing up, thank you very much. Say what you will about John McCain, at least we know he’s got deep roots in tried-and-true political virtues: duty, honor, country. Those are more stable principles than the audacity of whatever the Obama team comes up with next.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.
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