The most amazing thing that has come out of this year's contest for the Democratic nomination is Obamamania. It is a phenomenon made all the more puzzling given that it seems to be based purely on rhetoric and image rather than on any sort of reality and substance.
One is very much reminded of a chapter in Tolkein's epoch trilogy, The Lord of the Rings - the books, not the movies. It's when Saruman is cornered in his tower at Isengard, his powers lost but for one - the power of persuasion. Gandalf warns the hobbits not to listen to Saruman's voice as it can take the weak minded and wrap them in a thrall, unable to see beyond the soothing words to the much different reality behind it. And indeed, as Saruman speaks, so are the naive hobbits beguiled.
So it is today with Obama, whose words alone inexplicably enchant the masses. Obama's soaring rhetorical promise to "rise above partisan politics" has proven every bit as soothing and beguiling as were the words of Saruman spoken from the heights of the Tower of Orthanc. But as our modern day Gandalf points out, Obama's rhetoric is equally as empty:
. . . The Democratic primary campaign has been breathtakingly empty. What passes for substance is an absurd contest of hopeful change (Obama) vs. experienced change (Clinton) vs. angry change (John Edwards playing Hugo Chavez in English).
One does not have to be sympathetic to the Clintons to understand their bewilderment at Obama's pre-New Hampshire canonization. The man comes from nowhere with a track record as thin as Chauncey Gardiner's. Yet, as Bill Clinton correctly, if clumsily, complained, Obama gets a free pass from the press.
It's not just that NBC admitted that "it's hard to stay objective covering this guy." Or that Newsweek had a cover article so adoring that one wonders what is left for coverage of the Second Coming. Or that Obama's media acolytes wax poetic that his soaring rhetoric and personal biography will abolish the ideological divide of the 1960s -- as if the division between left and right, between welfare statism and free markets, between internationalism and unilateralism, between social libertarianism and moral traditionalism are residues of Sgt. Pepper and the March on Washington. The baby boomers in their endless solipsism now think they invented left and right -- the post-Enlightenment contest of ideologies that dates back to the seating arrangements of the Estates-General in 1789.
The freest of all passes to Obama is the general neglect of the obvious central contradiction of his candidacy: The bipartisan uniter who would bring us together by transcending ideology is at every turn on every policy an unwavering, down-the-line, unreconstructed, uninteresting, liberal Democrat.
He doesn't offer even a modest deviation from orthodoxy. When the Gang of 14, seven Republican and seven Democratic senators, agreed to restore order and a modicum of bipartisanship to the judicial selection process, Obama refused to join lest he anger the liberal base.
Special interests? Obama is a champion of the Davis-Bacon Act, an egregious gift to Big Labor that makes every federal public-works project more costly. He not only vows to defend it but proposes extending it to artificially raise wages for any guest worker program.
On Iraq, of course he denigrates the surge. That's required of Democratic candidates. But he further claims that the Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda and joined us -- get this -- because of the Democratic victory in the 2006 midterm elections.
Obama has yet to have it pointed out to him by a mainstream interviewer that the Anbar Salvation Council was founded by Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha two months earlier. Obama has yet to be asked why any Sunni would choose to join up with the American invaders at precisely the time when Democrats would have them leaving -- and be left like the pro-American Vietnamese or the pro-French Algerians to be hunted and killed when their patrons were gone. That's suicide.
Even if you believe that a Clinton restoration would be a disaster, you should still be grateful for New Hampshire. National swoons, like national hysterias, obliterate thought. The New Hampshire surprise has at least temporarily broken the spell. Maybe now someone will lift the curtain and subject our newest man from hope to the scrutiny that every candidate deserves.
Read the article here. Our next President will unfortunately not be a charachter in a fantasy trilogy that ends with all living happilly ever after. Accordingly, a bit of reality would be nice before Obama is crowned king on the strength of his beguiling rhetoric alone.