Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Obama - Cult Figure?

One of the most frightening observations of the Obama phenomenon is how pervasive it has become. On the weekend I was speaking to an acquaintance of mine, an astute well-educated businessman who normally can be counted on for level-headed rational thought. As one who is always on the prowl for a political discussion I asked him what his take was on the 2008 Presidential elections. He immediately told me that he was excited by the prospect of an Obama presidency and feared (and I kid you not with this paraphrase) ‘what would happen to the US if he were not elected.’

Taken aback by these words (which echoed a similar phraseology sprouted by filmmaker Spike Lee several weeks earlier) I could not help but ask him if he was serious.
He was and then promptly re-affirmed his initial statement by declaring that an Obama presidency is ‘exactly what the US needs’. Obama represents ‘new ideas and a different way of thinking’ he assured me. I asked him to expand on these ‘ideas’. He continued that the US has built up much global negativity by the actions of the Bush administration and that Obama was the right man to heal the chasm.

I pushed him a bit further and asked him if healing this apparent chasm was more important than the war against the global and self-evident Islamist threat. He hesitated and then as if to downplay the latter and avoid the question stated the now tired mantra that a ‘vote for McCain was a vote for the old – a vote for Bush’. I reminded him of his diversion tactic and stated some key differences between the two – emphasizing in particular McCain’s strength in non-partisan congressional bills and the fact that the Arizona senator himself had already been to Europe several times – which the Obama- obsessed media had barely covered.

‘Yes but Obama is the more exciting candidate it is only natural for them to want to cover him’ he retorted.

‘But that isn’t a good enough reason and you know it. Nor does it represent the actions of a responsible media. Wasn’t Hitler more exciting then the Weimar bureaucrats as well? What about Amin with respect to his opposition? Or Gaddafi? Beware of the excitement factor it is a ruse’ I continued. ‘It seems as though Obama is being built up into some type of messianic figure and that too many are falling for this hype.’

‘We’ll see’ he said. Not wishing to engage in further discussion. We left it at that.

Later on I sat musing about our discussion. I was still amazed at how my friend – a non-radical- had thrown away his critical thinking hat in cowing to the Obama hysteria. What was happening here? In a sense it almost seemed pathological – but it certainly isn’t isolated. My father who holds fairly conservative views on many issues has also become an Obama convert. Had these people not heard about Obama’s flip flops in the Middle East? His backing by the radical but influential Moveon.org grouping? His opposition to the successful surge in Iraq? His repackaged tax and spend economics?

Did they not care that western civilization was at war a barbarism and that they were endorsing a political figure with so little foreign affairs experience? Was this not the big knock against Dubya in 2000? Yet somewhere all these strikes were swept under the rug in the case of the Illinois senator – as he represents ‘change’ and has ‘charisma’. Whatever that might be. Perhaps the collective insanity had indeed triumphed.
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