Barack Obama is presenting a problem for the older American left. As strieff earlier pointed out, liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has little nice to say about Barack Obama’s losing battle with vacuity [Obama the Unknown]:
“Just tell me one thing Barack Obama has done that you admire,” I asked a prominent Democrat. He paused and then said that he admired Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention in 2004. I agreed. It was a hell of a speech, but it was just a speech.
Not even the reliable (Dem) Richard Cohen understands the mystical concept of Hopechangehope. Sure, Obama promises it, and if feels great when he does – and we have to know in our hearts that we should aspire to it – but we don’t know what IT is. Hopechangehope is that indefinable something which encompasses all that can be good about all things, both in their general senses and in their particular sense.
The new kids in the American left are smoking Hopechangehope, but Cohen seems not to be buying.
But at least he admires John McCain’s character:
On the other hand, I continued, I could cite four or five actions — not speeches — that John McCain has taken that elicit my admiration, even my awe. First, of course, is his decision as a Vietnam prisoner of war to refuse freedom out of concern that he would be exploited for propaganda purposes. To paraphrase what Kipling said about Gunga Din, John McCain is a better man than most.
But I would not stop there. I would include campaign finance reform, which infuriated so many in his own party; opposition to earmarks, which won him no friends; his politically imprudent opposition to the Medicare prescription drug bill (Medicare has about $35 trillion in unfunded obligations); and, last but not least, his very early call for additional troops in Iraq. His was a lonely position — virtually suicidal for an all-but-certain presidential candidate and no help when his campaign nearly expired last summer. In all these cases, McCain stuck to his guns.
His friend, the prominent Democrat, should have thumbed his nose and walked off, drink in hand, to begin to chat with the pretty, blonde political consultant. Character most certainly does not trump Hopechangehope.
Obama, Richard Cohen writes, is often compared to the concept JFK:
The comparison makes sense. He has the requisite physical qualities — handsome, lean, etc. — plus wit, intelligence, awesome speaking abilities and a literary bent.
Didn’t Ted Sorenson write Profiles in Courage? Oh, never mind.
Cohen would sooner compare Barry to Frank D. Roosevelt, though recalling Walter Lippman’s first assessment of the New Dealmaker:
Roosevelt, he wrote, was “a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for office, would very much like to be president.” Lippmann later recognized that he had underestimated Roosevelt.
Cohen points out that Obama would like to make his critics into 21st century Lippmans in that sense, but he declares that the next President has to be strong enough to raise taxes, cut benefits, and make the American people like it. (Those in the American left, at least the old portion thereof, have been issuing such warnings since the founding of The New Republic (deceased) by… well, that selfsame Walter Lippman.)
But we can take solace in knowing that Cohen’s prominent Dem friend did not leave him for cocktails and pretty political consultants. Cohen was not finished with the prominent Dem:
The question I posed to that prominent Democrat was just my way of thinking out loud. I know that Barack Obama is a near-perfect political package. I’m still not sure, though, what’s in it.
I think Cohen knows exactly what is in the political package we call Barack Obama. If he carefully pulls away the tape and peels back the paper, if he lifts the lid of the Barry Box, he’ll find: Hopechangehope. This means, of course, that he will find nothing. The only thing which can survive in a vacuum, including that between some prominent ears, is Hopechangehope.
BUT WHAT IS IT ?!?