Monday, May 2, 2011


How many future historians, a hundred, two hundred years from now, will make careers out of studying President Barack Obama? I wonder if he might not turn out to be the most discussed and analyzed person in American history -- or will he, by contrast, be quickly slotted into his proper place? -- a very little man, a freak of collapsing early 21st-century American academia, pet of a whole superclass of citizens, the media, who propelled him into power by ignoring everything he was? Not that the voting public, alas, weren't dreadfully to blame.

This latest episode in his life provides us with the most delicious piece of irony and poetic justice it is possible to conceive. So he authorizes the killing of Osama bin Laden, the archfiend. Good. Congratulations. Yet the Greek-tragedy-and-hubris perfection of it seems beyond human arrangement. Of all things, what should Mr. Obama now be known for, what albatross now hangs around his neck? He who delights in his Muslim background but lacks the gravitas to really espouse any faith except the America-bashing one of his former Chicago church, he who wanted to, say, redesign NASA as a vehicle of outreach to the Muslim world and apologized for Americanness at Cairo and anyplace else that would host him, he who comes from a college world where the United States, the military and the masculine are about equally loathed, he who supported the Ground Zero mosque and wanted to try the 9/11 mastermind as a citizen with full Constitutional rights in a Manhattan courtroom -- and so on, all these noble views of course contingent upon polling data and re-election prospects -- he now has used America's most extraordinary soldiers to kill the most famous America-hating Muslim in the world. It seems he had to do it, literally. His re-election prospects could never have survived any leaked word that he had a chance to do it and passed it by. (Couldn't they?) And when it was over he had to go out and announce it to the world from the White House late on a Sunday night, just as if he were President.

I wonder if it wasn't one of the bitterest moments of his life. No, not because he "killed a fellow Muslim." I repeat, I doubt he has a real faith to speak of. But being impelled to do something because the position of the presidency is larger than himself must have been infuriating. The reason he won't get a "bump" in approval from this is not only because it's still the economy stupid, but because everyone, right or left, knows this one dramatic act is totally out of character for him. The path to it was laid down by other men in other years. Heroism, action, decision making, is the last thing he wants to be around. The order that bin Laden's body must be correctly treated according to Islamic law after being shot up -- now that is in character. And not because by it he was "burying a fellow Muslim." Rather because such a picayune, theatrical command is totally in keeping with our president's emotional background: the provincial professor accustomed to trotting out his special subject, the play-President who likes the job's little powers, the wildly inexperienced adult who wants ownership of a group project but lacks an adult sense of the grotesque. Lacks taste, simply put.

So, yes, congratulations.Good luck living it down among your friends.