American Elephants


Who Is Barack Obama? by The Elephant's Child

On January 19, USA Today had an article entitled “Who is Obama? Pragmatism makes him tough to define.”  The article begins:

“A socialist? A steady hand? A sellout?
Halfway through his first term — or only term, if Republicans can eject him in the 2012 elections — President Obama’s leadership style has made him something of a political enigma.

Barack Obama has been our president for just over two years, and we’re still wondering who he is. This is astounding.  I Googled “Who is Obama” and got 418,000,000 hits.  Richard Epstein has described him as having the perfect political personality— completely contained and not revealing of himself. Obama has described himself as a blank slate.  And he has reinvented himself regularly.  Things which he has a long public record of opposing, he favors, and the reverse as well.

In tomorrow night’s State of the Union speech he is expected to reinvent himself as a pro-business president, deeply concerned about jobs and the economy.  And yet, no one in the media calls him a flip-flopper, no one suggests he is lying.  He flashes that dazzling smile, and lo and behold, he is a pro business president.  After all, didn’t he hire General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head his jobs commission?  And William Daley, his new chief of staff, is a banker. Yet he wants to create jobs by spending more taxpayer money.

He reinvented himself with his speech in Tucson, as a caring and compassionate president.  The speech was widely praised, and I praised it myself because it was, I think, the first speech we have heard that was not all about him.  He got the tone right, but whoever handed out tee shirts at a memorial service was deeply tacky.

David Axlerod, former chief of staff and public relations man, says he excels at the role:

“He is at his best when things are at their worst,” he says. “When things look the darkest and people are downbeat and wringing their hands, he’s always the guy who says, ‘OK, what do we do next?’ “

The USA Today article is deeply interesting because it makes you think, even if you get no closer to the question of just who Barack Obama is and what he believes.  Regular visitors probably don’t have much doubt about where we come down.  But what do you think?  Who do you think he is? And why are we still asking that question?




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