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Thursday, October 15, 2009  

Straight to the Top

It's unsurprising that Pat Buchanan found in the Nobel Peace Prize another occasion to trash the president in a spastic manner (keep this up, conservatives--Americans are really frosted that the world admires our president. This issue is all upside!). I won't link to his screed, in which he repeatedly and disrespectfully refers to the president solely by his first name, but I did take note of this sentence:

They have reinforced the impression that Obama is someone who is forever being given prizes -- Ivy League scholarships, law review editorships, prime-time speaking slots at national conventions -- he did not earn.

Some of this is just Pat Buchanan's customary bigotry. If he's ever thought a person of color deserved anything but scorn and punishment, he hasn't said so to any of us. Pat Buchanan lives in a world where black and brown people are so hobbled by stupidity and ineptitude that the only possible explanation for their achievements is liberal paternalism. Does anyone who's not crazed with racism seriously argue that Obama didn't deserve to go to an Ivy League school? Or to make law review (much less lead it, which is an elected position)? And how exactly does one "deserve" a speaking slot at a national convention, apart from being able to give a very good speech--which, as everyone who's not Pat Buchanan remembers, Obama did?

But yet the shrieking ogress has managed to pass his tentacle across a major theme on the right throughout President Obama's career and especially since the awarding of the Nobel Prize: that he hasn't accomplished anything. This was never a very substantial claim. Making, and then presiding over, Harvard law review is a real achievement, as is teaching at the University of Chicago, winning a state senate seat in the cutthroat world of Chicago Democratic politics, and coming from way behind in a crowded field to cruise to both nomination and election to the U.S. Senate in a big and fractious state. His legislative footprint in both state and federal government was modest but real and promising.

Still, when he announced for the presidency in February 2007, it was a fair rap to say that his portfolio was lean for a presidential candidate. That was before he wrested the nomination from the most well-known and personally popular face of the Democratic Party (it's easy to forget how certain even very close observers were that Obama was running for VP and had no real chance to dethrone Hillary Clinton), built the most well-funded and sophisticated campaign in the history of electoral politics, and defeated the most popular Republican in the country to become our nation's first black president, all while a persistent and substantial minority believed he was a Muslim.

Now unless the whole electorate was seized with white guilt, this counts as a legitimate achievement. So does passing a mammoth (though not mammoth enough) stimulus bill and taking steps to revise our position on human rights. But none of this counts, to the right; this is all Affirmative Action stuff. And if it hasn't ended yet, it clearly won't ever. I'm looking forward to the Affirmative Action health care bill--those senators don't want to seem like racists, so they'll pass it. This will be followed by the Affirmative Action climate bill (same deal), Affirmative Action Social Security reform, and the Affirmative Action Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Still gripped by political correctness, the electorate will return this unaccomplished man to office in the midst of the Affirmative Action recovery, as banks start lending and businesses start hiring in order to give this most favored president a political boost. Then, years later, historians will be accused of goosing Obama up the rankings because he's black.

None of these arguments will gain traction outside of the Movement, which has entered deeply into a Dungeons and Dragons phase of private mythologies and alternative realities. Obama will be in for plenty more rough sailing, and we'll have plenty of chances to see how the promise has measured up to the reality. But none of these rough patches will have anything to do with the obsessions of people like Pat Buchanan.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 10:14 AM
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