One of the strangest aspects of the Obama presidency is how his most vociferous critics nearly always forego the many accurate and valid criticisms that can and should be made of the president and opt instead for the most batshit crazy attacks imaginable. David Gelertner, a computer science professor at Yale, offers a perfect example in this idiotic screed published at Powerline.
His biggest asset is being black. People feel virtuous when they vote for him, or support him, or at least don’t trash him. We all like to feel virtuous. One has the impression that most commentators write off the whole question of his surprising political resilience by assuming, implicitly, that race explains everything.
But it doesn’t. There is more to this story. Obama perfectly fits the personal profile of the Culture Machine that runs so much of the American elite nowadays.
The Machine is run by PORGIs, who are just like Obama: post-religious, globalist, intellectuals or at least intellectualizers (who talk and act like intellectuals even if they don’t quite qualify themselves). And his being black, with an African father, an African name (icing on the cake) and a childhood spent in a Muslim nation (the cherry on top!) makes him beyond perfect–makes him nearly divine. We’re unlikely to hear anyone say so during this campaign as frankly as Evan Thomas of Newsweek did in 2009: reviewing the president’s recent speech in Cairo, Thomas explained to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above—above the world, he’s sort of God.” But we all get the idea.
He is post-religious: he took his family to a church where the religion seemed to be America-hatred. There are no biblical echoes in his speeches, as there have been in the speeches of so many presidents, left and right, and such other American leaders as Martin Luther King. “Pandering to religious nuts” is the way PORGIs analyze such references. Another way to describe them is quintessentially American. We are, after all, a biblical republic. The idea of America– freedom, equality, democracy, and America as the promised land–grew straight out of the Bible. Obama is the first American president to put all that stuff behind him. As for American Zionism, American Exceptionalism, the city on a hill—it is one part of the American creed that Obama simply rejects.
Uh, yeah. Perhaps Mr. Gelernter could point to all the places where the Bible endorses democracy, political liberty and equality. Good luck with that. And what universe is he living in where there are no “Biblical echoes” in Obama’s speeches? Conor Friedersdorf wonders the same thing and cites lots and lots of examples of Obama speaking publicly about his faith and the role it plays in his politics.
It is doubtless true that some GOP partisans believe Obama thinks religious people are nuts and has abandoned God. But how can a man as smart as Gelerntner possibly perceive and assert that there are “no biblical echoes” in Obama’s speeches, and that unlike other presidents he has put all that God stuff behind him?
Obama came to national attention when he gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention.
A few excerpts from that speech:
- “…our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal… that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ That is the true genius of America, a faith…”
- “It is that fundamental belief — it is that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper — that makes this country work.”
- “The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.”
- “Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.”
Skipping ahead to President Obama’s inaugural address:
- …in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
- “This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”
But it is totally ungrounded in reality. Were Gelernter to improbably miss the biblical quotes and allusions in Obama speeches, he would need only do a quick Google search to stumble across articles like this one about Obama’s habit of drawing on the bible, or references to academic papers on the same subject. And yet he wrote and Powerline published the claim, “There are no biblical echoes in his speeches, as there have been in the speeches of so many presidents, left and right.”
What save the distorting effects of the partisan mind could explain that?
For crying out loud, he couldn’t even endorse marriage equality without trying, absurdly to be sure, to justify it on the basis of his religious beliefs. Gelertner keeps going:
You might think that Obama makes a poor intellectual: he doesn’t seem to read; ideas evidently mean nothing to him. But notice that he governs on the basis of theories and not facts. And he graduated from Columbia and Harvard. Case closed.
Uh, what? Friedersdorf says that Gelertner is absolutely brilliant, even a genius, and that this demonstrates the power of partisanship to make people become utterly irrational despite their high IQs. He’s right.