Sunday, November 23, 2008

"The One"

I've been a holdout on commenting about Rob Natelson's two posts on Obama as Messiah. As I have argued here and in blog comments elsewhere, the notion that Obama is, or claims to be, some sort of supernatural savior was the dumbest thing to come out of the 2008 election. Yet it persists.

To respond point by point:

1. Virtually 100 percent of the Messianic claims I have heard about Obama come from the right, not the left. I don't doubt that the idea is out there on the left somewhere, but I followed the election pretty closely and never ran across a serious argument that Obama is anything but a human being, fragile and flawed like all of the rest of us.

2. With respect to Obama's resume, it certainly was thinner than I would prefer. I don't know how many of his supporters think he will "govern brilliantly" or "transform America," but don't count me among them. I voted for him because he struck me as an unusually cool head, a good speaker and a pragmatic politician, tough enough to get the job done and compassionate enough to want to get the job done right. I may be wrong, of course, but a fellow has to hope.

3. I don't know of any "hate-mongers" in Obama's associations. Ayers committed criminal acts a long time ago. So far as I can tell, he is out of the hate business. His acts, despicable though they were, fell within a tradition of American armed violence against perceived government oppression that the founding fathers not only understood but practiced. Jeremiah Wright's sermons (I've read three) strike me as firmly in the Christian tradition, a bit shrill at times, maybe, but far from hate speech. I haven't heard of any other alleged "hate-mongers" in there.

4. I haven't heard the claim that Obama has the highest IQ ever in the White House. I thought the trophy for that honor had been retired and is in a closet somewhere at Monticello.

Rob's point, apparently, is that Obama should "dampen the unrealistic level of expectation now." I'm not sure that's doable, or even wise. I hope that most Americans are realistic enough to know that presidents almost never live up to our highest hopes and ideals. But that doesn't mean we should quit trying to find one who does, or that the ones we do find should tell us to stop looking.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, two additional points:

1. Even presidents who look saint-like in retrospect didn't necessarily seem that way at the time. Despite having to run against the peace platform in his own party, George McClellan won 45 percent of the popular vote against Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Defend that vote, Democrats!

2. If any president in modern history has taken on supernatural status, it has not come from leftists in support of a liberal Democrat but from conservatives in support of Ronald Reagan. Hannity's daily hagiography of Reagan is one of his most amusing diversions.

UPDATE: I somehow neglected to link to these worthy posts on this topic.

20 comments:

Chuck Rightmire said...

It sounds as if Rob's point is that no one should take him seriously to comment on what he says. He should also be fired from the University of Montana Law School for his publications and his teaching abilities.

Anonymous said...

Ah, little Robby's just jealous. You see, Robby has always considered HIMSELF to be "The One"! And he is!.....amongst the homeschool,anti-government, god squad crowd. For you see, Rob's followers do indeed have the so-called "god gene". What they are sorely lacking is the critical THINKING gene.

I actually enjoy Bobby's writing. It's like a bizarre back to the future mobile, except that when Bobby writes, you immedaitely transported to the outter fringes of the lunar sphere where the REAL wackos reside!

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

problembear said...

i totally support rob's right to express himself but i can't help but be appalled at the lack of reason and logic from a law professor. it's kind of sad.

Ken & Carol said...

David, re your comments on messianic claims: I think most of the conversation has been ironic from the left and observations of that from the right, without either understanding the multiple ironies in the fire. When we can't see each other we lose a lot in understanding. As for Prof Natelson I will try to find the article your snarky commenters are referring to.

Ken & Carol said...

Well, I just had a look at Natelson's notes in Electric City something or other. They seems reasonable to me. Are your commenters reading the same thing I read?

David said...

Carol, You are right on both points. The fact that both sides use messianic language ironically is what makes the whole debate so stupid. There are times when it is important for people to talk honestly, and this is one of those times.

You also are right about Natelson. He draws a level of venom from his detractors that I've never quite understood. I often disagree with what he says, but I always respect it.

Chuck Rightmire said...

David and Carol: I didn't look into the items you posted. I once had to read the idiot's writings weekly, something like reading Bill Buckley's but without the big words and with a lot of ideology and no facts, also like Buckley. I don't waste time reading him anymore. Who's got the time? Particuilarly after reading some of the vapidness that he has written as published articles in law reviews.

Anonymous said...

Ken and Carol, if you don't know what Bobby's all about, how can you criticize his critics? Here, allow me to ask you just one question. Who do YOU think should be allowed to vote in America? You see, little Robby would LIMIT the right to vote to ONLY those people he approves of! Say for example, as he recently stated, property owners! But that's just ONE of his restrictions! He also states that he would like some sort of intelligence test for voters! Now, if you don't think that THAT is kinda nutty, well then, of COURSE you'll like Robby. You see, many of his ideas are simply un-American. Or just flatarsed GOOFY! Also, Bobby is a rabid defender of the most odious rightwing extremists in the state. And that is precisely why I can't stand the guy.

You really should take some time to investigate before writing, kinda like the old engage brain before speaking.
LK

Anonymous said...

it seems to me that the issue about Obama appearing as messianic is much more a criticism of Obama's followers than it is Obama. Obama is just one person and no one really knows what he thinks -- but it is astounding at how many people are eager to "drink the Kool-aid" no matter who is pouring it. And, it seems to me Chuck, that if Ayers is qualified to teach, Rob Natelson most certainly is. Or will you suggest that Ayers be fired too?

Chuck Rightmire said...

Anonymous,I don't know enough about Ayers to comment on his qualifications to teach. But I've read the idiots' news releases, columns and legal publications and they indicate, to me, that he is not qualified. He makes statements without backing them up, and he uses ideology for facts. I think that when you ask that question, you are falling into the logical fallacy of comparing apples with organges.

Anonymous said...

I can understand the sentiment to only let property owners vote, given that so many want to redistribute their property. I find it far more outrageous that so many people can be sanguine with the idea of taking other peoples property, with no more justification than a majority vote. Sort of like getting mugged in the alley by a gang of thugs, they got the majority and the power. It certainly sounds more substantial then having to live with the will of people who think what a guy looks like is reason enough to vote or not vote for them. As I recall my history there have been a few more people other than Rob Natelson who have had that idea and no one became quite so rabid about them. They were quite leary of the idea of a strictly popular vote because of people voting themselves the wealth of others -- oh my gosh, look what we have here...

Anonymous said...

Oh PUHLEASE! Allowing only property owners to vote is NOT an American ideal! Sorry, anon. No wonder you don't put your name on such an asinine post. How are things in the wingnutisphere? And just WHO is gonna take your money??

LK

Anonymous said...

"You are the instruments that God is going to use to bring about universal change, and that is why Barack has captured the youth. And he has involved young people in a political process that they didn't care anything about. That's a sign. When the Messiah speaks, the youth will hear, and the Messiah is absolutely speaking."

"Brothers and sisters. Barack Obama to me, is a herald of the Messiah. Barack Obama is like the trumpet that alerts you something new, something better is on the way."

-- Louis Farrakhan, speaking to a large crowd at a Nation of Islam Savior's Day event earlier this year.

By the way, I find it interesting that Chuck doesn't try to counter Natelson's arguments but falls back on ad hominem attacks. He also calls for Natelson's firing. Isn't it ironic that you hear this so often from liberals? They want people fired when they disagree with their views. I find it often the case that liberals don't believe in academic freedom and free speech. At least not for conservatives.

We're now seeing this phenonenom playing out in California, where people are losing their jobs because they supported Proposition 8, the measure that banned gay marriage. Ironically, Obama and Biden also oppose gay marriage, but they are exempt from any criticism because they have the "right" political pedigree. Likewise, black and Muslim churches are exempt from protest because it wouldn't be PC to attack them, but Mormon churches are catching holy hell. Polls show people from all 3 churches strongly backed the measure.

David said...

Louis Farrakhan? Louis Farrakhan is your example of a serious voice on the left?

Also, I didn't realize liberals had exclusive rights to firing people they disagree with. Remember Ward Churchill? The Dixie Chicks?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't resist posting the Farrakhan quote since you said that "virtually 100 percent" of the Messiah claims came from the right, not the left.

I never claimed he was a serious voice on the left. But he is an important voice in the black community, as the organizer of the Million Man march, etc. Most in the black community take great pride in Obama, as they should, and some have gotten carried away with their "pride," as Farrakhan has done. It is too bad, as these folks will inevitably suffer a letdown.

I know liberals don't have exclusive rights to demanding the firing of people they disagree with, although I find that conservatives do it less often, knowing it gets them nowhere, particularly with college officials. In the case of Ward Churchill, he was fired for academic fraud, if you remember correctly, not for his speech.

The Dixie Chicks were not fired for anything. In fact, I believe they still sell millions of albums a year, maybe just to a different group of customers. The Chicks had a right to speak out; others had a right to speak out in criticism of their acts. That's one thing I never quite got, why it was inappropriate for people to use their free speech rights to criticize the Dixie Chicks.

Just as folks have every right to criticize Bush or Cheney or Rob Natelson or whoever. (I just wish everyone would keep it on the issues and not make it personal, regardless of who is involved.)

I think what is most striking is that folks on the left, more so than the right, have a tendency to represent themselves as the guardians of speech and other civil liberties. Yet we often find the greatest restrictions of speech are on college campuses, particularly on the coasts, in the form of speech codes, attacks and restrictions on conservative speakers, academic restrictions on students who have said un-PC things; and so on.

(sure, conservatives have their own blind spots, but that's another story)

David said...

Actually, I said that virtually 100 percent of the claims I had heard about came from the right. That was true. I'm not sure how to classify Farrakhan on the political spectrum, but his contribution won't change the percentages much either way.

Churchill was "officially" fired for academic fraud, but that's not why conservatives were howling for his head. Similarly, the Dixie Chicks weren't technically "fired," of course, but what happened to them arose out of the same mentality that you were referring to. It isn't obvious to me that the left is any worse about that mentality than the right.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with criticizing the Dixie Chicks, or Rob Natelson, or me. But the attitude that says I won't talk to, or listen to, or respect, or do business with, people who have different opinions than I do undermines the basis of democracy. For democracy to work, people have to be able to disagree but still get along.

Eric said...

David, it is true that calling Barack Obama a 'messiah' has come from the right, but that image of him was created by his own team. I believe we've discussed it before, with specific examples like the Dems building him a temple at the convention, or the shills place in the Obama rally's to 'faint' from excitement, like some kind of traveling salvation show.

Jay Larry Lundeen said...

Hardball's Chris Matthews claims he gets a "tingle up his leg" when he listens to Obama. MSNBC's Countdown host Keith Olbermann is rumored to be contemplating French-kissing Obama during their dance at a presidential inauguration party. While I have never actually heard the term "messiah" or "anointed one" referenced by Team Obama Big-Time News Guys, it's obvious where their partiality was invested in this last election cycle.

One of the most interesting aspects of Mr. Crisp's observations was that Bill Ayers bombing of the New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972 were "despicable" acts yet magically defensible in view of the founding father's perception of government oppression. This gets my vote for 2008's Biggest Logic-Stretch of the Year.

And I also vote that far too many bright and insightful people, particularly journalists, ignored Obama's thin resume and dubious associations. Any perceived (or real) faults were simply dismissed. A cult of personality prevailed while an articulate charismatic man walked on water to become the 44th President of the United States.

"Change" has already been tainted with Clinton re-treads being appointed to key positions. Rumblings among the far left indicate the first hint of betrayal, of the same-old politics rearing its ugly head, of tingling legs going numb.

I didn't vote for Obama but wish him well in inheriting truly heinous problems. America--and Americans--deserve to be rich in freedoms, in opportunities and in righteous leadership. And if Obama and Company can provide a path to these goals, God bless the whole progressive lot of them.

And if Obama's efforts fall short, Bill Ayers reflects on whether or not he might use bombs against the U.S. in the future. "I can't imagine entirely dismissing the possibility."

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, folks. Next to jonny mcsenile and caribou barbie, plus eight looong years of a walking, talking, criminal chimp, ANYONE would look messianic! And messianic is ALL the sore losers have left. One would THINK that they could at LEAST lose with some dignity. But noooo! That's just the way rightwing losers are. I personally think it's pretty damn funny to watch. They remind me of bitchy old women. You know the type. If they can't find somethin' their hubbies have done wrong, they INVENT something! "Gee, O'Bama. Look what you've done now. You've gone and won an election, and now you think you're a messiah!"............guess that's why they love palin. she just ain't real bright neither!


LK

Chuck Rightmire said...

Look, anonymous, I don't think youi get it: Bill Ayers is an inane and irrelevant issue created by the right wing in an effort to discredit Obama. It should not be brought up and used in what is intended to be a rational discussion. Where did you go to school? Did you take any logic or fact checking courses? And to take that a step farther: while I certainly disagree with bombers and think what they did is stupid as far as effective change, I think it was Jefferson who said the people should have the right to change their government when they want to. We tend to use the amendemnt process to the Constitution while ugly thinkers use bombs. Not anything I support, but I do support the right to change the government when we need to.