Because of the mainstream news media’s scandalous abandonment of their responsibilities during the last election, Barack Obama took the highest office in the land as a largely unexamined man, little more than a hologram onto which our press, corrupted by political conformity, projected its hopes and dreams. Since then, those of us whose national pooch he is screwing have tried to assess Obama’s personality from a distance. Among those whose opinion is worth considering, there seem to be two possibilities: either he is a left-wing ideologue or an empty man.
The mighty Rush Limbaugh, for instance, has consistently portrayed Obama as an ideologue, an Alinskyite purposely set upon destroying the economy in order to introduce socialism by stealth. El Rushbo, as we listeners know, is correct 99.5 percent of the time so, mathematically speaking, contradicting him is a fool’s game. And yet no less a personage than the truly brilliant Hoover Institute fellow Shelby Steele says, no, the O-man is too empty for ideology.
Here’s Steele, via Tanya Davis over at the Huffington Post: “You know one of my criticisms of Barack Obama all along has been that he’s unlike, just for an example, say a president like Reagan or the great presidents Lincoln and so forth, or even someone like Truman, who came into office as very well-defined men. They knew who they were; they knew what they stood for; they knew the direction they wanted to take the country in. Barack Obama seems to me to be without that. There’s almost this kind of inner emptiness there, but not because he’s incompetent. That’s just been his bargain, sort of, all his life – certainly his political life – is to be kind of an invisible man.”
Normally, a disagreement between two titans like Rush and Steele would make it impossible for ordinary mortals to take sides. But in this case, I, as Barack Obama himself is always saying, refuse to accept a false dichotomy. It seems to me that a man may become an ideologue because he’s empty inside, that he may use ideology to fill the void the rest of us fill with self-awareness, conscience, principle, and wisdom gained through experience. The signature of such an empty ideologue would be his complete unawareness that he was an ideologue. He would believe his ideology to be mere pragmatism because ideology would be all he had inside instead of that experience processed by personality from which true pragmatism arises. He would have no means to assess himself and would simply take his learned philosophy as given.
This would explain the rather pitiful moment when the President told House Republicans last week, “I am not an ideologue,” and then, in response to their titters, reared back, surprised and defensive, and said, “I’m not!” He really doesn’t know because, aside from ideology, there’s nothing else there.
It would also explain why, even when his ideology clearly isn’t working, he hasn’t the required wherewithal to change his mind.
When Rush and Steele disagree, only both can be correct.