Thursday, April 9, 2009

No “Dear Leader” please

I never got Obamamania.

I never understood the hope invested in the man, the nearly messianic expectations. I have friends who got completely swept up, who are believers.

I saw the same thing with George W. Bush: people who should have known better believing utterly that this son of privilege was just like them — and a great leader to boot.

I know people — my dad for one — for whom Ronald Reagan is a hero. (I have to say I’ve never personally met anyone who hero-worships Bill Clinton. Good thing.)

There’s something distasteful to me about elevating politicians to heroic status. It’s anti-republican (that’s small “r,” for the record). In our system of government, we hire these people to do a job and we owe it to ourselves to view their performance with skepticism, to hold them accountable.

Too much faith — I would say much faith at all — in a leader is misplaced and unhealthy for the Republic. The cult of personality is better suited to monarchies and authoritarian regimes. Americans should never have a “Dear Leader.”

Maybe I’m just being a crank. But I don’t think politicians should be treated like rock stars. (I don’t think rock stars should be treated like rock stars, either, but that’s another story.) I get uneasy when I see giant crowds going nuts over Obama.

Didn’t like the George W. Bush action-figure landing on the aircraft carrier, either.

Obama seems like good guy — personable in interviews, lovely family. I like his “cool.” I think his rep as an orator is overblown, but he does communicate well (though not as well as The Great Communicator).

But we hired the man to do a tough job and all that matters is what he gets done.

I suppose it’s natural to project our hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares, aspirations and demonic visions onto leaders. But the American form of government assumes that we can get past that kind of irrationalism and see with clear eyes.

If we’ve forgotten how, we need to relearn how to do that — now more than ever.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Last weekend I spent some time at an "anti-war" teach-in at Portland State University.

    My goal was to see if critical analysis would raise its ugly head during the event, a factor often absent from such gatherings in favor of gross emotionalism and simplistic assessments.

    The event was titled "War Does Not Equal Change" - a take-off on President Obama's Change theme so powerful during his campaign.

    Now many of the very people who laid palm branches at his feet appear to be snipping at his heels as he hasn't simply pulled the cork in Iraq...and has kept his campaign pledge to intensify the war in Afghanistan (weren't they listening to that part?)

    There was no injection of critical analysis on any subject presented during the event. Obama, however, took hard licks from his disappointed fans...understandable as without critical analysis of any issue as the cornerstone of argument only simple solutions and simple mindedness rule the roost.

    I found it illuminating that, at one of the sessions, a much thought of economics professor used the hour allotted to simply give a book report ("The Trillion Dollar War" that I could have gotten as easily from

    And I found it absurd for some claiming to be "veterans for peace" were sporting Communist hammer and sickle buttons...even as President Obama was preparing to meet with the war fighters in Baghdad earlier this week.

    I agree with the editor's analysis - far too many voted for Obama due to their imposition of celebrity on him - now, when he shows the keen ability to engage in critial analysis of the issues and base his decisions on this and not "the flavor of the week", his fans begin to clamor and salivate as his betrayal of their whims and wishes.

    President Obama is a complicated and dedicated individual - that's what we need in the President's Office at this moment in history - as for the "anti war / anti Obama" teach-in...thank goodness it was saturday and the Farmer's Market was in full swing as an alternative event.

  2. A recent article at The Prospect by Bartle Bull thoroughly dismantles Obama. Agree with him or not, Bull's take is thoughtful and well-articulated. If he's only half right, we've got something to worry about.

    Read it at

    Jim Cornelius, Editor