Barack Obama flew to Hawaii this week after fiscal-cliff negotiations stalled, in part for a Christmas vacation, and in part to attend the memorial service for the late Senator Daniel Inouye. Obama offered a eulogy for Inouye, which usually means offering insights into the deceased’s life and character. Instead, as is Obama’s wont, he talked more about himself than the man whose life was supposed to be the center of attention.
Even Slate noticed the problem, and blasted Obama for his narcissistic streak:
Someone needs to tell Barack Obama—it must get particularly confusing this time of year—that his own birth is not Year One, the date around which all other events are understood. His much-noted, self-referential tic was on cringe-worthy display Friday when the president gave his eulogy for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who served in Congress for half a century representing Obama’s birth state of Hawaii.
Inouye was a Japanese-American war hero (he lost an arm in World War II, destroying his dream of becoming a surgeon), and as a senator he served on the Watergate committee, helped rewrite our intelligence charter after scandals, and was chairman of the Senate committee that investigated the Iran-Contra affair. It’s the kind of material any eulogist could use to give a moving sense of the man and his accomplishment. But President Barack Obama’s remarks at Inouye’s funeral service were a bizarre twirl around his own personal Kodak carousel.
This comes as no surprise to readers of Hot Air; it was a recurring theme in the Obamateurism series. For that matter, so is Obama’s odd concept of math:
Obama likes to see events through the lens of his own life’s chronology. Thus we learn that Inouye was elected to the Senate when Obama was 2 years old.
Er, that’s not true. Obama was born in August 1961, and Inouye won election to the Senate in November 1962, taking office in January 1963. Obama wasn’t two years old, not even when rounding the numbers; he was one year old when Inouye won his Senate election. (At least this isn’t as bad as Obama’s Selma math.)
Emily Yoffe continues:
Obama acknowledges that as a young person he was unaware of politics, and thus Inouye. But then something important happened that made young Obama pay attention to the first man to be elected to Congress from Hawaii after it joined the union. When Obama was 11 years old he went on vacation with his family, and those paying their respects to Inouye got to hear a long description of this amazing trip, from Seattle to Kansas, from Disneyland to Yellowstone. They heard of the young Obama’s happiness whenever the motel had a pool or an ice machine. And finally, as the people must have been twitching in the pews wondering where this was all going, we get back to the late senator.
It turns out the Watergate hearings were taking place at that time, too, and Obama’s mother watched them in their various hotel rooms. It surprised young Obama to see that a man of Japanese descent was a senator. Little did most people know that the most important thing to come out of the Watergate hearings was that Obama, with his mixed-race background, saw in Inouye a hint of “what might be possible in my own life.” That Obama in some way may have been inspired to a political career by a man who overcame prejudice and later became Obama’s colleague is a fine point to make. But it is an incidental one to the life being celebrated.
It’s fine to relate personal stories during eulogies, but they should have the deceased as the focal point, not the eulogist. As Yoffe notes, this is a constant theme for Obama, whose speeches contain more self-referential pronouns than any of his predecessors of recent memory. Even the President who earned the monicker “The Big Me,” Bill Clinton, looks positively humble in comparison.
We’ll include this one in the OOTY polls next week, to be sure.