Charles Krauthammer writes today that the question in the early part of the electoral cycle was: who is Barack Obama? Now, Krauthammer wonders who Obama thinks he is. Increasingly, Obama has defined himself through arrogance and haughtiness, and Krauthammer says the upcoming Grand Tour of Europe will make it exponentially worse:
Barack Obama wants to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. He figures it would be a nice backdrop. The supporting cast — a cheering audience and a few fainting frauleins — would be a picturesque way to bolster his foreign policy credentials.
What Obama does not seem to understand is that the Brandenburg Gate is something you earn. President Ronald Reagan earned the right to speak there because his relentless pressure had brought the Soviet empire to its knees and he was demanding its final “tear down this wall” liquidation. When President John F. Kennedy visited the Brandenburg Gate on the day of his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, he was representing a country that was prepared to go to the brink of nuclear war to defend West Berlin.
Who is Obama representing? And what exactly has he done in his lifetime to merit appropriating the Brandenburg Gate as a campaign prop? What was his role in the fight against communism, the liberation of Eastern Europe, the creation of what George Bush the elder — who presided over the fall of the Berlin Wall but modestly declined to go there for a victory lap — called “a Europe whole and free”?
I may have been the only person on the Right who didn’t get hot and bothered by the proposed Brandenburg venue. Yes, Kennedy and Reagan spoke there as Presidents, but the gate had more meaning during the Cold War and when the Berlin Wall still stood. The significance of the Brandenburg Gate as a Cold War front faded as the wall came down and both Kennedy and Reagan accomplished their mission — fortunately for Reagan, while he still lived to see it happen. Had Obama given a speech there, it would have highlighted how mundane Brandenburg Gate has become — and it would have reminded people of why it got that way, and who made it so. Obama would have been overshadowed by the history, not glorified by it.
However, Krauthammer has the main point correct. In ways large and small, Obama has demonstrated arrogance and conceit in ways not before seen in presidential politics. Americans may like their Congressmen and Senators to be arrogant and haughty at times, but not Presidents. They want humble men — or men who at least can act humble — in the White House. Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and even Bill Clinton understood that much. George W. Bush learned that lesson from his father’s failed re-election campaign — those seen as elitist don’t survive, even when the charge was unfair, as it was with Bush 41.
The column hits the big data points — the ersatz presidential seal being the most revealing of those he mentions. But he missed one to which I think most Americans related instantly. Obama went to San Francisco to raise money in April, and regaled Billionaires Row with his interpretation of the meaning of religion and the Second Amendment among heartland voters, whom he knows not at all:
But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
He fed into the elitist opinion that God only exists for people when the State fails, and that the State can replace God when it succeeds in controlling everything else — and, of course, only when Obama runs the State. What could possibly be more arrogant than that? Next to that kind of arrogance, Brandenburg Gate has as much significance as Coney Island as a venue for a speech.