“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Obama's ego, so inflated, will require a ZIP code of its own.

Obama’s swelling ego

By Jeff Jacoby
Boston Globe
Globe Columnist / November 14, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA was too busy to attend the celebrations in Germany this week marking the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago. But he did appear by video, delivering a few brief and bloodless remarks about how the wall was “a painful barrier between family and friends’’ that symbolized “a system that denied people the freedoms that should be the right of every human being.’’ He referred to “tyranny,’’ but never identified the tyrants - he never uttered the words “Soviet Union’’ or “communism,’’ for example. He said nothing about the men and women who died trying to cross the wall. Nor did he mention Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan - or even Mikhail Gorbachev.

He did, however, talk about Barack Obama.

“Few would have foreseen,’’ declared the president, “that a united Germany would be led by a woman from [the former East German state of] Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it.’’

As presidential rhetoric goes, this was hardly a match for “Ich bin ein Berliner,’’ still less another “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’’ But as a specimen of presidential narcissism, it is hard to beat. Obama couldn’t be troubled to visit Berlin to commemorate a momentous milestone in the history of human liberty. But he was glad to explain to those who were there why reflections on that milestone should inspire appreciation for the self-made “destiny’’ of his own rise to power.

Was there ever a president as deeply enamored of himself as Barack Obama?

The first President Bush, taught from childhood to shun what his mother called “The Great I Am,’’ regularly instructed his speechwriters not to include too many “I’s’’ in his prepared remarks. Reagan maintained that there was no limit to what someone could achieve if he didn’t mind who got the credit. George Washington, one of the most accomplished men of his day, said with characteristic modesty on becoming president that he was “peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.’’

Obama, on the other hand, positively revels in The Great I Am.

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,’’ he told campaign aides when he was running for the White House. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that . . . I’m a better political director than my political director.’’

At the start of his presidency, Obama seemed to content himself with the royal “we’’ - “We will build the roads and bridges. . . . We will restore science to its rightful place. . . . We will harness the sun and winds,’’ he declaimed at his inauguration.

But as the literary theorist Stanley Fish points out, “By the time of the address to the Congress on Feb. 24, the royal we [had] flowered into the naked ‘I’: ‘As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress.’ ‘I called for action.’ ‘I pushed for quick action.’ ‘I have told each of my Cabinet.’ ‘I’ve appointed a proven and aggressive inspector general.’ ’I refuse to let that happen.’ ’’ In his speech on the federal takeover of General Motors, Obama likewise found it necessary to use the first-person singular pronoun 34 times. (“Congress’’ he mentioned just once.)

At this rate, it won’t be long before the president’s ego is so inflated that it will require a ZIP code of its own.

Then again, how modest would any of us be if we were as magnificent as Obama knows himself to be? “I am well aware,’’ he told the UN General Assembly in September, “of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world.’’

In 1860, writes Doris Kearns Goodwin in her celebrated biography “Team of Rivals,’’ an author wishing to dedicate his forthcoming work to Abraham Lincoln received this answer: “I give the leave, begging only that the inscription may be in modest terms, not representing me as a man of great learning, or a very extraordinary one in any respect.’’

Obama has often claimed Lincoln as a role model, but apparently it only goes so far.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at


  1. Fighting Flip:

    Pacquiao Wins 7th Title

    When it finished, Pacquiao had won his seventh title in seven weight divisions, a first in boxing history.
    Pacquiao collected belts, from lightweight to now welterweight and every belt in between. He entered Henry Armstrong territory, earning comparisons to the boxer who won three titles in 10 months in 1937, when there were only eight divisions.

    Along the way, Pacquiao became an international superstar, a singer with albums that twice went platinum, an actor with so much money he made his own movies.
    Proof of Pacquiao’s own confidence came from the concert he scheduled at Mandalay Bay, a full eight songs to be sung less than two hours after the fight concluded.
    When the fight ended, Pacquiao headed to the concert, then eventually back home, to the Philippines and more than 90 million adoring fans.

    This was more than just another knockout. This one was historic.

  2. Interesting that it was found and ID's by it's Dog Tags:
    Name: Sabi
    Religion: My most Holy Sergeant
    Blood Type: Canine
    Rank: Mutt 1st Class.

    Is that enlisted or Officer rank, I wonder?
    From the looks, I'd say it was an enlisted dog.
    Maybe it'll get a better reenlistment bonus, this time? Purina chow, for sure?

    "Who are you!"

    "I can't hear you!"


    - Rick A Hyatt,
    Or maybe she will be sent to the White House as the First Dog Man-chew-rian Canine.

    - Craig,
    Maybe she will become the Man-chew-riun Canine and infiltrate our White House as the new First Dog.

    Black Lab found 1 year later.

  3. Peter Robinson, who wrote the

    "Tear Down this Wall Speech"

    tells of how State Dept was begging Reagan not to say it right up til he gave the speech.

    They kept writting alternatives, and giving reasons why it was ill-advised.

  4. Robinson was inspired by some East Germans, a woman in particular, who expressed outrage when he asked her if they had become used to it.

  5. wrt State's pleadings, Reagan asked an aide:
    "I am the President, right?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "It stays in."

  6. Q:
    Who assured the country that KSM would get "a full military trial"?
    [Andy McCarthy]

    Senator Barack Obama, during the floor debate on the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

    See the Breitbart clip, here.

    [Thanks to Andrew Bostom.]

  7. Obama declares self 'America's first Pacific president.'

    TOKYO — Trying to reassure allies and rivals, President Barack Obama billed himself Saturday as "America’s first Pacific president," promising the nations of Asia "a new era of engagement with the world based on mutual interests and mutual respect."
    Obama spoke extensively of his own roots in the region – his birth in Hawaii, living in Indonesia as a boy, his mother spending nearly a decade working in the villages of Southeast Asia. “The Pacific rim has helped shape my view of the world,” Obama said, speaking in front of 14 alternating U.S. and Japanese flags.
    So much for History,
    Let's talk about me.

  8. That whole article describes an academic pinhead, with no grasp whatsoever of the real World.

  9. "There must be no doubt," he said.

    "As America’s first Pacific president, I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world."

  10. or led by a man of African descent. Guy isn't a natural born citizen. The 'Founders' are turning in their graves.

    Hey Ash, talking of the Founders, reading in Paul Johnson's "A History of the American People" tonight I came across this--

    Cato thought "Every ploughman knows a good government from a bad one." Jefferson agreed: "State a problem to a ploughman and a professor. The farmer will decide it often better than the latter, because he had not been led astray by artificial rules."

    page 183 of the paperback edition, so you can look it up.


  11. MSNBC Uses Fake Bikini Pic of Palin During Live Segment

    What in hell have we come to?

    Rather what in hell have they come to?

    Lou Dobbs got canned from CNN, over the birth certificate issue, is the speculation. Or immigration. Or both.

    Actually, Lou didn't really know what he was talking about on the birth certificate issue.

    'Diamond' Lou Dobbs has quite the ego himself.