My Obama Inauguration Column, Six Years Ago Today

It is hard to remember, or even believe today, the absolute hysteria that accompanied Obama's nomination.  Even folks who should have known better were sucked in.  I seemed to be the only surly one that day who found the adulation, the near Imperial coronation, sickening.  Here is an excerpt.  I stand by it six years later:

Folks are excited about Obama because, in essence, they don't know what he stands for, and thus can read into him anything they want.  Not since the breathless coverage of Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's vault has there been so much attention to something where we had no idea of what was inside.  My bet is that the result with Obama will be the same as with the vault.

There is some sort of weird mass self-hypnosis going on, made even odder by the fact that a lot of people seem to know they are hypnotized, at least at some level.  I keep getting shushed as I make fun of friends' cult behavior watching the proceedings today, as if by jiggling someone's elbow too hard I might break the spell.  Never have I seen, in my lifetime, so much emotion invested in a politician we know nothing about.   I guess I am just missing some gene that makes the rest of humanity receptive to this kind of stuff, but just for a minute snap your fingers in front of your face and say "do I really expect a fundamentally different approach from a politician who won his spurs in .... Chicago?  Do I really think the ultimate political outsider is going to be the guy who bested everyone at their own game in the Chicago political machine?"

Well, the spell will probably take a while to break in the press, if it ever does -- Time Magazine is currently considering whether it would be possible to put Obama on the cover of all 52 issues this year -- but thoughtful people already on day 1 should have evidence that things are the same as they ever were, just with better PR.   For God sakes, as his first expenditure of political capital, Obama is pushing for a trillion dollar government spending bill that is basically one big pork-fest that might make even Ted Stevens blush, a hodge-podge of every wish-list of leftish lobbyists that has been building up for eight years.  I will be suitably thrilled if the Obama administration renounces some of the creeping executive power grabs of the last 16 years, but he has been oddly silent about this.  It seems that creeping executive power is a lot more worrisome when someone else is in power.

It has been suggested by some that today is less a cultish corronation but a big victory party in the battle against racism.  Well, I am certainly willing to accept it on those terms.  I have been arguing for years that it is time to declare victory on the worst aspects of race and gender discrimination, and move on to problems of interest to all races (like individual freedom or giving kids options to escape crappy public schools).   Unfortunately, I fear that too many folks in power are dependent on the race/gender/class wars continuing, so you and I may think we are declaring victory, but those with power over our lives have not.

  • Tom Murin

    I'm missing the same gene apparently. There has never been a bigger disconnect between what is said and what is done. I am still waiting for Gitmo to be closed and the earth to start healing.....

  • Tom Nally

    Warren, you weren't the only one. I've always called the Obama followers "adulants". But the only one who SHOULD have known better (perhaps) but didn't was Peggy Noonan, in my opinion. From time to time, I remind Peggy that Obama is "her guy".

  • frankensteingovernment

    I too, was a huge skeptic of the man from nowhere. I still feel as though everything in his life is a fraud- including who his father is, who paid for his college degrees, his missing thesis, missing ex girlfriends, and how he got that massachusetts social security number. In the very early days, I was very nearly thrown out of my county, tarred and feathered, for writing inquiries and trying to investigate who this guy really is. Six years later, I don't know anymore about him because any attempt to gather useful information is obstructed. Perhaps when he leaves office after pardoning 1/2 of the prison population, we'll start to make some headway..

  • Brad Warbiany

    Shouldn't this by Obama's "inauguration" column? He was nominated quite a bit earlier...

  • Sam L.

    You should have said, I stand by it, even though I underestimated by a bunch.

  • bigmaq1980

    "I seemed to be the only surly one that day who found the adulation, the near Imperial coronation, sickening."

    No, you were not the only one. Had to suck it up as family members, who talked like they really did some "hard research" in their choice of candidate to favor, did a victory lap (and again in 2012, like it was a team sport - none saw through him until about six years later).

    IMHO, he already had a negative strike against him with his clear socialist bent. But coming in the swell of the crisis of 2008 parallels too much of Germany in the 1930's - another era where opportunity befell a gifted orator, to great adulation.

    What was worse was his near papal "infallibility" - nobody could dare criticize him. Everywhere one turned it was a all positive Obama all the time. He*l, he was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ex-ante!

    Between the crisis, its subsequent handling of it, and having a POTUS who was/is untouched (and largely cheer-lead) by most major media significantly lowered my evaluation of the sustainability of democracy in this world.

    Sadly, our freedom can be lost rather suddenly, and most will not have realized it until it is well past too late.

  • David in Seattle

    I wonder how different history would have been if that Hope + Change would have been identified as a hoax earlier on. I remember a debate with fellow students about the viability of a Hitler-like candidate today. They argued that such a person, with modern TV and everything, would be seen for who he was. I didn't like the premise that Hitler was elected to office just because people didn't know enough about him. Having read a lot more since then, I know just how wrong we were at the time.

    Sadly, news like the below, from Facebook, has me questioning whether being more connected makes us more informed, or just easier to mislead. Not that Facebook is up to anything evil here, per se. But, China does the same thing because, as they argue, "most" of their Internet users do not have the education and experience to tell the difference between reality and untruth.

    http://news.yahoo.com/facebook-clamps-down-fake-news-stories-202017892--finance.html

    I guess this is just to say I don't think Obama will end up being the last such candidate elected to office in the USA.

  • mx

    Is it really that hard to recognize the difference between a politician you dislike and a genocidal mass murderer responsible for turning the state into an engine of death against millions of civilians? The comparison is offense and causes people to stop listening to what may well be legitimate policy arguments.

  • Everyman
  • chembot

    While personally I feel Hitler analogies have little usefulness because of the cries of "Godwin's Law" no matter how apposite the comparison may be, it is fair as a larger point about politicians being able to generate a cult of personality to accrue power and accomplish unsavory ends. He could have just as easily made the comparison using Hugo Chavez, Mussolini, or the Kims of North Korea.

    For my part, I did think it was creepy how Obama's rallies in 2008 often looked like a Benny Hinn faith healing, complete with the fainters and empty platitudes. I remember a joke titled "Obama: The King James Version" at the height of the crazy. It appears much of the luster has been lost in the intervening years but boy has it been an epic ride of statism. Fortunately, mostly these days he has been reduced to "not waiting for congress" and issuing executive orders in far more galling fashion than Bush ever did. So much for the fear of a strongly unitary executive on the part of liberals.

    May gridlock reign forever.

  • bigmaq1980

    You misread the parallel, it is about how many people can be swayed so easily and not ask some basic questions. It is about how the media does not see a problem with being virtual cheerleaders for a candidate rather than providing the same level of questions regarding policy to all candidates. It is about how mainstream comedians somehow cannot find comedic fodder in our leader. It is the lack of real debate on legitimate policy arguments.

  • J_W_W

    From the time of his inauguration, I have always felt that Obama's theme song was "Cult of Personality". I'm sure Living Colour has a different view of him than me, but their song was most definitely about men like Obama.

  • mx

    In general, I agree with your broader points. However, likening the President to Hitler is hardly something that elevates the standard of debate in this country; that tactic is far from a serious engagement with actual policy matters under discussion.

    I also don't think people are as brainwashed by the President's rhetoric as you may think. President Obama's approval rating has averaged ~47% throughout his time in office, about the same level he holds now. His opposing party just handily won control of both halves of the legislature. Clearly, this is not a nation of mindless sheep blindly following a charismatic leader in everything he asks.

  • bigmaq1980

    Ha, again with likening Obama...NO!

    It was the cult like reaction of the people (the press, etc) coupled with the crisis...if people can vote/behave en masse this way, then we are in grave danger of someone much worse (like Hitler/Stalin/Mao, pick your favorite dictator, as there is no real difference between them) coming upon the scene at some future crisis.

    Yes, people have soured on him now, but he's been able to bypass multiple issues for years because few in a position to question with impact (media) would dare. Yes, it is true that the GOP dominate Congress. However, that is not necessarily stopping this President from unilateral executive action on issues properly reserved for deliberation in Congress.

    We can technically "live" with the outcomes of those actions now, but Obama's moves in size and scope have set a precedent that opens the door much wider than other Presidents, leaving greater latitude for abuse in the future.

    Just says that it is not which party in power, but the size and scope of the government that is the problem. If the people and the institutions can behave this way for a sustained period, as we have seen, we have a serious risk of losing our freedom.

  • J_W_W

    Ironically, for every Rebublican candidate, their health records, tax records, business records, and school records are all demanded by the same media that couldn't find any record of Barak Obama existing at all before 2004. I truly think his school records, if they were ever found would show that he got awful grades as a student and that most of his papers were written with hard core marxist sympathies. There are big things about Obama that have been hidden. Hopefully someday after he's out of office they will actually turn up.

  • Joe

    That last paragraph is kind of prophetic. Many people viewed that the inauguration of Obama as a major victory in the war on racism. Today It seems to be that racial tensions are on the rise in this country. I can't help but wonder if a large part of this can be explained by Obama being attached at the hip with Al Sharpton.