If We Ever Did
There is so much hope and fantasy surrounding Obama now, so much emphasis on his historic role, so many comparisons to Lincoln and FDR, such a stress on the mountain of problems he faces as he prepares to be sworn in, the person himself has been lost to view. Through the welter of projections, the layouts, the interviews, the cover stories, the punditry, he has been rendered invisible. And when he emerges, with or without his Blackberry, he will be safely encased in the Presidential bubble, his acts and statements endlessly spun, he will be invisible in yet other ways.
Clearly we are in the midst of a national celebration. He has become a totemic figure, an idol, a superman.
So what can we do about it? To be sure, we will all — myself included — succumb to our dreams and join the celebration. But then I think it will be important to keep reminding ourselves that we actually do not know him anymore — if indeed we ever did. The focus will shift to the job: the actions and the projects he undertakes, what he uses his power and influence to accomplish, what he actually does.
The really important thing is that, as the real Obama disappears from view, he himself does not get seduced into believing that he is more than he is. Recent history suggests that this easily happens to Presidents. Most advisors have their own agendas, their ways of using those they advise to bring about their own ends. Few people speak truth to power. And then few powerful people retain the capacity to believe in their own limitations and ignorance.
That will be the real thing to watch for.