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July 12, 2011

Esquire: Can We Just Ignore Politics And Admire The President's Ineffable Perfection During This, The Summer of Obama?

WalrusRex put this quote in a comment, and I thought maybe he was punking me.

He wasn't.

Can we just enjoy Obama for a moment? Before the policy choices have to be weighed and the hard decisions have to be made, can we just take a month or two to contemplate him the way we might contemplate a painting by Vermeer or a guitar lick by the early-seventies Rolling Stones or a Peyton Manning pass or any other astounding, ecstatic human achievement? Because twenty years from now, we're going to look back on this time as a glorious idyll in American politics, with a confident, intelligent, fascinating president riding the surge of his prodigious talents from triumph to triumph. Whatever happens this fall or next, the summer of 2011 is the summer of Obama.

I assure you, I am not punking you. Check the link if you don't believe me.

Due to the specific nature of his political calculus, possibly not a single person in the United States — not even Obama himself — agrees with all of his policies. But even if you disagree with him, even if you hate him, even if you are his enemy, at this point you must admire him. The turning point came that glorious week in the spring when, in the space of a few days, he released his long-form birth certificate, humiliated Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and assassinated Osama bin Laden. The effortlessness of that political triptych — three linked masterpieces demonstrating his total command over intellectual argument, low comedy, and the spectacle of political violence — was so overwhelmingly impressive that it made political geniuses of the recent past like Reagan and Clinton seem ham-fisted. Formed in the fire of other people's wars, other people's financial crises, Obama stepped out of Bush's shadow that week, almost three years after taking over the presidency.

The non-punking of you continues.

But even that string of successes cannot fully explain the immensity of his appeal right now.

Right now? This is July, and you're talking about March. You know that, don't you?

Reagan was able to call upon the classic American mythology of frontiersmen and astronauts and movie stars; Obama has accessed a much wider narrative matrix: He's mixed and matched Jay-Z with geek with Hawaiian with Kansan with product of Middle America with product of a broken home with local Chicago churchgoer with internationally renowned memoirist with assassin. "I am large, I contain multitudes," Walt Whitman [FIG.3] wrote, and Obama lives that lyrical prophecy. Christopher Booker's 2004 book The Seven Basic Plots, a wide-ranging study from the Epic of Gilgamesh on and a surprisingly convincing explanation for why we crave narrative, reduced all stories to a few plots, each with its own kind of hero. Amazingly, Barack Obama fulfills the role of hero in each of these ancient story forms.

Not punking you. Oh, let's break the text for a picture, of Whitman, with this caption:

FIG. 3: The original American, Whitman: "In [Obama] I see myself, none more and not one a barleycorn less. And the good or bad I say of myself I say of [Obama]."

Oh anyway there's a little more. He talks about the plot points of the Great Mythopoetic Narratives and how Obama fits each plot point, like Luke Skywalker or, hey, you know this is what he means, Christ.

Wow.


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posted by Ace at 04:58 PM

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