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The 'audacity of Barack Obama's arrogance'

July 19, 2008 | 11:04 am

The meek may inherit the earth, as Sam Elliott muttered through an immense mustache in one of his frontier westerns, but the meek ain't gonna inherit nuthin' west of Chicago.

Same for running for president. As our good friend Frank James writes over on the Swamp:

"Let's agree that anyone who runs for president of the U.S. must, by definition, have an ego that vastly outstrips that of most other mortals. To see oneself as the potential heir to an office once held by George Washington,Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama walks a thin line between selling himself properly to voters who don't know him well and arrogance Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, is beyond most people's ability.

"But maybe it's possible for a presidential candidate to regard himself or herself too highly. Washington Post op-ed columnist Charles Krauthammer certainly seems to think such a candidate is Sen. Barack Obama."

In Friday's column, titled "The Audacity of Vanity," Krauthammer writes: "Americans are beginning to notice Obama's elevated opinion of himself. There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president.

"Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

"Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted "present" nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.

"It is a subject upon which he can dilate effortlessly. In his victory speech upon winning the nomination, Obama declared it a great turning point in history -- "generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment" -- when, among other wonders, 'the rise of the oceans began to slow.'

"As Hudson Institute economist Irwin Stelzer noted in his London Daily Telegraph column, 'Moses made the waters recede, but he had help.' Obama apparently works alone.

"Obama may think he's King Canute, but the good king ordered the tides to halt precisely to refute sycophantic aides who suggested that he had such power. Obama has no such modesty....

"For the first few months of the campaign, the question about Obama was: Who is he? The question now is: Who does he think he is?"

There's more, of course, in conservative Krauthammer's 800-word blast, but James uses the column to ruminate on the freshman senator's predicament, unknown to many Americans: he must sell himself, but it's a thin line to trudge for so long because Americans do not like arrogance at all.

The rest of James' thoughtful discussion on the balance is over here at the Swamp.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: AP