OPEN UNIVERSITY MARCH 21, 2007
by Daniel Drezner
Richard, you might not have intended your post to be an Obama endorsement, but the effect of this paragraph fragment would seem to endow the man with near-superhuman powers:
[M]y guess, say, is that Barack Obama's boyhood years in an Indonesian school might be the equivalent of years of anthropological or ambassadorial presence in Jakarta, that his years at the racially mixed private school in Hawaii count for understanding of racial peace and strife as much or more than five years work at the NAACP, that his years of community work on Chicago's South Side, his subsequent terms in the Illinois and United States Senate, his lecturing at the U. of Chicago Law School close to such men as those of Cass Sunstein, Richard Posner, Douglas Baird, and Richard Epstein have taught him more about dealing with varieties of intellect than a dozen years of diplomatic intercourse in the capitals of Europe, Asia and Africa.
My guess is somewhat different, but just imagine the possibilities if Richard is correct. Since we're so early in the election cycle, what if Obama were to spend the next six months not campaigning and doing something else entirely? Consider:
1) We could deposit Obama in the West Bank -- leading him to devise a successful peace plan for the Middle East;
2) We could have Obama be an orderly for a VA hospital and figure out the solution to the health care system in this country;
3) We could let Obama spend some months at Livermore or Los Alamos and maybe he'll work out the kinks to cold fusion.
I recognize that Richard is merely suggesting that Obama's prodigious intellect and variegated background can compensate for a lack of national and international experience. But this hyperinflation of Obama's abilities is not merely a distortion of reality -- it's genuinely unfair to Obama.
Jacking up expectations of his political and intellectual gifts to near-absurd levels just means that when he errs, the contrast between the media myth and the real man will more jarring. And he will err -- indeed, click here for one small, recent example.
Despite my policy differences with the junior Senator from Illinois, I agree with many of Open U.'s contributors that Obama is a man of exceptional political talents.
For Pete's sake, however, can we declare a moratorium on comparing him to Lincoln or Shakespeare for the rest of the campaign?