The Faux Golden Boy

October 20th, 2009

obama_goldenI’ve watched President Obama through the campaign and during his first nine months in office.  I’ve read and watched the mostly adoring press coverage.  I’ve also read and heard the alarmist conservative plaints to the effect that Obama is a not-so-secret socialist/communist/Muslim whose main goal is to destroy America as it is, or once was.

I’ve also read Obama’s first book, Dreams from My Father, and I’m halfway through his second, The Audacity of Hope. (I’m beginning to wonder how many autobiographies one man can write.)

I’m arriving at a picture of Barack Obama — both as a man and as a politician — that differs significantly from the worshipful images of a sainted savior painted by liberals and the imaginary Manchurian Candidate that dominates the nightmares of conservatives.

It seems that Obama fits neither of those feverish descriptions.  Rather, he’s more of a faux golden boy, the kind of modern man — more often than woman — who is mostly image without accomplishment.  Because of, not despite, his mixed-race heritage, upbringing in exotic settings, and loss of a father he never knew, he emerged as one of those very bright young men who seemed to always succeed without ever doing much.  Everything he touched somehow turned to gold just because he was himself.  He is to the world of politics as Paris Hilton is to the world of entertainment — aura abetted by charisma, free of substance.

He ducks and weaves his way around obstacles, never confronting challenges head-on, never engaging in direct combat that can wound or kill.  He’s the brilliant golden boy, after all, and everything can be forgiven.  He’s not the kind of man who could fight his way through the corporate world to become a CEO, and he wouldn’t make it far in the military.  But he’s a perfect politician, a force unto himself, who managed to become President of the United States without ever having done much that was hard or dangerous.

And how’s that working out so far?  Campaign promises unfulfilled, hard decisions ducked, a solid majority in Congress that accomplishes little because of a lack of firm presidential leadership.  After the health care reform, cap-and-trade, and stimulus debacles, the President is now dithering his way through a decision on the war in Afghanistan.  Or, perhaps he’s trying to avoid making a decision.  The golden boy has met an obstacle he can’t talk his way around; he has to make a decision that’s among the hardest imaginable.  If he goes one way, we’re almost inevitably headed into another Vietnam-like scenario; if he goes the other way, it will be him who lost Southwest Asia.  The worst decision, and the one he may make, is right down the middle — and that’s a guarantee of failure.

I don’t want Obama to be another failed president.  However, I fear that’s where he’s headed because a faux golden boy can’t last long in a job that requires a real iron man (or woman).  When we look back on the Obama presidency some years from now, it may be that the recent Saturday Night Live skit on Obama’s failures was the gasping canary in the coal mine.

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11 Responses to “The Faux Golden Boy”

  1. Brian Bagent |

    To quote one of my favorite SEALs, “professionals are predictable, amateurs are not. The world is full of amateurs.” And so it is with our president. The only thing we can predict about him with any certainty is that he is unlikely to stick his *%$#% out for anything. He’s obviously made a career of doing just that.

    He has his beliefs, and he is going to act on them. We all do the same. However, his beliefs run contrary to republican (little “R” ) principles of government. He may, just by sheer accident or a particular alignment of the planets, get something through. He has surrounded himself with thugs and thieves (Rham Emanuel and Tim Geithner), so do not expect wine and roses.

    It would appear that he is abdicating his political leadership on things that matter to people (elected and unelected) we absolutely know we don’t want making decisions: in the former case, that would be Pelosi, Reid, Feinstein, Boxer, et al; in the latter, it would be appointees like Emanuel and Geithner.

    I am reminded of the tale of the scorpion begging a frog for a ride across a stream. The frog initially declines, believing that once across, the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion of course denies this. Finally, the frog assents. Halfway across the stream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog looks up and asks “Why did you do this? Now we’ll both drown.” To which the scorpion replies “I am a scorpion…it’s what I do.”

  2. Lisa |

    When Obama was campaigning my household referred to him as the hollow suit and we could not figure out how others saw something more. I am glad he does not have the CEO resume and gravitas to make his campaign promises a reality. Also, Tom can you imagine in the military how long an officer would be able to stay in if they blamed their predecessor for everything they were not able to accomplish? Also, if we went abroad and spoke badly about our country, our security clearances would be held in question as well as our careers. Yet this guy is the commander -in-chief of the armed forces of the USA. He is so inexperienced that these basic protocols than a second lieutenant learns swiftly or preferably inherently already understands, is lost to him. It is an embarrassment that I hope others finally see.

  3. Tom |

    The problem is worse than being an empty suit with no significant experience. That’s how I originally saw him, and I figured that through time he would rise to the job because he’s very intelligent. If that were true, he could become a good president. But I’m coming to the opinion that he doesn’t have core values or guiding principles — aside from maintaining his “golden boy” image.

    He’s a liberal, by instinct, education, and upbringing. But conservatives and liberals alike are missing the point when they work themselves into a froth over, respectively, his turning the U.S. into a European socialist society or failing to implement leftist policies. He’s not going to do either of those things to any significant extent.

    The larger danger, depending on your point of view, is where his advisers will try to take him. He’ll largely go where they want, as long as it doesn’t present a major risk to him. Then he’ll throw people and ideas under the bus, as we’ve seen many times.

  4. Harvey |


    My analysis is far different from yours (and always has been). Following is the relevant excerpt from my latest on my blog:

    “Obama doesn’t care about the economy; all he cares about is government control and he knows that he cannot control a free market so he is determined to destroy the free market.

    But what about or country’s economy as it competes in the International marketplace? Our dollar will soon be worthless anywhere except at home and, I’d bet every dollar I own that in Obama’s heart he doesn’t mind that a bit. He’s getting even!

    That’s right, the President of the United States is getting even with this country that he regards as greedy and oppressive; and to get even he is going to intentionally and willfully try to destroy the United States by taking away its wealth and power. (Not saying he will accomplish his “plan” but he will continue to try)

    OK! I know that sounds completely paranoid but how else can his actions be justified?

    Put yourself in the Oval Office. You’ve inherited a screwed up economy. What do you do? Do you focus on things like healthcare and the environment or do you take actions to get businesses back in business and growing again so they have a need for more workers?

    The answer should be obvious and if Obama had really intended to fulfill his campaign promises, now, nine months later, our economy would be growing (or at least not shrinking) and the government would be shrinking — not the other way around.

  5. Brianna |

    Harvey, Tom – In the end, does it really matter why someone does what they do. The fact remains that he did it, the damage was done, and it will keep happening unless he is forcibly restrained. A person might be a murderer because he enjoys killing people or because he’s a pshycopath, but in the end the bare bones of the matter is that he killed someone. We might recognize the different motives by sending the sane man to a prison and the psychopath to a mental institution, but that doesn’t change the fact that both needed to be taken off the street.

    P.S. Plase note that this argument cannot logically be extended to someone who *did* have a valid justification for his actions, because in such a case it is assumed that his actions were just and he does not pose a danger to others.

  6. Tom |

    It matters a great deal why someone does what they do. In law, for example, motive is an important practical factor in questions of guilt and sentencing, even though motive doesn’t have to be proved or even known.

    In Obama’s case, if he were the evil character intent on destroying the U.S. that some on the far right envision, he would be a great danger. But he isn’t. He’s a liberal Democrat, of course, and he seeks typical liberal solutions to problems. But given the picture of his true nature that I think is beginning to emerge, it’s doubtful that he will get much done. He’s unable to herd his own cats in Congress, and he buckles every time real pressure is applied to him. He can do harm by not doing well, of course, but that’s more the harm of poor leadership, and conservatives should stop losing sleep over Obama leading the U.S. in sweeping socialist change. He doesn’t have it in him.

    And lest we forget, Obama isn’t wrong every time he refers to the problems he inherited from Bush, although continuing to whine about it is getting tiresome. Bush had a heck of a lot to do with the deficit we now face, he rammed through the poorly-conceived first stimulus bill, he mismanaged the war in Iraq for a long time, he let Afghanistan drift along for years, and he presided over a rather significant erosion of U.S. international prestige.

  7. Brianna |

    “It matters a great deal why someone does what they do.”

    If it affects the outcome of the situation, yes. If you’re assigning moral blame, yes. If you’re trying to learn a lesson for the future, yes. But just because someone had good intentions, doesn’t mean they should be excused from the damage they did trying to enact them.

    Unfortunately for Obama (and the country), you do not need to have deliberate intent, or be an evil genius, in order to hurt people by implementing bad government policy. Don’t forget FDR’s famous saying:

    “this country needs . . . bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

    In other words, by his own admission FDR was treating the country like one big economic experiment. He didn’t know what he was doing. He wasn’t basing his experiments in logic and reason. He certainly wasn’t adhering to any rigid, long-term principals. But he did do a wonderful job of keeping the Depression going far, far longer than he needed to.

    The ultimate point? A kid with a chemistry set doesn’t need to be very bright or try to blow things up on purpose in order to create an explosion, and a politician with a laundry-list of potential directives doesn’t need to have lots of brains or malicious intent to send a country into a shambles.

  8. Brianna |

    Ahhh Keynesians… *headdesk*

    It never ceases to amaze me that although Roosevelt managed to preside over almost the entire Depression, nobody ever seems to question the idea that Roosevelt had nothing to do with either the breadth or the depth of the crisis.

  9. Ruth Reynolds |

    I wish to comment that it is very revealing that Obama did not have a national day of prayer for the first time in our history but he had a big haloween party. Whose side is he on and how long does he think he can ignore the creator of all? Also on the Indian situation: If the Indians and blacks would realize they are their own problem and work on self improvement on their own it would greatly improve the situation.

  10. Tom |

    Ruth, your comparison of the National Day of Prayer and Halloween loses me. I’m sure there’s some logic behind it, but I can’t see what it might be.

    Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush each had an NDOP event once during their presidencies. Bill Clinton never did it. George W. Bush had an NDOP event every year. So much for your “first time in our history” comment.

    You believe Obama is ignoring “the creator of all?” Who or what might that creator be? There are many people in the U.S. whose conception of a “creator” varies significantly from yours. This is just one of the reasons why the Constitution includes the Establishment Clause, and Congress’ designation of an annual NDOP is pretty clearly in violation of that clause.

    Your “Indians and blacks” comment isn’t relevant to the article, far as I can see. I suppose you have your own reasons for making a statement like that.

  11. daily | Obama’s State of the Union |

    […] inability of Congress to deliver, despite large majorities in both houses. As I wrote in an earlier article, [Obama] ducks and weaves his way around obstacles, never confronting challenges head-on, never […]

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