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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I took this from Neo-Neocon

Barack Obama's amazingly consistent smile from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

Obama’s fixed smile is described thusly (the nearly-fixed head position, which in my opinon is even more revealing, is not specifically mentioned):

"Ladies and gentlemen, your President is a robot. Or a wax sculpture. Maybe a cardboard cutout. All I know is no human being has a photo smile this amazingly consistent."

Perhaps Obama was merely getting ready for Halloween a few weeks early, and was wearing his favorite costume: an Obama mask.

And lest you think all of this is sort of trivial, I submit that it is not. Obama is easily the most controlled president I’ve ever seen in terms of his personal style. Although supposedly cool, there is no looseness there, no moment when you think you see a glimpse into the true man in a relaxed state when he has let down his guard.

In general, politicians who would be president must exercise more public control over themselves than ordinary people. But Obama is in a class by himself in this regard; his control is more complete and therefore more eerie. Even gestures that might appear to be spontaneous (witness these) are, IMHO, carefully planned to appeal to a certain audience that “gets” it.

Some people are just naturally subdued, and I think that description fits Obama as well. But there’s much more than that going on with the demeanor of our current president. Anyone who attempts this complete a level of control is hiding something. In Obama’s case, I believe it is his essential far-Leftist self: who he is and what he means to do.

That’s the Obama mask he wears, and he cannot take it off without revealing more than he wishes us to know right now. Maybe some day.

And now let me go all literary on you and quote T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock:

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

[NOTE: One of the very few people who seems to know Obama—if “know” is defined as having had a great many dealings with him before he ran for office—is Richard Epstein, a law professor at University of Chicago. The following excerpts are from an interview Epstein gave in early April of 2009 (and remember, this is from a guy who has known him personally for quite some time):

Obama has the world’s most perfect human disposition. He can sit in a room with you, he can listen to you, and he can talk to you, and you really get the sense of a man who is in complete self control.

But, that’s the very feature that makes him so hard to read. He is so much in self control, that if he doesn’t want you to know in a conversation what he is thinking, you can be there for 30 minutes and never be able to figure out what he believes. You can only have him question you about what you believe. He keeps all of his thoughts to himself.

Robinson: So, he is like Leonard Nimoy, like Spock, the Vulcan in Star Trek.

Epstein: He basically knows how to keep that shield over his face.

Epstein also expresses little doubt about one of the questions that keeps coming up in discussions of Obama: is he an ideologue, or just a follower and/or a narcissist? From the interview:

Robinson: You are quoted in the Boston Globe, “I like Obama but I reject the suggestion that he is an intellectual. He is an activist merely mimicking the mannerisms of an intellectual.” How good is Obama’s mind?

Epstein: His mind is pretty good, but it is a clever “means-ends” mind. He has never written a scholarly article in his entire life…

His positions are not close to the middle, and so he sees no reason to compromise with Republicans unless and until they can mount a veto threat in the Senate. He is very, very dogmatic about his substantive positions. He knows what he believes and he knows why he believes it, and it is extremely difficult for people on the outside to change his mind.


[ADDENDUM: Stuart Schneiderman of “Had Enough Therapy?” adds some further reflections on Obama’s mask.]

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