The Obama Personality Cult?


barack obama

While I generally remain a fan of President Obama and greatly respect his intellect, I recognize the danger of placing too much trust in him and his abilities to lead the country. Glenn Greenwald points to a personality cult that has developed around the President, leading otherwise intelligent people to place unrestrained trust in his brilliance. He cites Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, who stated the following about the war in Libya:

So what should I think about [the war in Libya]? If it had been my call, I wouldn't have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I'd literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he's smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted."

--Kevin Drum, Friday, in Mother Jones

Greenwald, while clearly a liberal, does not see himself as a 'Democrat' or a 'Republican' when it comes to political analysis - but more a citizen with a duty to hold leadership to account. He writes about Drum's thought process:

"Thinking" that way is an absolute abdication of the duties of citizenship, which compel holding leaders accountable and making informed judgment about their actions (it's a particularly bizarre mindset for someone who seeks out a platform and comments on politics for a living). It's also dangerous, as it creates a climate of unchecked leaders who bask in uncritical adoration. I honestly don't understand why someone who thinks like Drum -- whose commentary I've usually found worthwhile -- would even bother writing about politics; why not just turn over his blog to the White House to disseminate Obama's inherently superior commentary? And what basis does Drum have for demanding that Obama inform him or the nation of the rationale for his decisions, such as going to war in Libya; since Drum is going to trust Obama's decisions as intrinsically more worthwhile, wouldn't such presidential discussions be a superfluous act?

I think that Greenwald's attack may be a little harsh, after all, Obama was elected on the basis of his far superior judgment to John McCain (and to an extent, Hillary Clinton). But his overall point is, I believe, correct.

Obama has made a series of bad decision particularly those related to the financial sector and the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Many believed that Obama was elected to stop sending troops into the Middle East and clean up the Godawful mess on Wall St. On both accounts, it appears his supporters were wrong. Therefore when it comes to analyzing his current policies, it is not only intelligent to view them with skepticism, but a duty as a citizen. If liberals abdicate their responsibility as citizens, they are no better than the Republicans that sat idly by while Bush and Cheney wrecked the domestic economy and plunged the Middle East into a never ending abyss of violence and instability. Many Republicans knew better but out of loyalty to their leader, chose not to speak out.

Democrats must not do the same and look at Obama's policies, not just his personality.