Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama as saviour?

As Victor Davis Hanson points out today, President Obama and his people have constantly, in their speeches, warned us to lower our expectations of his administration--you can't fix everything right away, it will all take time, etc. Yet in many ways Obama has sought to heighten our expectations:

"For nearly three months since the election, we have been warned by President Obama, his staff, and the media not to burden him with unreal expectations that no mere mortal could meet.
But why then consciously borrow from Abraham Lincoln’s speeches? And why re-create Lincoln’s historic train ride to his inauguration—especially by flying back from Washington to Illinois to then return to D.C. by slow-moving railcar? Lincoln took the train because it was the only feasible way to get to Washington in 1861, not to copy the grand arrival of some earlier American savior. Candidate Obama once adopted a presidential-like seal. He held a mass rally at Berlin’s Victory Column (after his request for the more dramatic Brandenburg Gate was refused). He adopted Greek temple sets at the Democratic convention. And like Zeus on Mt. Olympus, he talked about making the planet cool and the oceans recede. And now he’s capped all that by warning us to lower our expectations! But if Obama deliberately takes on the trappings of a messiah, why shouldn’t we expect messianic solutions?"

Partly, I suspect this arises out of the Obama team's inexperience. They need someone like Michael Deaver, a key aide to Ronald Reagan, who was a master at setting the scene and tone for candidate and then President Reagan's speeches and rallies. Of course, Deaver focused not on dressing Reagan with messianic trappings, but rather at focusing on and rallying Americans' patriotism.

As Hanson points out later in his piece, surely part of what the Obama team is up to is an attempt to move to the center, policy-wise; while using symbols and rhetoric to pacify Obama's liberal/progressive base. But rhetoric and symbols won't help Obama deal with our plethora of foreign enemies, and terrorist opponents. Let's hope he gets that.