Noemie Emery hits the bull’s eye on the left’s fixation with Barry’s putative “shimmering intellect”:
An irresistible force is meeting an immovable object on the field of perception, and causing an odd sort of storm. The irresistible force is the growing idea that Obama has failed as a leader on a number of items: “Engagement” has failed; our allies are angry; the oil keeps gushing, his ideas are job killers; the recession goes on.
His party lost three big elections under his guidance and seems poised for a drubbing. The harder he pushes the country’s laws leftward, the more its politics bend to the right…
The immovable object is the conviction on the part of some who are also his critics that he is the smartest man who has ever held office, and is therefore too brilliant to fail. Citing his “shimmering intellect,” Richard Cohen is at a loss to explain why he hasn’t done anything with it.
“Obama, for all his brilliance, has no real, felt understanding of management structures,” says Tina Brown, describing the failure to handle the oil disaster, without explaining what, beyond talking, Obama has been brilliant at. He can talk up a storm (though of late this has faltered), but so far his shimmering intellect has led him to think that aggressors can be tamed by making concessions; that he should expand the welfare state just as it is proving unworkable (and very unpopular with the American people); and into replicating to an exact degree every mistake made by George W. Bush in handling Katrina in 2005.
Jonathan Alter blames this on Bush, while Cohen calls Obama a “sphinx,” and blames his unsettled childhood. No one advances the more likely conclusion: That Obama seems so much like their idea of brilliance that they assume it of him without too much evidence; or that their perception of brilliance — often no more than a verbal facility — isn’t much use in the world. [my emphasis]
Nor are degrees from the very best places. Presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln had next to no formal schooling, a failed haberdasher from flyover country saved West Europe from Josef Stalin, and one of the two most important presidents of the 20th century was an “amiable dunce” from Eureka College and Hollywood…
When and how then does this president’s intellect shimmer? At meetings.
He does seem a genius at chairing a forum, as at the “nuclear summit” in April, where the Washington Post claimed that he shone as a teacher, “calling on leaders to speak, embellish, oppose, and offer alternatives,” coaxing consensus and forging agreements among 45 countries at hand.
The problem was that the value of these things was limited, as the attending countries weren’t menacing anyone, while Iran and Korea, who were not in attendance, went on happily building their bombs.
He isn’t a sphinx, he’s a seminar leader who’s out of his element. And more and more out of his depth.
Jennifer Rubin comments on Emery:
…And honestly, he’s not that great at running meetings. His Afghanistan-war seminars dragged on. His health-care summit bombed when Rep. Paul Ryan and others stymied him with facts and figures.
Now that Obama’s policies and political standing are faltering, the media mavens are puzzled, as Emery notes. How can it be that he’s failing when he’s so smart? It never dawns on them that they confused slickness with smarts and urbanity with insight.
Whether it is Obama or Elena Kagan, it’s rather easy to impress the chattering class — an Ivy League degree, poise before the cameras, verbal acuity, and disdain for conservative ideas usually do it. It matters not what these figures have produced (legal opinions, legislation, etc.) but with whom they circulate and where they’ve studied. To a great degree, social elitism has replaced meritocracy as the left’s yardstick.
Unfortunately for Obama, he will be judged by what he does, not how he looks doing it. And frankly, his polish and charisma (conservatives never saw the latter, but others did) are crumbling under the pressure to finally produce something (jobs, a responsible budget, a plan for disarming Iran). There is a reason, as Emery points out, that no president has been “a blogger, a pundit, an editor of the New Yorker, or a writer for Vanity Fair.” It turns out that the rationale for the media’s lovefest — he’s just like me, but better! — was not relevant to the presidency.
Jay Nordlinger, by way of Power Line, on what might be described as shimmering idiocy:
…Michael Mukasey was attorney general from November 2007 to January 2009. He remembers visiting Guantanamo Bay in February 2008. He looked at many of the high-value detainees on video monitors. But he did not see Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Mohammed wasn’t in his cell. He was off having a Red Cross visit.
Mukasey did see the exercise room, adjacent to Mohammed’s cell. And he noticed something interesting: Mohammed had the same elliptical machine that he, the attorney general, had back home in his Washington apartment building. Only there was this difference: Mukasey had to share his, with other residents; there was a mad scramble in the morning to get to it. Mohammed had his machine all to himself.
Bear in mind that he was the “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people. That he was the beheader of Daniel Pearl. And so on. I wonder how much more tenderly America’s critics expect us to treat such people. “Abdominal massages,” of the type Al Gore apparently requests?