The appeal of the whole Obama campaign is that he never was really one of us. He was the messiah, the great postracial hope, the one who can rise above petty partisan infighting to deliver -- oh, health care maybe, world peace perhaps? ... Obama was the stranger who appeared mysteriously to clean up the town before riding off into the sunset. He's not like us. He's better than we are. He's what we aspire to become.
Try to recall that Gallagher's commentary doesn't represent anything liberals or Democrats have said about Obama. Instead, it summarizes the sarcastic Republican and conservative characterization of the pro-Obama mindset. This is a textbook case of creating a straw man to burn down. For that purpose, Gallagher tears a match from the conservative anti-intellectual playbook. At the same time, she oddly echoes our own Mr. Peepers, which is probably flattering to neither person.
Watch the Saddleback Forum interview over again. Obama looks occasionally across the desk at his friend Rick Warren, but mostly he holds his head tilted, and his eyes slide downward. He speaks -- even in this intimate forum -- in strangely rolling, majestic sentences: "Whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective, or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade." Do people like us ever talk like that?
No, Ms. Gallagher, I imagine people like you are quite incapable of spontaneous eloquence. I have no idea how long you sweat over your weekly obligation, but I can only imagine how you might sound should you attempt to speak extempore. Are you jealous of Obama? Are you really insulted, as you insinuate, by the way that Obama holds his head? Are we to grade presidential candidates according to posture?
Here's the moral of her story:
If Obama is not the messiah, not the one -- if he's a regular joe like you and me -- then he's just a politician wearing a mask and trying to fool us by making us believe something that deep down just isn't so. He's lecturing us instead of leading us. Because let's face it: People like you and me do not run for president. The men and women who do are either better than we are -- or much, much worse. Which is Obama?
To my knowledge, Gallagher has never asked this question about Senator McCain, and did not have time before writing this to appraise Governor Palin. She at least seems to concede, and we can extend the concession implicitly, that the third-generation navy brat McCain and the beauty queen Palin are not "people like you and me," but she seems to leave open the possibility that they are "better than we are." How, exactly? Is it the way they hold their heads? For that matter, how exactly does Gallagher distinguish between "lecturing" and "leading?" I suspect it's nothing more than the reactionary suspicion of people "telling us what to do" or "telling us how to live," a suspicion I have not seen her extend to the militant McCain or to her friends on the religious right who do that sort of thing for a full-time living. Anti-intellectualism is the pretext and subtext of Gallagher's column. It's about time that "anti-anti-intellectuals" raised their voices in response. When yahoos like Gallagher suggest that "they think we're stupid," thinking people should answer, "No, Maggie, we think you're stupid."