Barack Obama has always been less real than dream — a media dream.
by Andrew Klavan
Even before his inauguration, Barack Obama was an imaginary man, the creation of his admirers. Think back to the 2008 Time magazine cover depicting him as FDR, the Newsweek cover of the same year on which he was shown casting Lincoln’s shadow, or the $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”—this in 2009, less than a year after he had taken office. It was not that Obama had done nothing to deserve these outsized comparisons and honors—it was not just that he had done nothing—it was that he seemed for all the world to be a blank screen on which such hysterical fantasies could too easily be projected, a two-dimensional paper doll just waiting to be dressed in leftist dreams.
This weird quality of emptiness incited the imaginations of his opponents as well. Among the more paranoid on the right, he’s been called several kinds of Manchurian Candidate: a radical disguised as a moderate, a Muslim disguised as a Christian, a foreigner disguised as an American, and so on. The idea was that his hollow identity was his own insidious creation, the result of sealed college records, votes of “present” in the Illinois state senate, and a supra-partisan persona carefully crafted after a scuttled lifetime of revolutionary ferocity.
To be sure, Obama has disowned the depth of his past associations with such fire-breathing America-haters as William Ayers (“A guy who lives in my neighborhood”) and Jeremiah Wright (“He was never my spiritual mentor”) with startling insouciance. And such previous Obamas as the race-baiting, black-talking demagogue of a 2007 video recently covered in full for the first time by The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson are not at all apparent in the Obama of the Oval Office or the campaign trail—whom he himself describes as a “non-threatening” statesman. But I think the real Obama has been more or less plain to see. Norman Podhoretz described him best in a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed: a typical product of the anti-American academic left, committed to transforming U.S. capitalism into a social-democratic system like Sweden’s.
The mystery Obama—the hollow receptacle of out-sized fantasies left and right—is not a creation of his own making, political chameleon though he may well be. It emanates instead from a journalistic community that no longer in any way fulfills its designated function, that no longer even attempts the fair presentation of facts and current events aimed at helping the American electorate make up its mind according to its own lights. Rather, left-wing outlets like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and the like have now devoted themselves to fashioning an image of the world they think their audiences ought to believe in—that they may guide us toward voting as they think we should. They have fallen prey to that ideological corruption that sees lies as a kind of virtue, as a noble deception in service to a greater good.
Theirs are largely passive lies and lies of omission. The active frauds—NBC’s dishonest editing of videos to reflect a leftist worldview, ABC’s allowing Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos to masquerade as a newsman, the Los Angeles Times’ suppressing even the transcript of the video in their possession that shows candidate Barack Obama at a meeting with a PLO-supporting sheik—these are only egregious salients of the more consistent, underlying dishonesty. The real steady-state corruption is revealed in the way Obama scandals like Fast and Furious, Benghazi-gate, and the repeated breaking of federal campaign laws have been wildly underplayed, while George W. Bush’s non-scandals, like the naming of Valerie Plame and the firings of several U.S. attorneys at the start of his second term, were blown out of all proportion.
And it is revealed in Obama’s blankness, his make-believe greatness, and the suppression, ridicule, and dismissal of any evidence that he is not the man this powerful media faction once wanted so badly for him to be. No other modern president could have associated so intimately with lowlifes like Wright and Ayers and the now-imprisoned Tony Rezko and not had those associations exposed in every detail. No other president could have made the radical remarks he’s made—about wealth redistribution, religion, and the federal government’s alleged ill-treatment of blacks—and not had them headlined all over for weeks. No other could have presided over such a crippled economy and such universal failures at war and in foreign policy and escaped almost without mainstream blame.
The Obama of the imagination is the media’s Obama. Out of their fascination with the color of his skin and their mindless awe at his windy teleprompted rhetoric, they constructed a man of stature and accomplishment. Now, with the White House on the line, they’re waging an ongoing battle against the undeniable evidence that he has never been, in fact, that man. The result in these quadrennial autumn days has been media coverage of a fantasy election, an election in the news that may bear no relation whatsoever to the election as it is. Polls consistently skewed to favor Democrats in percentages beyond any reasonable construct of reality have left us virtually ignorant of the state of the race. Orchestrated frenzies over alleged gaffes by Mitt Romney have camouflaged an imploding Obama foreign policy, an Obama economy threatened by a new recession, and an Obama campaign filled with vicious personal attacks and lies.
Governor Romney’s unprecedented dismantling of the president in their first debate—an encounter so one-sided it reminded me of the famous cartoon in which Godzilla meets Bambi, with predictable results—was surprising only for Romney’s warmth and clarity. Obama’s hapless fumbling, bad temper, and inarticulate inability to defend his record were actually thoroughly predictable. They were simply facets of the man as he truly is, unfiltered by the imagination of his media supporters: a man who has succeeded, really, at almost nothing but the winning of elections; a man who cannot distinguish between his ideology and life; a man who does not seem to know how the machinery of the world actually works.
Fantasy is a powerful thing, but reality will win out. Perhaps by Election Day, the public will have awakened from the media’s dream.
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Andrew Klavan is a novelist and a contributing editor of City Journal, an online publication of the Manhattan Institute in New York City.