During the feverish excitement of the 2008 campaign, a columnist for the online San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Morford, took it upon himself to educate anti-Obama naysayers with "dysfunctional karmic antennae." They had been asking him: "What the hell's the big deal about Obama?"
The question looks prescient these days, but Morford's karmic antennae at the time picked up something different. Obama -- Morford had been told by "spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual)" -- was a "Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment."
The karmic antennae of Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of Oprah's favorite meditation teachers, also picked this up. Kabat-Zinn pronounced Obama America's "first mindful president."
Obama, of course, had encouraged this talk with his stump speeches about "we are the ones we have been waiting for" and his campaign slogan ending in a preposition -- "Change you can believe in."
This ludicrous rhetoric and the expectations it inspired have caught up with him, as he looks more and more hackish, dishonest, and feeble by the day -- more a lightweight than a "Lightworker," less "mindful" than mindless. Most politicians spend the bulk of their mental time figuring out how to dodge and weave through a crisis, but one would think such a fabled figure could bring a little bit more imagination and sharpness to the exercise.
The most obnoxiously self-conscious environmentalist president ever stands dumb before America's worst environmental disaster. Hillary Clinton's campaign criticisms of Obama as a wimp and cocky dullard hold up fairly well. It turns out that he is not very good at taking tricky calls at 3 AM or 3 PM.
Obama's idea of nervy leadership is to swear on a morning show (he went down to the Gulf to find out "whose ass to kick," he said). But notice that even there he had to be led by Today's Matt Lauer, who induced the swearing through a question about when Obama was going to "kick some butt."
At a hour when Lauer is normally flipping pancakes with a celebrity chef or goofing off with his smug colleagues, he was besting the President of the United States (who was no doubt kicking himself afterwards for not having chosen Larry King as his interlocutor). Lauer cut Obama off in mid-sentence as he began to chatter insecurely and unconvincingly in his sophomoric Marxist mode -- "I am going to stay on [BP] if it is the last thing…" Had he even talked to the BP CEO? Lauer wanted to know. No, Obama had to admit, exposing his big talk about BP as cowardly chuntering. A president known only for his words said he didn't want to talk to some "guy" who was just going to tell him what he wanted to hear. "With all due respect, that feels strange to me," Lauer replied.
But moments later, Obama resumed his bragging tone, saying that Tony Hayward "wouldn't be working for me" after Lauer listed some of the BP CEO's tone-deaf comments. Hayward had said that he "wants his life back" (striking a note, by the way, not unlike Bush's FEMA director Michael Brown who wrote an e-mail during the Katrina meltdown in New Orleans that he wished he was home enjoying a "margarita").
Obama shook his head censoriously as Lauer read Hayward's comment to him. But doesn't Obama act like he wants his life back too? He has a put-upon air about him, as if it is outrageous that the presidency should make demands upon him beyond placing ribbons around the necks of rock stars. Obama couldn't even suppress that air during the Lauer interview. Obama said that he was, long before the pundits noticed the crisis, "standing in the rain" talking to "fishermen" down in the Gulf a month ago.
Can you believe it? Obama had to talk to fishermen while pelted by rain drops. The things he has done for his country and the "planet."