Isaac Chotiner writes in that raging right-wing publication The New Republic about one particularly disturbing element of the 44th president’s standard operating procedure.
Chotiner bases his observations on a recent profile of Obama in another “arch” conservative media outlet: The New Yorker.
The portrait that emerges is not so different from the picture most people who follow politics already have of the president: serious, reserved, rather dispassionate, cerebral, intellectual, and proud of his own self-awareness.
It’s this last attribute, however, that has become increasingly noticeable over the past five years. And the more noticeable it’s gotten, the less attractive it has become.
There was a time, of course, when the very idea of having a president who is smart and engaged seemed like a luxury. Obama’s intellect—well caught by Robert Gates in his new memoir—marks an improvement over many other people who have held the office. [Writer David] Remnick defines the style as “the professorial immersion in complexity.” The more familiar way in which liberals characterize this is to say, as John Stewart said during the 2008 campaign, that Obama talks to us “like adults.”
Does he? I’m starting to have my doubts. Yes, the president is capable of giving intelligent and mature answers to questions. But the intent is so obvious—and the effort shows such strain—that the answers feel more condescending than enlightening. Remnick’s piece, in fact, doesn’t show Obama’s complexity; it shows Obama applauding his own complexity. The president is like a novelist who demands on telling you the motivation of every character, except he is the only character.
The result is that he actually ends up speaking to us like children.
Obama’s form of children-talk is different from George W. Bush’s. Obama’s signature move, ironically, involves refusing to give simple answers to questions, a habit for which he clearly prides himself. Meanwhile, not only does the president go meta on every specific answer; he also goes meta on his own style of giving answers.
Chotiner might have forgotten that he and his fellow scribes are expected to feel humbled by their close proximity to the intelligence and charisma of The One.