Friday, July 9, 2010

Me, Myself, and I

Charles Krauthammer highlights the contrast between President Obama's enthusiasm for publicly pointing out and apologizing for America's many sins, real and imagined, and his penchant for the use of the first-person singular when talking about anything to do with the current Administration. Whatever else you might think of Barack Obama, modest is not a descriptive that immediately comes to mind. Two autobiographies before the age of 50, and before even having accomplished all that much? Please.

But, to be fair, Krauthammer does concede that a certain narcissism is hardly unique among those who have called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home. A favorite saw of mine is that it is virtually impossible to overestimate the ego of any politician, president or not.

Nevertheless, I used to think former president Bill Clinton's modern era record for gasp-producing megalomania was beyond reach. You'll recall that when he established the mark, the competition was extremely robust. In fact, among his more challenging competitors was even our current vice president. When it came to being gratingly self-serving, Joe Biden was once a force to be reckoned with. He was easily among the country's top five. But I digress.

To return to Clinton, you'll remember that in 2005, five years after leaving office, he was called upon to deliver a eulogy at the funeral of Rosa Parks. He used the occasion to tell a personal story about when word reached Arkansas of Mrs. Parks' famous refusal in 1955 to forfeit her seat on a public bus for a white person as well as her subsequent arrest for the same act. It seems her refusal inspired the then 9-year old future president to seat himself in the back of the bus with the black passengers in an ostentatious display of solidarity with them. (Yep, that's the story he told. But don't get distracted, this is not about Clinton's trouble with telling the truth.) You see, even the death and funeral of this famous civil rights-era icon was still somehow about him. And, that when it came to participating in the grand struggle for equal rights for black Americans, not even Rosa Parks had anything on Bill Clinton.

Can we expect a young Barack Obama ever to rise to this level? Only time will tell. But, as Krauthammer demonstrates, he's off to a pretty good start. I would only add that in his pursuit of the record he does enjoy one huge advantage over Bill Clinton. As self-absorbed as Clinton was, and remains, ego gratification is clearly not the single most important goal in his life. As we know, there is at least one other thing even more important than that...and I'm not talking money!

No comments:

Post a Comment