Knowing Obama

Obama's biggest problem, the pundits parrot, is that Americans don't know him. The O is actually the ?:

"Is Obama more beer than Chardonnay? Is he a Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucksguy? Must he talk fancy? Is he one of us despite having what his wife Michelle called “that funny name?”

So, they say, tonight offers the first opportunity for Americans to get to know their next President. It's the "stranger in a stadium's" first meeting with the American people --a physical date with 75,000 screaming fans in a middle American football stadium as well as a virtual date with an audience of hundreds of millions on television and the Internet. This is the standard version of America's first date/sermon with Obama:

"Barack Obama aims to weave the personal with the political Thursday as he explains to 75,000 supporters in a massive stadium — and millions more at home — how as president he would make a difference in their lives."

And it's wrong. You see, Americans do know Obama, they know him all-too-well. We told by the pundits that he has a "unique story" -- but actually his is the traditional American narrative, uniqueness universalized, as equally familiar to Thoreau and Emerson and as it is to Fitzgerald and DeLillo. He's a 21st century version of Gatsby, a chameleon, Schumpeter's ideal type, perpetual creative destruction personalized, who reflects both all our dreams and our nightmares about ourselves and America. He's done exactly what American collectively need to do -- changed, reinvented, retooled himself. He is the 21st century man, a self made man and his is the journey of a confident man. Obama is the future. He is what Americans need to become if they are to prosper in the global economy.

So the speech tonight in Denver is a necessary charade. Americans will pretend to meeting Obama for the first time. But, in spite of of their shy protestations, they all know the guy and we all know that they know him. In contrast, McCain -- with his nostalgic familiarity with a static, irrelevant history -- represents what we are escaping from. He stands for the obstinate past, everything comfortable, all that we need to forget.