Conservatives like the New York Times' David Brooks are thinking about Obama. And their thoughts are both very revealing and reassuringly confused. What Brooks -- an authority on bourgeois bohemianism and a skilled archeologist of the human soul -- isn't able to unearth is the slightest weakness, not even a chink in Obama's mental armor. Brooks can't figure out what motivates Obama. Unlike Clinton and Johnson, Brooks acknowledges, the Illinois Senator is driven by neither an obsession with respect nor with adoration. And, as Brooks readily admit, over the last two years Obama has never once lost his self-control. The mysterious dude from Africa via Hawaii, Cambridge and Chicago is super cool:
And yet there hasn't been a moment when he has displayed rage,resentment, fear, anxiety, bitterness, tears, ecstasy, self-pity or impulsiveness.
Brooks can't find the man. He can't dig up Obama's heart. And that, of course, is what conservative archeologists like Brooks are so good at unearthing in all-too-human liberal politicians. It's the elusiveness of Obama's emotional make-up that so fascinates and infuriates Brooks. The more he sees Obama, the less able he is to peer into his soul. Brooks' expert gaze is blind:
There has never been a moment when, at least in public, he seems gripped by inner turmoil. It's not willpower or self-discipline he shows as much as an organized unconscious. Through some deep, bottom-up process, he has developed strategies for equanimity, and now he's become a homeostasis machine.
That "deep, bottom-up process", I suspect, isn't disconnected with Obama's complex racial identity. One doesn't become a "homeostatis machine" overnight, by accident. It takes years of Zen like self-discipline, of resisting the gaze of conservatives like Brooks, of smiling and parrying, of saying yes and meaning no. From Honolulu to Occidental College to Columbia to Harvard Law School to the US Senate, Obama has been fine-tuning his homeostatic machinery for the last thirty years. And now it's ready for global prime-time. Obama is just about to become the most satisfyingly mysterious President in American history.
Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama's Chicago pastor, said famously about the Iraq war that the "chickens were coming home to roost". Maybe. More importantly, though, the chickens have come home to roost with Barack Obama's equanimity. Conservatives like David Brooks are getting what they deserve -- a black and white homeostasis machine.
So keep 'em guessing for the next eight years, Barack. It's your most effective weapon against David Brooks and all those other prying archeologists of the human soul.