Sunday, November 15, 2009

Obama's howler of hubris

Critics of President Obama have had fun ridiculing all the Obama worship that leads his supporters to say the most ridiculous things in order to glorify The One. The most recent was when the head of the NEA had to exaggerate the rarity of President Obama's having written books in order to claim that President Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. Then we had the Nobel Peace Prize Committee extolling the potential of President Obama's achievements in order to award him a premature Peace Prize.

The President himself likes to get into the act as when he had to link his own election somehow to the fall of the Berlin Wall. And now as he tours Asia, we have this new howler of hubris as he calls himself America's "first Pacific President."
My own life is a part of that story. I am an American President who was born in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia as a boy. My sister Maya was born in Jakarta, and later married a Chinese-Canadian. My mother spent nearly a decade working in the villages of Southeast Asia, helping women buy a sewing machine or an education that might give them a foothold in the world economy. So the Pacific Rim has helped shape my view of the world.
Notice that none of this Pacific cred stems from anything he himself did but from where he was born and where his mother moved to and what his sister and mother did. But somehow that rates calling himself the "first Pacific President." As soon as I read that I thought of other presidents such as Nixon and Reagan who were born or lived a major part of their lives in California or who had lived abroad in Asia like William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, and George H.W. Bush. Theodore Roosevelt hadn't lived there but he had negotiated a peace treaty between Japan and Russia over a war fought in Asia thereby actually deserving a Nobel Peace Prize.

Maybe he was just jealous that Bill Clinton got to be our first black president, so he had to grab another undeserved title for himself.

Perhaps his new title led him to overcompensate in his display of respect for Japan's culture by bowing to Emperor Akihito. For those who want to claim that President Obama was just demonstrating his cultural sensitivity, Ed Morrissey links to this video of 47 world leaders from countries around the globe greeting the Emperor. All except our first Pacific President know to shake hands with the Emperor. Obama is the only one to bow. Obama doesn't seem to know that heads of state do not bow to each other and that a handshake is what is done by everyone, even other Asian heads of state. You'd think after his blunder of bowing to King Abdullah, that this bit of protocol would have been reviewed for him, but maybe he just thinks he knows better having been born in Hawaii and all. That's why an anonymous administration official is trying to pretend that Obama's bow was protocol when obviously that is clearly not true for any head of state who has met with the Emperor. Were those 46 other leaders all ignorant and Obama is the only one to know better?

John J. Pitney has a pithy summary of all the presidents Obama jumps over in his apparent ignorance of history.
And the incumbent is hardly the first chief executive to have lived in another Pacific Rim country. William Howard Taft was governor-general of the Philippines. Dwight Eisenhower had military postings in the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone. Herbert Hoover worked as a mining engineer in Australia and China; he even learned to speak Mandarin. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Bush 41 all served in the Pacific during the Second World War. What they did as adults was perhaps more consequential than what Obama did as a child.
But for Barack Obama, the fact of his own birth seems to trump what anyone else has ever actually done previously.