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If you tried to write a parody of the New York Times, you simply couldn’t do better than this. From today’s book section, Patricia Cohen on James T. Kloppenberg’s study of the academic influences that shaped our current, flailing president.
When the Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg decided to write about the influences that shaped President Obama’s view of the world, he interviewed the president’s former professors and classmates, combed through his books, essays, and speeches, and even read every article published during the three years Mr. Obama was involved with the Harvard Law Review (“a superb cure for insomnia,” Mr. Kloppenberg said). What he did not do was speak to President Obama.
“He would have had to deny every word,” Mr. Kloppenberg said with a smile. The reason, he explained, is his conclusion that President Obama is a true intellectual — a word that is frequently considered an epithet among populists with a robust suspicion of Ivy League elites.
So that’s why he’s such a lousy president. That’s why he has a hard time connecting with the American voter. He’s just too…wonderful. On the other hand, according to Patricia Cohen’s unintentionally hilarious essay, he’s in excellent company:
In New York City last week to give a standing-room-only lecture about his forthcoming intellectual biography, “Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes, and the American Political Tradition,” Mr. Kloppenberg explained that he sees Mr. Obama as a kind of philosopher president, a rare breed that can be found only a handful of times in American history.
Let’s forget, for a moment, that it’s nothing less than a blood insult to the memory of four great presidents — that’s Adams, Adams, Jefferson, and Lincoln, if you’re keeping score — to toss that repellent creep Wilson into the mix. Let’s focus on the idea that Barack Obama is a “philosopher president.” What a spectacular piece of delusional straw-grasping idiocy! How perfectly it encapsulates the unplugged, unhinged cocoon of the academic left.
It’s an analysis that has a delicious appeal, of course, to Barack Obama’s most loyal following. Here’s the punch line:
Those who heard Mr. Kloppenberg present his argument at a conference on intellectual history at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center responded with prolonged applause. “The way he traced Obama’s intellectual influences was fascinating for us, given that Obama’s academic background seems so similar to ours,” said Andrew Hartman, a historian at Illinois State University who helped organize the conference.
That’s really all you need to know, isn’t it, about our arrogant, out of touch, and hyper-vain president? He reminds that puffed-up, flatulent class of academic hoo-has of themselves! Applause, applause! He’s just like us! We, too, could be presidents. Well, philosopher presidents.
Obama, says Kloppenberg, is a “pragmatist.” (Which should come as news to actual pragmatists.) But he’s a “philosophical” (there’s that word again) pragmatist. Unlike, say, Bill Clinton, who was a “vulgar” pragmatist.
Obama, says Kloppenberg, has a “profound love of America.”
It gets worse and worse. And funnier and funnier. Read the whole thing. And the next time you’re tempted to complain about the liberal bias of the New York Times, stop yourself. Be grateful for life’s unexpected comedies.