Obama’s Cult of Personality

Before Super Tuesday, Obama-fever rattled Stanford as students staged rallies, sported Obama pins and t-shirts, and used class discussions to propagate Obama’s message of hope and change. It was therefore not surprising that exit polls showed 75% of Stanford Democrats voting for Obama. But despite Clinton’s stonewall front, students still seem generally optimistic about Obama’s prospects. They believe that Clinton’s lead is tenuous and will not withstand Obama fever that is spreading across the country. They have fallen head over heels for this darling Illinois senator and his serenade of change. “Yes, we can,” he sings, backed up by Scarlett Johansson and the Black Eyed Peas.

Students drool over how Obama has snatched victory from the hands of defeat, has created a winning campaign against one of the toughest political machines, and has won his way into the hearts of millions of independents and conservatives across the country. Students tout him as the next Jack Kennedy, an inspirational figure who will unite the country and revitalize America’s spirit and image. Some even think that he is a more attractive to moderate Republicans than John McCain. They say he is a peacemaker, a unifier, a bipartisan politician, a moderate, an independent thinker, a mover, a changer.

But there are many reasons why college students should reconsider their infatuation with Obama. First, although Obama promises to end the war, like most other politicians, he has no clear, concrete way of doing it that isn’t a quick and easy recipe for disaster. Considering how little foreign policy experience he has (far less than JFK when he came into office), he is likely to fumble the job getting us out of Iraq more than Bush did getting us in. Do we really want to tarnish our reputation by bungling the exit job? At least Hillary has Bill advising her, which is more reassuring than Obama who is supported by Oprah and a cloud of hot air.

Obama promises to be a moderate, work along bipartisan lines, and unite the American people. But the National Journal rated him the most liberal senator and during the current Congress, he has voted with the Democrats 96.4% of the time. That’s moderate? All of the Republican candidates’ voting records are more bipartisan than that. McCain has sided with the Republicans 87.8%, and Ron Paul has only towed the party line 74.8% of the time. The only thing moderate about Obama are his credentials for the presidency. Like Andrew Jackson, Obama has cultivated a cult of personality that is potentially polarizing. I can already hear Republicans mocking Obama as King Barack and his Democratic following who kowtow to him. Students praise him, but it is not clear what they praise him for other than his rhetoric and multiculturalism. He is a figure of style, rather than substance and would serve better as a UN delegate than commander-in-chief. In the UN, rhetoric rules rather than competence. If he is truly a unifier and peacemaker as he claims, then the UN would be a better spot for him. Besides, such a position would give him more foreign policy experience—enough perhaps to make a reasonable bid for the presidency in another four or eight years. Perhaps then he would be more worldly and wise and have realized how difficult it is to negotiate with people who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

Obama claims he can fix our economy, but like Andrew Jackson, Obama’s inexperience and unsound fiscal policies could sink us into further recession. What makes him think that he can be America’s fairy godmother—that he can point his magic wand and command all of America’s economic troubles away? Perhaps it is because he believes that the government’s role is to command and control: to solve the market woes with taxes, subsidies, housing freezes, price controls, and government programs. The only problem is that as most economists agree—even politically liberal ones at Stanford—allowing Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” to guide the free market is the best long-term solution.

While Obama’s solutions may temporarily improve the American economy, come midnight, the illusion will shatter and Americans will be even more devastated. The government measures that could actually help the economy—tax cuts, reduced earmarks and subsidies, free trade agreements—Obama has consistently opposed in favor of his magic wand approach. Perhaps this is why many of us young people are so smitten by Obama: in our childhood nostalgia, we are still yearning for a fairy godmother. But I think it’s time that we wake up from our fairy tales and face reality: an Obama presidency would be an abomination.

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