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The Courtier Chronicles

From the Scrapbook.

Nov 17, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 09
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The Courtier Chronicles

It's been difficult, it really has, but THE SCRAPBOOK has read every last bit of triumphalist commentary on Barack Obama's election. The International Code of Punditry compels us. Some of the analysis, we are happy to report, has been sober and thought-provoking. And there's no doubt that the election of America's first black president is a historic milestone.

But most of the punditry has been--and we say this with as much understatement as we can muster--a bunch of bull. So we've been keeping a file of the over-the-top reactions to The One's ascendance. Here are some of the worst. Be prepared to gag.

"Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope. Barack Obama never talks about how people see him: I'm not the one making history, he said every chance he got. You are. Yet as he looked out Tuesday night through the bulletproof glass, in a park named for a Civil War general, he had to see the truth on people's faces. We are the ones we've been waiting for, he liked to say, but people were waiting for him, waiting for someone to finish what a King began. .  .  .

"Barack Hussein Obama did not win because of the color of his skin. Nor did he win in spite of it. He won because at a very dangerous moment in the life of a still young country, more people than have ever spoken before came together to try to save it. And that was a victory all its own."

--Time editor-at-large Nancy Gibbs in that magazine's November 17 issue.

"Yes, it is time to hope again.

"Time to hope that the era of racial backlash and wedge politics is over. Time to imagine that the patriotism of dissenters will no longer be questioned and that the world will no longer be divided between 'values voters' and those with no moral compass. Time to expect that an ideological label will no longer be enough to disqualify a politician.

"Above all, it is time to celebrate the country's wholehearted embrace of democracy, reflected in the intense engagement of Americans in this campaign and the outpouring to the polls all over the nation. For years, we have spoken of bringing free elections to the rest of the world even as we cynically mocked our own ways of conducting politics. Yesterday, we chose to practice what we have been preaching."

--Washington Post columnist
E.J. Dionne Jr., November 5

"We will have a President who can think and feel and speak; we will have a grownup who will treat us like grownups. The Bush era is over. And the Clinton era. And the Reagan era. And the 1960s."

--New Yorker staff writer George Packer, on his blog, November 5

Those are the more cringe-worthy reactions. Other Obama supporters were simply indecipherable.

"Youths literally run the world. Kids probably have the loudest voice together than anyone."

--actress Hayden Panetierre, quoted in the October 27 Washington Post.

"The social and political narrative of the last eight years, if you're a young adult, has been 'you are the first generation of the second half of the rest of human existence.' That's a huge psychological undertaking, and I believe it's one that will someday be diagnosed on a massive scale as having led to a kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Something has to explain away our premature obsession with 1980s nostalgia.) My generation has come to know itself as the generation that should have seen the good days, my, were they spectacular, now take off your shoes and place them on the belt.

"What Barack Obama says to me is these days are good for something."

--singer John Mayer in
the Huffington Post, October 29

"[Obama] stands on the shoulders of the crowds [in Grant Park] of four decades ago. .  .  . His rebellion takes the form of practicality. He has the audacity of reason."

--author Todd Gitlin, quoted
in the November 5 New York Times

Still others focused on the more, um, tangential aspects of Obama's victory.

"Over the coming days and weeks, there will be many 'I never thought I'd see the day' pieces, but none of them will be more overflowing with 'I never thought I'd see the day'-ness than this one. I'm black, you see, and I haven't gained a pound since college. I skip breakfast most days, have maybe half a sandwich for lunch, and sometimes I forget to eat dinner. Just slips my mind. Yesterday morning, I woke up to a new world. America had elected a Skinny Black Guy president.