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Required Reading

3:31 PM, Jul 18, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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1) From, "The Audacity of Vanity" by Charles Krauthammer

'hammer time! Dr. Krauthammer's article has justifiably set off quite a firestorm of delight in conservative circles. My email box has overflowed with links to the column and comments like "Krauthammer's best ever!" Since this is much higher praise than, say, "Krugman's best ever," the column is must reading.

Krauthammer's theme is not new. A lot of us, ranging from Obama critics to even Andrew Sullivan, have explored Barack Obama's unattractive self-regard that risks tripping into a full-on case of hubris. But Krauthammer says it better than anyone else has or likely will:

Americans are beginning to notice Obama's elevated opinion of himself.

There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted "present" nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.

It is a subject upon which he can dilate effortlessly. In his victory speech upon winning the nomination, Obama declared it a great turning point in history -- "generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment" -- when, among other wonders, "the rise of the oceans began to slow." As economist Irwin Stelzer noted in his London Daily Telegraph column, "Moses made the waters recede, but he had help." Obama apparently works alone.

I know you're going to read the whole thing, so I don't even have to encourage you to do so. But before clicking along, allow me to expand on the point that Krauthammer makes above. If someone told you in 2003 that a guy who was a part-time law professor, part-time lawyer and part-time state legislator would be president in five years, you probably would have laughed. If you were further informed that the individual in question's greatest accomplishment as an adult was his stellar performance in law school, you would have pled for mercy because the ensuing hysterics would have made your sides ache.

Of course we don't elect résumés for president. That much is understood. But other presidential candidates with modest accomplishments knew enough to at least try to look humble. It's worth pondering why Obama isn't capable of doing the same or self-aware enough to know he ought to.

2) From the Boston Globe, "Obama's Summer of Success" by Scott Lehigh

I kind of wish the title were ironic, but it isn't. Lehigh actually thinks Obama has had a wildly successful summer. Yes, Lehigh is talking about the same smoldering summer in which Obama managed to convince a majority of Americans that he tells them whatever they want to hear and transformed himself from a Lightworker to just another politician.

Barack Obama has used the lazy days of summer to considerable advantage with a series of speeches aimed at rooting himself in mainstream American values.

"One of the most important qualities that people look for in a president is someone who shares their values, and Obama is showing them that he does," says Democratic strategist John Sasso, who has played an important role in almost every presidential campaign of the last quarter-century.

Adds Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin, formerly a senior strategist for Hillary Clinton's campaign: "At the presidential level, there is a greater concern with understanding what makes somebody tick and whether they are motivated and driven by the same kind of values voters themselves have."

Give Lehigh special bonus points for the stirring display of hyperbolic Boston parochialism. In the Lehigh telling of things, John Sasso has played an important role in almost every presidential campaign of the last quarter century. At least we've finally cleared up the mystery why Sasso was advising both Bush and Gore in 2000.

Personally, I hope Obama and his campaign listen to Lehigh rather than Krauthammer.