As I argued last night, Barack Obama’s vanity and egomania, so skillfully explicated by Charles Krauthammer, help account for much of what is odd about the candidate’s speeches and public pronouncements — for example, the ease with which he contradicts himself and his claim, notwithstanding his uniformly liberal voting record, to be “post-partisan.” These traits obviously also help explain the way people react to Obama, the easiest example being the adulation he receives on such a large scale.
In addition, it seems to me that Obama’s egomania (and the hint of megalomania lurking behind it) explains why there are so few Obamacons (conservatives who support Obama). The past eight years have been trying ones for some conservatives, and the Republican party’s nominee is hardly what many conservatives had been hoping for. Moreover, a small but not insignificant percentage of conservatives want very much to see the U.S. withdraw promptly from Iraq. Obama shares this view; McCain does not.
But these conservatives tend to view Iraq not just as a bad policy decision but also as a symptom of an over-reaching, “imperial” presidency (“King George” and all that). What is a conservative harboring this grievance to make of a candidate with his own personal seal who proclaims “we are ones we have been waiting for”? The answer, if that conservative is honest and thinking clearly, is not much.
It is ironic, then, that Jeffrey Hart apparently is an Obamacon. Even when I was a liberal and then a radical, Hart’s critique of Robert Kennedy and other purveyors of grandiose schemes and visions to remake the world made a deep impression on me. There is isn’t much doubt as to which candidate is the heir to the RFK tradition. Even when it comes to foreign policy, Obama is advocating greater U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan and has even called for strikes inside of Pakistan. In no policy realm, is this a restrained man.
Obama hadn’t fully revealed himself when Hart signed on, but it’s still no surprise that so few other conservatives joined him.
UPDATE: The other name that always appears on a list of Obamacons is the lawyer Douglas Kmiec. Here one strongly suspects opportunism, for no other explanation comes to mind for the fact that Kmiec was the head of candidate Mitt Romney’s legal adviser team. How does a principled person get, in a matter of months, from Romney (a nearly down-the-line supporter of Bush’s policies, including Iraq policy) to Obama?
The top spot on Romney’s legal advisory group must have looked like a nice opportunity. Rudy Giuliani’s legal team, headed up by Ted Olson, was brimming with talent. Fred Thompson would also put together an impressive group. Kmiec could not have stood out in either of these camps. And McCain seemed too much the centrist to have a decent shot at the nomination. But Romney was a credible candidate, and he apparently offered Kmiec the top spot (for some reason, Romney didn’t seem to appeal to the conservative legal establishment the way Giuliani and Thompson, both very capable lawyers, did). Had Romney prevailed, Kmiec would have been extremely well-positioned.
By the time Romney failed, most of Giuliani’s legal advisers, led by Olson, had migrated (naturally enough) to McCain. Had he cast his lot with McCain, Kmiec would probably have been lost in the shuffle. Becoming an Obamacon must have seemed more attractive. At a minimum it makes Kmiec stand out — he’s the most prominent Republican lawyer who supports Obama and one of the very leading Obamacons (as I said, it’s a short list). In any case, Kmiec is receiving plenty of attention these days, more than I can recall him ever getting before.
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