Professor Paul Rahe writes:
A gentleman, they say, is a man who is never unintentionally rude. That Barack Obama is, in this sense, a gentlemen I do not doubt.
As I argued here, our current President “is a man of rigid self-discipline,” as is indicated by the fact “that we know next to nothing about his life apart from what he chose to impart in the two autobiographies he published. For a long time now, for longer than we can perhaps imagine, every move he has made has been carefully calculated, calibrated, and choreographed.”
In the series of posts on Obama’s gestures, I have drawn attention to Barack Obama’s mastery of the insulting gesture — the calculated insult — meant to be understood only by those in a select audience. In the first post in this series I observed: “Behind the thin veneer of politeness, there is, I suspect, something ugly lurking. In the first of the autobiographies that he claims to have written, Barack Obama frequently speaks of himself as being in the grips of rage. We would do well to take him at his word. If we are to stop him from doing great damage to this country and to our friends and allies, we must take every opportunity that comes our way to unmask the man.”
It is in this light, I suspect, that we must interpret his conduct in Oslo, Norway on Wednesday and Thursday of this last week.
To the fury of the Norwegians, as The Guardian reported, the White House “cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children’s event promoting peace and a music concert, . . . a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre,” and, most important of all, lunch with the king.
Why would he do such a thing?
Vanity, perhaps. That Barack Obama thinks highly of himself is evident in every speech he gives. Why should so great a man have to submit to protocol?
Malice, as well. As I noted in the first post in this thread, this was on evidence in 2008 in his campaign and later in his dealings with Gordon Brown and Benyamin Netanyahu.
There is, moreover, a great deal that, as President, Mr. Obama finds himself obliged to do, and much of it he genuinely loathes. When he finds himself forced to deliver a speech that he can hardly stomach — as he did at West Point in announcing his policy regarding Afghanistan, and as he did again in Oslo Thursday morning — his delivery is flat and forced.
As I remarked in an earlier post on this thread, Barack Obama has a better command than any previous President of the art of “communicating different messages to different audiences.” This he accomplishes by his gestures.
The reassuring speech he gave in Oslo was directed at those of us who fear that he will neglect America’s defense. The snubs were directed at the Norwegians — and the Europeans more generally.
Which represents the real Obama?
The latter, I fear. The America that he inherited and its traditional allies he hates. When the country turns on him, as it is doing step by step, and he recognizes that his fellow citizens are intent on reversing what he has done, he may openly turn on us.
We are, I suspect, in for quite a ride.
Paul A. Rahe holds the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College. He is the author, most recently, of Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty: War, Religion, Commerce, Climate, Terrain, Technology, Uneasiness of Mind, the Spirit of Political Vigilance, and the Foundations of the Modern Republic.