Is it my imagination or does Mr. Christopher Caldwell, in his latest essay at the Financial Times web site titled ‘The president just does not get the American centre’, dated September 23, 2011, seem to be suffering from an acute case of political confusion or is his ideology just a bit askew? All during the campaign of 2008 the Right and its spokesmen and women continually reminded voters that Obama was not ‘one of us’. Coded or un-coded that was the central message of much of the rhetoric. But today Mr. Caldwell discards that well worn trope in favor of making President Obama an ordinary American; but characterized as grinning and inscrutable and unwilling to help someone in need, an unflattering description of Americans by an American. Is this the newest propaganda ploy of a desperate columnist needing to meet his word quota? Has this rhetorically pejorative description of the American character become the latest contribution of Neo-Conservatism to our national dialogue? Are Americans hypocritical, suspicious and unworthy of trust? Or is Mr. Caldwell striking a pose for arguments sake?
The crux of the matter is that Mr. Caldwell will, now, after this inauspicious but rhetorically useful introduction, begin his attack on the deeply conservative political practice of President Obama. Mr. Caldwell can’t resist larding his text with catch phrases, clichés and aphorisms that captivate the reader’s attention. After a catalogue of the most egregious Obama sins, and those are well known, even notorious to his critics, and indeed to most political observers. Mr. Caldwell comes to the point that Obama’s flaws are not ideological but personal. He is not one of us, even if he meets the definitional parameters laid out in Mr. Caldwell’s sketch of the American character. The question that remains to be answered: is Mr. Caldwell’s analysis of the American character correct?