What is the stage that comes between Socialism and full communism?
Alcoholism. (Soviet era joke)
President Obama’s attributes have been inexhaustibly detailed by both his admirers and detractors. Not much, however, is much said about his sense of humor. The reason is painfully obvious: there is little humor in the man to detect. In this regard he bears resemblance to Jimmy Carter, the grim, parson-scold who lectured the nation about malaise in the 1970s. The humor that does emanate from the President is usually in the form of ridicule laced with sarcasm, humor at its meanest and nastiest. One is hard pressed to find anything funny or witty in his autobiography, Dreams of My Father. The reader takes away from these pages a picture of an angry, alienated young man immersed in self-pity and resentment.
This absence of such a fundamental human quality one might suppose derives from at least three of Barack Obama’s qualities of personality and character.
First, one cannot help be struck by the extreme vanity of this President and an almost pathological need for self-worship. With such astronomical levels of vanity and conceit come thin skin and hypersensitivity and little room for a large and wonderful source of humor -- self-deprecation. Devoid of modesty, he believes himself to be a person of unparalleled wisdom and rectitude – “the One, as he self-proclaimed – a fact that is evidenced by his relentless quest to impose himself, his wisdom, his superiority, pontifically. Thus … I have spoken. Anywhere and everywhere he goes to give yet one more speech (699 in his first term), another interview, and make still another appearance before selected fawners and sycophants. His speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004 launched him into the national spotlight, and it was in reference to that event that his then-rival, Hillary Clinton, in the 2008 primary with desperation and frustration fumed that all he had ever done in his brief political career was “give a speech!” Indeed, Mrs. Clinton was finally coming to grasp what was going on: the national press corps had morphed into a troupe of Mr. Obama’s star struck groupies. By the time of his first inauguration he had become The Paraclete – Lincoln-FDR-JFK all in one, immediately festooned by the Bush-loathing Norwegians with a Nobel Peace Prize for? ... just being Barack Obama. Critical objectivity had given way to infatuation and adoration. The widely proclaimed “genius” of the freshman Illinois Senator was nothing more or less than a bestowal of celebrity-hood based not on any substantive elements of past achievement or attributes of moral character but on his persona – hip, cool, cerebral, but most importantly, his race, a young charismatic man whose election promised redemption for white Americans, a post-racial U.S. of A.
Ironically, from the countless speeches he has given over the years with the constant, predictable self-referencing and self-righteous posturing, almost nothing insightful, witty or poignant can be extracted. Nothing he has said is particularly memorable, quotable, enduring, or funny. His teleprompter deliveries with their unintended Bobble Head doll effect in some way or other almost always tend to be about his favorite subject, himself, and how much better we will all be because of him. The one public forum for which he appears to have an aversion is the press conference. In his few forays into this venue it seems that aspects of his wisdom on occasion are questioned by members of the normally docile White House press corps, an impertinence that clearly annoys him.
Second, the absence of humor is a conspicuous mark of a jealous ideologue. An ideologue can neither be contradicted nor questioned, and Obama, as we have come to know, cannot bear to have his wisdom disputed or challenged. But humor, above all, contradicts – humor turns the strong into the weak, the serious into the silly and makes the somber appear ridiculous. Ideologues when stripped of their pretentious facades are fragile and sensitive often wrapped in multiple sheaths of vanity and conceit. Humor is the enemy of the pretentious, and ideologues are a pretentious, arrogant lot given to the constant exaggeration of their moral and cognitive superiority and their unquestioned indispensability to make the lives of the unwashed better. Thus, we observe the personality profile of our Ideologue-President who was given during his first campaign to the promise of such undertakings as “healing the planet,” “changing America and the world” and “slowing the rise of the oceans.” In these grandiose sallies he was generously assisted by the smitten members of the Fourth Estate who proclaimed his divinity — “a sort of god standing above us” and other similar declarations of apotheosis. (Evan Thomas, Newsweek)
Third, humor, particularly in a political context, is a coded way of speaking the truth. Humor exposes the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the powerful, and Obama, sad to say, is a profoundly dishonest man. His 2008 campaign of Hope and Change was a brilliant but deeply cynical ploy calculated to convince the a-political middle road American electorate that the former street organizer, tutored by an America-loathing pastor, was a sincere, wholesome wunderkind who would end the polarized politics of the Bush era. But the post-racial, bi-partisan, transparency campaign pledges were completely feigned. They had never been nor would ever be any part of his governing philosophy. The real Obama emerged after his election with such bi-partisan olive branches as, “if they bring a knife, we’ll bring a gun,” and, as he told an audience in a Univision interview in 2010: “were gonna punish out enemies and reward our friends.” Here, succinctly stated is a distillation of Obama's social instincts and the essence of his political style, very much Latin America-Caudillo, a toxic mix of garish personality cult, punish-the-rich demagoguery and union cronyism. Obama’s politics can be summed up as the “rule of the three Cs” – Coercion, Corruption, Collusion. His 2012 campaign was nothing like the first. Hope and Change succumbed to defamation and demolition. From the beginning Obama’s reelection campaign was an application of his Univision motif, a crude instrument of aggression – demonization, and character assassination, generous government handouts, and war on the wealthy.
If we conclude that Mr. Obama is not funny or humorous perhaps there is some consolation in the likelihood that his egotism and pomposity will be the source of great humor for years to come.