Thursday, March 24, 2016
There is a troubling hint of something very un-American about the American president. I am not alluding to the birther controversy but rather to something in the president’s character, attitudes, personal aura, and worldview.
Drawing attention to the president’s name is both racially and lineally irrelevant. But given its Islamic tinnitus and its flourish of decided otherness, the name functions as a symbol, that is, an allegory of synoptic dislocation, a token of visceral difference. It signifies something bizarre, something nomadic, extraterritorial, and domestically ineffable, something unusual in the roster of commanders-in-chief. For columnist Ben Shapiro, Obama is a “lightweight,” a “joke,” and a “Hollywood president,” a man who prefers appearing on The View and with the Pimp with a Limp to dealing with affairs of state, and who tweets pics of himself standing beside a cardboard cutout captioned “You look familiar.” But the implications are far more serious. The fact is that Obama is not a president in the authentic sense of the term; he is a glittering name acting the role of president, and in this sense Shapiro is right, he is a “Hollywood president,” a man with marquee presence andStanislavski moves. Similarly, Rush Limbaugh calls the president Barack Kardashian, connoting the man’s celebrity allure and endemic shallowness. Some actors, however, few as they may be, do have a core personality, intellectual marrow, and moral substance. Obama does not, being in effect a mobile simulacrum of a cardboard cutout, which makes him as president of the United States not merely a joke and a lightweight but a disaster and a tragedy.