Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Obama: First Class, Intellect. Second Class, Temperament

America is still the best country for the common man. The common people feel at home here. America is still an ideal country who want to realize their capacities and talents.

Eric Hoffer (1898-1983), In Our Time (Harper & Row)

It was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who observed of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“Second class Intellect, First Class, Temperament.”

By temperament, Holmes meant political instinct or predisposition, doing what comes naturally.

President Obama has a first class intellect, honed by an unusual ethic heritage, a tight circle of progressive advisors, Harvard law school training , and a commitment to organizing minorities to overcome past social and economic inequities, but his temperament – for the America’s center right culture his political instincts may be lacking or off-base.

Nothing, he seems to think, can stand in his way - not Congress, not Republicans, not the Constitution, not peace and prosperity, not international terrorist disarray, not traditional allies, not public unpopularity of his health plan, not compromise with his principles. He has the power, and the glory will be the success of his vision to achieve equal outcomes for society and America’s place in the world.

By Guess and by God and by Obama and the power of sheer political will, he will transform America.

Obama’s mindset brings to mind Eric Hoffer (1898- 1983), the longshoreman philosopher. Hoffer’s take on the presidency was the last thing we need as a president is an intellectual. Intellectuals think of themselves are part of a superior educated minority, a cut above ordinary mortals. Intellectuals see the world in their terms. They think they have the answers and an end product that will right the wrongs of mankind.

There is nothing special about America. It is not a Shining City on the Hill as portrayed by Reagan. It is not exceptional. It is merely one of many nations. And when push comes to shove, it must accede to the wishes of its adversaries and placate them.

But common people do not see themselves or America that way. They think America is a special place. They distrust intellectuals. They are always striving, looking for individual ways up and out of the trap called life. They distrust big government , big taxes, and big regulations that hamper their freedom, cramp their life style, and violate their sense of manifest destiny.
They are interested in the individual good as well the common good and see the two as going together. They believe in innovation and entrepreneurship as a way of rising above it all.

For President Obama, the principled intellectual, the irony of the contradictions between intellectuals and the common man, is that Obama is for the common man.

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