After the Shellacking, the Return of the "Arrogant Obama" Meme
Hey sheeples: Barack Obama thinks he's better than you.
But this week he got a heavier dose of it than usual, with the Weekly Standard, the Daily Caller, and Ben Shapiro all devoting long essays to the theme of Obama's self-regard, accompanied by rightblogger mega-dittos.
It seems a weird charge to make right after Obama's party suffered heavy losses in an election, and while he was out of the country on diplomatic missions. Why now?
Back when Obama was running for President, some people suggested that the use of the term "arrogant" in reference to him was a substitute for the racially loaded "uppity." The standard conservative response was usually twofold: first, that they were unaware that "uppity" was a problem for black people, and second, that liberals were prejudiced and/or abridging conservatives' free speech rights by bringing it up.
The point was swiftly mooted, and with the 2008 election buried under mountains of conservative anguish. But the dream never died. So in between their post-election accusations of fascism, obsequiousness toward foreigners, etc., rightbloggers kept working the vein: "Obama's arrogance hits new heights, with no limit in sight," "Obama's Insufferable Arrogance Caused Olympic Fail," "Obama's Christmas Tree Decked With Mao Balls, Arrogance and a Drag Queen?"
The same went for his wife: "Michelle Obama -- As Arrogant as Barack," "Arrogant delusional the First Frump Michelle Hussein Obama," "Arrogant Michelle Obama Bashes America at USC," etc.
In one of our favorite examples, Flopping Aces compared Obama's ego to Fidel Castro's. "We have all observed the President's overuse and joy of using the "I" word," they wrote. "Fidel's early days were filled with the 'I' word and the steady crack of rifle fire." (Not only that: Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln, and Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy.)
The accusations only increased as Obama struggled through the first half of his term, though some rightbloggers began working on more clinical-sounding synonyms for what they considered Obama's presumption.
"Obama's outsized ego," headlined Jonah Goldberg last October. When the President's seal fell off his podium one time, Obama joked, "That's all right, all of you know who I am." Aha, said Goldberg: "Even though the incident made headlines for no discernible journalistic reason" -- liberal bias, no doubt -- "it was noteworthy as a succinct example of Obama's arrogance problem." How so? "Rather than make a self-deprecating joke, he opted instead to make a self-inflating one, as if to say that the title mattered less than the man." Well, few jokes bear up well under heavy analysis.
Goldberg also shared the good news that "it's apparently not racist to call Obama arrogant anymore," because one MSM columnist referred to Obama's "considerable ego" and another to his "arrogance." That, said Goldberg, meant that "what was once taboo has become undeniable." Q.E.D.
The election campaign, disastrous for the Democrats, gave the meme a third wind. "Obama the arrogant race baiter sees the job of Republicans when they take the majority to bow to him," claimed Ken Taylor at RedState, "and as Democrats have walk in lock step with his Marxist agenda."
In a column called "Obama the Snob," former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson noted Obama's comments at a Democratic fund-raiser (not, as you might have gathered from the coverage, in an address to the nation,), suggesting that voters were "scared" by the state of the economy and "facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day all the time," were "some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president." (And Gerson worked for George Bush!) The remarks proved to Cal Thomas that "Obama's egoism dominates his politics," in that he "sees no merit in any position but his own... This is the hubris of statists."
Obama acknowledged his "shellacking" after the election, but to rightbloggers this was only further proof of his arrogance. "OK, I can't say that press conference was brimming with humility," said Rich Lowry of National Review. "When Your Ego Is So Large That You Can't Admit Defeat," scoffed Sons of Liberty. "This ego maniac probably doesn't even know that elected officials are in Washington to represent their voters interests," said Weasel Zippers, "not to push his far-left Socialist agenda."
As Obama prepared for his post-election Asian trip -- memorable for its trade talks and wild rightblogger speculation about its cost ("All so the Arrogant One can see the Festival of Lights?" thundered Zipline Conservative), and to which many rightbloggers unaccountably referred as a "vacation" -- Fox News and New York Post chief and bipartisan observer Rupert Murdoch let it be known that he'd heard New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg call Obama the most arrogant man he'd ever met.
The alleged comment was denied by Bloomberg himself: "I don't remember the conversation that way... I happen to think he's a very smart guy... I do not think he's arrogant," he said. But what difference does that make? "New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg apparently believes President Obama ranks up there on the arrogant quotient," said Glenn Beck's The Blaze. "Wonder what The Won [Obama] said to cheese His Nannyship [Bloomberg] off," went Don Surber's coded message. "Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg?" laughed Commentary's Jennifer Rubin.
"Barack Obama: Narcissist-in-chief," headlined John Guardiano at The Daily Caller. Guardiano claimed to be okay with Obama's foreign trips, "but one thing that has bothered me is the president's narcissism."
Guardiano began his argument with a display of alleged arrogance by... Michelle Obama, who told students in Mumbai that her parents worked hard, she studied hard, college "opened up the world to me" and it could do the same for the students. Sounds harmless, but then Mrs. Obama said, "What do you say? You've got something to say." The students laughed. What a bitch!
But the worst was yet to come. Obama himself presumed to speak at the event, and said stuff like this:
Now, as Michelle said, we have both looked forward to this visit to India for quite some time. We have ... We've drawn strength ... We've marveled ... And we have personally enjoyed ...
But of course, I'm not just here to visit. I'm here because...
(Actual remarks here.) Guardiano could no longer restrain himself! "I, we, us, Michelle and I ... It's all about them, don't you know! Legally, Obama is the commander-in-chief. But culturally and sociologically speaking, he is the narcissist-in-chief. His favorite subject is himself!" Also, Obama referred to his achievements in his Nobel acceptance speech (in which he also said, "I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize - Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments are slight"). "Me, me, me, me, me, me, meeeee!" analyzed Guardiano.
Ben Shapiro reviewed the crimes of Obama's Indonesian childhood, when as "'fat, curly-haired, curious' Barry" he "reportedly embraced the Quran," had a transvestite nanny, and once told a joke about a president who was more powerful than a soldier and a businessman because, though the soldier had the weapon and the businessman had the money, the president could tell them both what to do.
From this, Shapiro deduced that young Obama "had -- and still has -- a tremendous love for Islam and radical Muslims," "was comfortable with militant homosexuals," and "was always a narcissist concerned with his own power. Not only did he want to be president, he thought the presidency was all about him. Soldiers were there for defending him; businessmen were there for supporting him." Furthermore, said Shapiro, "People don't change. Obama hasn't since childhood." Why, some people will tell you he isn't fat anymore, nor a child, but skinny and an adult -- perhaps the most successful of the MSM's many lies.
The fullest such treatment came from Jonathan V. Last at The Weekly Standard, who told a no doubt astonished readership that Obama had quit the University of Chicago before they wanted him to, traded one literary agent for a more prominent one, and otherwise pursued an ordinary career path for a rising star. Also, we were told, Obama once compared himself to LeBron James, a presumption neither George Washington nor John Quincy Adams thought of. And Obama said aloud that he won the 2008 election, referred to himself as the President, and had the nerve to accept the Nobel Prize.
This catalogue of impertinences, said Last, proved Obama was an "American Narcissus," who is "answerable not, like some presidents, to the Almighty, but to the gaze of his personal conscience."
This inspired a wave of rightblogger mega-dittos: "TO INFINITE NARCISSISM AND BEYOND!" "Obama's Claiming More Power Over Americans Than King George III," "he's just a complete narcissist," "Malignant Narcissist REVEALED!." Also, the variations, "Obama trips over his ego in Asia," "It his ego that has scared us so much," "his enormous ego has taken a bruising," "Vanity, all of Obama is Vanity, saeth anyone who's ever known him... I think we should call his Presidency: 'The Audacity of Ego,'" etc.
Why now, though? With the Democrats in disarray, why even bother?
The recent election was hard on Democrats, but Obama is still President, and the examples of the 1982 and 1994 midterms suggest that, like Reagan and Clinton, he could bounce back to reelection. Indeed, his approval rating has already bounced, despite the Dem devastation, and is about where Reagan's and Clinton's were after their midterm reversals.
So it's imperative for Obama's opponents that they dirty him up. And as much as they love the idea that he's a Marxist Hitler, they seem to have figured out that this abstruse notion doesn't have much visceral appeal for people who are not themselves. So they're going with something to which ordinary people, who sometimes like to see the lofty taken down, might possibility relate. And if the economy doesn't get much better, the notion that the President isn't fixing it because he looks down on everyone may just stick. So far it's a decidedly minority opinion, but give it time.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.