In May of 2007 Barack Obama made an odd gaffe:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Barack Obama, caught up in the fervor of a campaign speech Tuesday, drastically overstated the Kansas tornadoes death toll, saying 10,000 had died.
The death toll was 12.
"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died—an entire town destroyed," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a speech to 500 people packed into a sweltering Richmond art studio for a fundraiser.
He blamed the error on being tired, but ask yourself: at your weakest moment, would you mistakenly exaggerate a death toll of 12 to 10,000?
There is a deeper explanation. Barack Obama's habitual way of thinking does not focus first on the facts, but on other people's emotional reaction to what he is saying. He was so focused on the effect of his story that, like a fiction writer, he made up the fact he needed for that effect.
He has described himself variously as a "rorschach test" and a "blank screen" on which people project what they want to see. Always with Obama his primary focus is on what other people think. The reactions of other people guide him as he speaks -- and facts are malleable things that can be made to fit the needs of the moment.
Obama is greatly feared on the right as a crypto-socialist who is acting moderate to gain power. This is possible, but I don't think it is the fundamental explanation of his character. His radicalism in the past has been the result of being surrounded by radicals. In liberal Chicago, he did what was needed to rise in the Chicago political machine. He reflects back to people what they want to see. If anything, Obama's far-left positions show how far the Democrats in general have moved to the left.
He has shown an astonishing ability to flip-flop on his positions. On issue after issue, he has changed his mind, as if his principles and positions are of secondary importance to what the voters want to hear. Recently, he even admitted that the surge had worked.
Look at the way he soaks up adoration when he speaks before large crowds. For a social metaphysician like Obama, in which metaphysical importance lies not primarily in the facts of reality but in what other people think, the adoration of the masses must be something like a peak experience. It doesn't get better than that.
His speaking technique has been shaped by his psychological orientation to reality. He speaks in sonorous, idealistic phrases -- that have no substance. His empty rhetoric about change we can believe in is meant to emotionally move the crowd of the moment without further meaning.
I suspect that Obama's epistemology -- and his popularity among the young -- is the product of American educational theory. John Dewey's progressive education seeks to socialize students. It emphasizes getting along. It produces people who are not independent thinkers, but who want to go along with the crowd. But Obama's thinking could be just the way he developed himself, regardless of schooling. Man is a being of self-made soul, after all.
It looks like the Democrat primary voters chose Obama because he is capable of inspiring oratory and because he is black. Had the media "vetted" Obama the way they do Republicans, he never would have survived the primaries. But the media, being on Democrats' side, have not done them a favor by going easy on Obama in the primaries. The presidential campaign is a long endurance trial, and with talk radio and the internet, the Democrat is bound to be tested even if the MSM favor him.
Here is the greatest irony about Obama. If he were elected, his administration would change nothing. The word he campaigned on would be his last consideration. What does a blank screen reflect when he is inside the beltway? He reflects the inside of the beltway. Business as usual would be the theme of Obama's presidency. The conventional wisdom at the State Department would be his foreign policy. The conventional wisdom among Democrat economists would be his domestic policy. Obama would be a servant, enacting policies others tell him to do.
But Obama would also try to appease and go along with Republicans -- who are, despite what the moonbats might think, people too. An Obama presidency could very well end up like Bill Clinton's: an initial push for socialism and big government, disastrous failure by mid-term, then being pushed around by Republicans for the rest of his time in office. This, folks, is the best-case scenario.
Of course, the world is a dangerous place, and the next presidency will likely be shaped by events from abroad. Militant Islam is at war with us, Russia is aggressive, and there are many others enemies around the world just waiting for a sign of American weakness before they make their move. With Obama, the question to ask is not, "How would Obama react," but "How would the Democrat foreign policy establishment react?" The establishment would tell Obama how to react.
Really, in electing Obama we are electing the generic Democrat. In this case the generic has a name; it has little else.