Obama’s selective modesty


From Charles Krauthammer:

In his major addresses, Obama’s modesty about his own country has been repeatedly on display as he has gratuitously and continuously confessed America’s alleged failings — from disrespecting foreigners to having lost its way morally after 9/11.

It’s fine to recognize the achievements of others and be non-chauvinistic about one’s country. But Obama’s modesty is curiously selective. When it comes to himself, modesty is in short supply.

It began with the almost comical self-inflation of his presidential campaign, from the still inexplicable mass rally in Berlin in front of a Prussian victory column to the Greek columns framing him at the Democratic convention. And it carried into his presidency, from his posture of philosopher-king adjudicating between America’s sins and the world’s to his speeches marked by a spectacularly promiscuous use of the first-person pronoun “I.”

Notice, too, how Obama habitually refers to cabinet members and other high-level government officials as “my” — “my secretary of homeland security,” “my national security team,” “my ambassador.” The more normal — and respectful — usage is to say “the,” as in “the secretary of state.” These are, after all, public officials sworn to serve the nation and protect the Constitution — not just the man who appointed them.

It’s a stylistic detail, but quite revealing of Obama’s exalted view of himself. Not surprising, perhaps, in a man whose major achievement before acceding to the presidency was writing two biographies — both about himself.

Obama is not the first president with a large streak of narcissism. But the others had equally expansive feelings about their country. Obama’s modesty about America would be more understandable if he treated himself with the same reserve. But it is odd to have a president so convinced of his own magnificence — yet not of his own country’s.

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