The president’s critics ought to lighten up. We should give him credit for not knowing any better. (He was “finished” and “polished” at Harvard, after all.) Barack Obama is an accident of history, a street hustler from the South Side of Chicago with the gift of gab who landed on the world stage like a whale beached at the whim of a storm, the wrong man at the right time.
He landed on that beach just as the nation, or a large part of it, desperately wanted absolution for the sins of the past, some real and some only imagined, and suddenly we had our own Susan Boyle, a honey-tongued idol of the moment. He not only had the gift of gab, useful for presidential candidates as well as aluminum-siding salesmen, but a gift for the seductive language of the black pulpit. The masses, for whom the poetry of the King James Bible and the musical cadences of Sunday morning are as foreign as the culture of rural Timbuktu, eagerly stepped forward to take the pledge of the cult.
Only Barack Obama knows what’s in his heart, but there’s the possibility, not heretofore considered by his critics, that the blundering loose tongue he packs with his teleprompter, scorning the dignity and good name of his country for the cheap applause of tin-pot dictators eager to throw rotten bananas at their betters, comes easy and naturally to him.
This wouldn’t be one of Dr. Freud’s difficult cases. He was born to a mother obsessed with the pursuit of inappropriate men who would treat her badly, abandoned by his father from Kenya, uprooted again from life with a stepfather in Indonesia and ultimately raised by a grandmother he would later publicly scold for her presumed racial bigotry. Why wouldn’t he feverishly pursue sanction and esteem, however mindless much of it would be, wherever he could find it?
Only a man with a screwed-up psyche, the likes of which we’ve probably never had in the White House before, would fly off to foreign shores to campaign against his predecessor and to offer abject apologies to anyone listening for the harm he imagines his country did to others, while carefully excluding himself from any of the criticism.
All for the embrace, physical and otherwise, of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez, of Evo Morales and Danny Ortega. Most of us would say, in word or deed, “insult my country, dude, and you’re insulting me, so back off.” But this is the kind of fierce pride in home, kith and kin that Barack Obama never knew; he even married a woman who said she never felt love of country until her husband reached the front gate of the White House.
The president’s excellent adventure in Trinidad and Tobago began when he accepted a book from Senor Chavez, “Open Veins of Latin America,” a Marxist screed meant to insult and offend. Mr. Obama did not seem affronted, and let pass the opportunity to rebuke Senor Chavez for his manifold sins and abuses of his own people. The president didn’t even have a DVD of favorite movies to offer in return. (Mr. Obama might have given him a copy of a best-selling biography of Senor Chavez, “Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot.”)
He let pass the further insult, given the timing, of the Chavez suggestion that after the president finished the book there could be talks about renewing diplomatic relations. This would have been the further opportunity to discuss Senor Chavez’ support of Colombian drug terrorists and his support of Ahmadinejad and his race to build a nuclear weapon to intimidate the Middle East.
If President Obama judges his Latin American trip by the personal accolades, the trip was a roaring success. Nearly every criticism of the United States was prefaced with assertions that none of the insults of America were meant for Mr. Obama. The president let these cheap accolades pass with a grateful smile. He listened to a 50-minute diatribe by Danny Ortega, cataloging American sins over a century (and conceding nothing about the brutal sins of the Sandinistas). When he followed the commandante’s jibe at the United States for its support of the Cuban exiles’ attempt to land at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, Mr. Obama said only that he was “grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.”
Everybody laughed, but Mr. Obama even got that wrong. He was born three months after the Bay of Pigs landing. The history of the country that elected him president has never been of much interest to Barack Obama - he once referred to “the 57 states” - and we shouldn’t be surprised by anything he does and says now.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.