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Obama’s Mean-Spiritedness Emerges

I just heard the two candidates speak at the Alfred Smith annual dinner, where notables (and the two presidential candidates) are expected to deliver humorous, self-deprecating speeches. Both were funny, but I sensed an overflow of bile in Obama’s contribution to the evening. McCain’s by contrast was funny and gracious (with a couple barbs). The evening’s remarks reinforced why Aristotle made wittiness literally his ultimate moral virtue.

Some representative quotes here.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Were you surprised?

Obama played true to form. Which of us, {other than Professor Lawler maybe} expected otherwise.

An interesting insight into Obama came, I thought, from the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. DKG (who wrote one of the best books ever on Lincoln, btw)is still a Democrat and so she's in Obama's corner. But she takes more of an historical view of the entire "Obama phenomenon" and tries to view it in the context of Democrat Party history. Comparing him to FDR she noted that there is one quality of FDR's that is notably absent in Obama. That quality is good cheer. He is always too earnest, too serious, etc. Then listening last night to some local talk show hosts commenting on the Al Smith dinner, I noted that they had the same remark. They were relieved to hear Obama actually poking fun at himself because they were beginning to get concerned that the guy is not really human--that there's something self-righteously priggish about him. They were surprised that he could pull off any jokes at all.

I think Ken is right though. Obama's jokes did seem more forced than McCain's did. Obviously, neither one of them wrote the jokes. But the delivery in McCain's case reflected a better sense of humor about his own limitations. McCain's strong point has never been humility but, I think, he at least has enough humility to recognize his lack of it. It doesn't seem real in Obama's case. I think that whoever wrote Obama's seemingly self-deprecating jokes (to the effect "my greatest flaw is that I'm too cool") might have been engaged in a bit of surreptitious insulting of "the one." I can't imagine working for guy like that--always "on," as it were. I imagine that the tell-alls from his staff will be quite a read.

Huh, I had a different reaction, thinking McCain's barbs were, while well-delivered, harsher. Obama mostly joked about himself, the economy, Joe Biden's belief that he's better than Obama, or the easy McCain knew Al Smith. McCain was more aggressive, joking about how little the Clinton's respect Obama, a sore subject. And that line where people start to cringe is why McCain was so funny.

SCOTT D., there is an "Irishness" to the overall theme of the dinner, which makes allowance for a certain edge to the humour.


Duly noted. Given that, what am I still missing about Obama's "overflow of bile" which others observed? Not as natural delivery as McCain?

One thing I noticed was the way is which Obama deprecated himself. He said that he was not born in a manger in a manger, but was born on Krypton. That was very funny. In fact it had a Rush Limbaugh at his best quality (deprecating himself by giving himself huge over-the- top accolades)that was startling.

That was very funny. In fact it had a Rush Limbaugh at his best quality (deprecating himself by giving himself huge over-the- top accolades)that was startling.

Did you hear Rush commenting on this very joke? Stretching hard to make it into a symbol of Obama's self-involvement. It did not really work - I changed the channel...

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