A little over a decade before anyone had heard of Barack Obama, cyberpunk author William Gibson already had his number, as it were. The novel was called Idoru (“idol” in Japanese) and told the story of a holographic emanation, an entirely virtual media star projected upon an adoring world. As Rolling Stone put it in a review, “Gibson envisions a future in which the lines between the virtual and the actual are terminally blurred. How ‘real’ are today’s celebrities?”
There’s no doubt that the world’s “greatest” celebrity creation is Barack Obama, an idol who mesmerized the American public and much of the West besides, drawing enormous crowds wherever he went, inspiring millions upon millions of mindless infatuates who regarded him as the answer to all the world’s problems. People gazed upon him and swooned over his pectorals or felt tingles crawling up their legs. Others thought a god had arisen in their midst. He was the savior, the messiah, “The One” who would resolve the world’s most intractable conflicts, who would roll back the seas, who would introduce transparency into American politics, and who would bring harmony and wisdom, hope and change, to a distracted electorate.
Two years have passed and the shine has faded. Every initiative that the American idoru has undertaken has generated only controversy and failure. Add to the record of his blunders and hesitations the fact of his shrouded identity, anemic CV and playboy-like behavior, and we have a veritable enigma on our hands. Does he fly under or over the radar? The then-senator who constantly voted “present” seems as president disturbingly absent, junketing about the planet, shooting endless rounds of golf, practicing his jump shot, warbling at parties, sipping slurpies.
Worse, when it comes to issues of major significance, Obama cannot seem to make up his mind about anything. Taking a reasoned, consistent and principled position seems beyond his means. Rather, he is prone, to quote T.S. Eliot from The Hollow Men, to “behaving as the wind behaves.” Is he in or out of Afghanistan? Is he for the Ground Zero mosque or against? Does he admire or disapprove of his former pastor, America-hating Reverend Wright? Is he prosecuting terrorists in civil court or relying on military tribunals? Are the Articles of the Constitution to be observed or ignored? Is Congress to be circumvented or consulted in carrying out domestic and foreign policies, a question recently highlighted by his mobilizing the EPA to skirt legislative resistance to Cap and Trade or participating in the action against Muammar Gaddafi? For that matter, is he committed to the Libyan adventure or not? Is he pro-Israel, as he has often affirmed, or anti-Israel, as his conduct plainly suggests? Why does he support the so-called “democracy movement” in Egypt but not in Syria or Iran? If health care reform is meant to be universal, why have public sector unions been given exemptions and congressmen spared? Why do statements emerging from the White House often seem downright contradictory? These paradoxes, evasions and ambiguities can be multiplied indefinitely.
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