Via Powerline, an interview with Ehud Barak. I forget that political controversies and lines drawn in other countries are not quite the same as here, and it is good to be reminded. Barak’s opinion of President Obama is only a minor topic in the discussion, but it touches on things I have said elsewhere. The former prime minister of Israel clearly has some admiration for our ex-president. His goal is to describe how Obama is different rather than to praise or criticise, but one can tell. He describes Obama as seeking greatness rather than simple competence, to be one of the top half-dozen of American presidents, and studying greatness to that end. Ehud also approves of his more international understandings, being raised in Indonesia, having a Kenyan father and anthropologist mother, going to school outside the original 48 even when in America. He describes Obama’s core understanding as more “subtle” than other Americans.
I think there is a good deal of truth in this, but I think there is one great limiting factor. Barack Obama is only above-average in intelligence, not some genius; and if one prefers training in wisdom rather than mere academic achievement, it is hard to see where that would have come from.
That is, unless one defines having an only partially-American outlook as wisdom, in and of itself, which would be circular. Obama is not stupid, but a discount must be applied to his academic achievements at every level. In addition to a double helping of affirmative action and his career not taking off until they stopped testing for math and science, he was also quite intentional and studied in seeming intelligent, especially to white people. He himself said that he was something of a blank canvas which others painted on what they wanted. He wrote biographies of his feelings and impressions, yet with very little in the way of concrete events and people he interacted with. More blank canvas. He accomplished what he set out to do, and that’s more than most of us can say. He was a narcissist, and Ehud Barak provides the evidence without realising it.
Still, that’s only a small part of the essay, as I said above, and it is worth your while, even you you disagree with some other parts or detect a slant that Barak may not be entirely aware of himself. He’s still way ahead of most American politicians on that score, at any rate. I also liked the following:
Gossip is the shaper and mover of the fate of nations.