First let me say - - it most certainly is an “obsession.”
At least, given the verbal assaults that come my way when I so much as raise a question about the President's policies, it most certainly seems like an "obsession" to me.
“Obsession,” by the way, is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.”
And doesn’t it seem that to you that many of our fellow Americans are “obsessed” with the “persistent idea” that our 43rd President, Barack Obama, is something more than human? It may be sustained, or it may be short-lived - - or something in between. But for now, millions of Americans believe that there is no problem, neither personal nor global, that this President can’t “fix,” and his motivations in all things are the very definition of purity.
I tend to think that it’s three very important elements which, having been combined together all at the same time, have produced this current obsession. For one, many Americans are genuinely frightened by present economic conditions, and are unnerved about the prospects for their future. The idea that somebody greater than ourselves could take away our pain, remove all the obstacles in our path, and make sure that all our needs are met - - that idea is, apparently, very appealing to many Americans right now.
There is also President Obama’s phenomenal communicative abilities. Sure, many of us would prefer less “teleprompter” and more “candor.” Yet, when the President talks, he makes many Americans “feel” - - feel good about himself and his intentions, and feel bad about his specified objects of wrath (“rich executives,” “torturous interrogation tactics,” “greed on Wall Street,” “George W. Bush” - - you get the idea).
And then there is the stark reality that we live in an era of what I call “historical and Constitutional illiteracy.” Most Americans, I am convinced, know very little about world history or American history, and the lessons entailed therein. Likewise, I’m pretty certain that most Americans have no clue about the Constitutional limits on the powers of the government, and the idea that there should be any limits at all on the Executive Branch is unthinkable.
In many ways, it’s a sad state of affairs. Americans are scared and want their President to be an omniscient, omnipotent savior, and the man we elected knows with certainty that he is that savior. Yet it’s comforting to know that, in many ways, some of the founders of our nation understood human nature so remarkably well that they could have predicted a day when future generations would want not a President, but a messiah, and a day when a President fancied himself as such.
Such wisdom is yours for the reading in “The Federalist Papers,” that old compilation of some 85 newspaper editorials that argued for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, published in 1787 and 1788. While make the case for limiting the power of government, and establishing “checks and balances” between government’s various “departments,” James Madison eloquently wrote in “The Federalist Number 51:”
“ It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government……”
It would seem that Madison the philosopher (who went on to become our Fourth President of the United States) was quite certain that those who govern will never be “angels” (he would probably also concur that a President will never amount to a messiah). Madison also seems to indicate that those who govern will naturally begin to think a bit too highly of themselves, and will have difficulty with ‘self-restraint.”
The good news, even in this brief passage of Madison’s writings, is that “the people” - - those of us who are “the governed” - - can still function as the force that prohibits government from spiraling out of control. Certainly, we are still “free enough” today to speak out, to allow our voices to be heard, and to freely exchange ideas about our country and its government - - even if those ideas are contrary to the edicts of a dead-certain Command-In-Chief.
The question is not “can we,” but “will we” function as that balancing force against a government that is spiraling out of control? Madison and the other founders set the course. Will we follow their lead?