Brian Birdnow

Much has been written in recent weeks concerning the Obama Administration’s early struggles and stumbles, particularly in matters such as properly vetting prospective cabinet nominees, differentiating between campaigning and governing, and staying on message during a rambling press conference. Some commentators have tried to downplay or dismiss these difficulties, while others have chalked them up as the inevitable errors of an amateur who has been pushed too far, too fast. What many of the pundits tend to overlook in their analyses of President Obama’s first weeks is that these early misadventures illustrate the petulance and arrogance that stand as the defining elements of the man’s essential character.

The examples of President Obama’s overweening sense of pride, hubris and superiority are, in fact, legion. Certainly a man who writes his autobiography twice by the age of forty-three, who makes no secret of his intention to be the President of the United States while he is a neighborhood agitator in Chicago, and, later, as an Illinois state senator is not a model of modesty, humility and self-effacement. Moreover, his short tenure in the U.S. Senate was marked by continued exaggerations of his experience and the supposed jurisprudential acumen he demonstrated as a lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Law.

In 2006 Senator Obama voted against confirming John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court based on differing “legal opinions” concerning affirmative action and abortion. Then-Senator Obama used his former position as a law school lecturer to issue a mild rebuke to Roberts for his insufficient respect for fictitious constitutional guarantees. Similarly, Senator Obama invoked his experience when helping his party create a scandal over the Bush Administration’s firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Obama solemnly declared, “I was a constitutional law professor, which means, unlike the President, I actually respect the constitution.” In actuality, Barack Obama taught courses on racism, voting rights, and social policy. During his twelve years at the law school Obama never published a single work of legal scholarship. (Although he did find the time to engage in five electoral races) Still, this meager record of accomplishment did not stop the Senator from claiming that he was something of a constitutional expert as opposed to the presumably unlettered President Bush.


Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.