Who is Barack Obama? The truth is that neither Sen. Obama's supporters nor opponents can answer that question. We know he is bright, eloquent and charismatic. But if he were elected president of the United States, he would be the least known man to be elected in modern American history, perhaps in all of American history.
That is why the remarks and views of those closest to Sen. Obama take on much more significance than the remarks and views of the people closest to Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Whether we like or dislike either of those two candidates, we have every reason to believe we know them.
The people closest to Sen. Obama -- and by his own account the two greatest living influences on his thinking -- are his wife Michelle and his pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. And each of them has made comments about America that could dissuade Americans from voting for Sen. Obama at least until they can get to know him better.
On Feb. 18, in Milwaukee, Wis., Michelle Obama announced, "For the first time in my adult life I am proud to be an American." Anyone in public life must be given slack regarding comments they later regret. But on the same day in another speech in Madison, Wis., Mrs. Obama said virtually the same thing: "For the first time in my adult lifetime I am really proud to be an American."
Sen. Obama later explained his wife's remarks this way: "What she meant was, this is the first time that she's been proud of the politics of America."
I do not believe that Sen. Obama's explanation is valid. I think Mrs. Obama said what she meant and meant what she said. But even if Sen. Obama's reformulation of his wife's remarks is valid, the fact remains that the closest person in the world to Barack Obama has never been proud of the politics of America, that it took her husband's primary wins to change a lifelong lack of pride in anything about America's political life. That's troubling on its own -- for his and her contempt for American politics. And it is even more troubling for its narcissism -- do Sen. Obama and his wife believe that only his success has made American politics worthy of pride?
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