Does Barack Obama understand the people he leads? Do his aides?
These may seem cheeky questions to ask of a team that just won the presidency. But there is something in their cool, insouciant, blase demeanor, in the face of insults to their country, that suggests there yet exists a chasm -- between them and us.
Now, the change since the 1960s in the character of the nation has been great. The moral and social sappers spawned by that decade have done their work well. But Middle America yet remains a blood-and-soil, family-and-faith, God-and-country kind of nation.
We are not Europe -- yet.
Most Americans remain visceral patriots. It's in the DNA.
What almost cost Bill Clinton the presidency in 1992 was not that he had opposed the Vietnam War, but that, it was said, he marched against his country while in a foreign country.
When Barack confided to friends in San Francisco that he was having trouble in Pennsylvania because these folks "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them ... as a way to explain their frustrations," he revealed that he does not really understand a part of the nation he now leads.
It is this part of America that does not comprehend how the president could sit in Trinidad and listen to the scrub stock of the hemisphere trash our country -- and say nothing.
To Obama's supporters, he may have behaved as a rational leader ought: Be pleasant and friendly, smile, ignore taunts and insults, rise above all that, communicate, seek common ground.
That is who Obama is, friends say. On a personal level, there is surely nothing wrong with so conducting oneself. But Obama is now president of the United States. He represents our country, not just himself.
The other America is hardwired another way. It believes, as Merle Haggard sang, "If you're running' down my country, man, you're walkin' on the fightin' side of me."
At Columbia, Harvard Law and the University of Chicago -- where Barack, the son of a single mom, shuttled from Hawaii to Indonesia and back -- a black kid in a strange Muslim world, then in a white world, by his own admission unrooted, learned how to get along. And he is surrounded by aides with advanced degrees from elite colleges who react just like him.
But if they don't wish to lose the country, they had better begin to understand the rest of America -- as the 1960s' liberals never did.
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