Suzanne Fields

Baz Luhrman's movie "The Great Gatsby" focuses specifically on the spectacle of a society out of control at wild, glamorous parties at the Gatsby mansion, though the man who throws them is hardly known. Gatsby makes appearances amidst speculation about who he is and what he does, but nobody cares very much when they're having fun.

As timelines, explanations and equivocations continue to shift and slide, the president's job approval ratings continue to fall, so far to 45 percent, down 2 points in a month. Fully 68 percent say they think the government's protections of civil liberties are disappearing.

When the Democrats nominated Barack Obama in 2008, columnist Charles Krauthammer described the candidate as a "dazzling mysterious Gatsby ... a deeply engaging, elegant, brilliant stranger." So true. The candidate came with a colorful biography; he was the latest personification of the American Dream, not a rags-to-riches story, but a symbol of the emerging triumph in the old struggle against racism.

Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives admired and criticized by different lights, but nearly everyone felt a certain pride about electing the first black man to the highest office in the land. This contributed to a powerful myth of the man. As appealing as the myth was, it didn't tell us anything specific about his abilities and talents to lead the nation through difficult and complex times.

Daisy tells Gatsby how he always looks so "cool," just like the man in an advertisement. That sounds like Barack Obama. Whether we like or dislike his message, the man remains cool. We've paid a price for that. Like Nick Carraway, the narrator of "The Great Gatsby," we watch scandal and shame unfold with an ominous sense of failure and menace, craving "moral attention."

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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