Defining our president in his first year can be difficult, but here are a few possible labels. Liberals loved giving names to George W. Bush during his presidency. He was called everything vulgar from "retarded cowboy" and "President s--- for brains" by classy comedians to "crackhead" by equally classy Obama appointee Van Jones.
This particular conservative will refuse to stoop to such disgusting levels when discussing President Obama, but over the first year of his presidency, one does feel compelled to try to pin some kind of identification on our new community organizer-in-chief. We could call him Nobel Peace Prize-winner, but even that doesn't really mean anything anymore. Labeling our leader is tricky; he's a slippery guy who seems to have an answer for everything.
After a year, could it be that we still aren't quite sure who we have in office? After all, he denies all condemnation from the right and accepts all adulation from the left. But where does that get us? Here are some things we have learned about Obama this year, sans the vulgar nicknames:
Obama makes the resolute I-voted-for-it-before-I-was-against-it John Kerry look like Winston Churchill. Whether the topic is Gitmo, taxes, the economy, single-payer healthcare, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, talking with dictators, abortion, immigration, gays in the military, redistribution of wealth, his appointees, or pretty much anything else, Obama has flip-flopped on policy more than the Democrats' beloved California delta smelt gasping for breath. While we learned to put up with it from a guy who can still rifle a football 70 yards on the fly, we've all grown pretty weary of Obama's changing perspectives and feeble decisions.
Obama is like Oprah. Much like the media queen, Obama can change vernacular faster than you can say "ebonics." Whether he is speaking at campaign stops ("I need you to grab Cousin Pookie to vote....I need you to get Ray-Ray to vote."), rubbing elbows with locals ("Where the food at?" or "Nah, we straight."), or giving speeches to black audiences (see his speeches to the NAACP or to the crowd in New Orleans), I keep waiting for the president to throw out a "Mm, hmm, girlfriend!" or an "Oh, Lawd," like Oprah does on a regular basis. For the same reason people love Oprah, they love Obama. He can simultaneously exist in the world of down home commoners and international elites.
For a guy raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, and educated at Columbia and Harvard, we can see through it, though. I'm from the cornfields of Indiana, and I've got more street in me than he does. I'll never understand the need for vernacular shifts, and many could argue that President Bush's twang became more evident when speaking to particular audiences. But when Bush's voice slipped to Southern, it was to his natural dialect; Obama's shift is purely for show.
Obama is like that teacher you had in high school that all the students loved. Remember him? He was an easy grader and gave second chances on homework and extra credit on tests. He went to all the sporting events, cracked jokes in the hall, and was even popular among the other teachers. However, if you listened closely enough in class, you soon discovered that he wasn't as bright as everyone assumed. You learned that he became a teacher because he simply enjoyed being in charge, not that he believed in focused education. You decided that his humor and attractiveness simply disguised his content confusion and unclear communication, and his course was not what you signed up for. And you desperately wished you could drop his class.
Obama is like a parent who can't control his children in a grocery store. He's toting a rambunctious gaggle of Congressional Democrats and special interest groups, trying to follow his shopping list, organize his coupons, sift through his wallet, and glance at the gossip magazines. The kids are loud and disruptive, begging to buy candy bars (or lobby for subsidies) and knocking over displays while running wild. It's as if Obama tries to keep the smile on face and appear responsible, while the rest of us glare at him for reproducing his political progeny so irresponsibly and invading our peaceful supermarket of free choices with his disruptive cacophony. We know deep down he's not a bad guy, and his kids probably aren't that evil, either. But we can't help but think that people like that should never be allowed to leave the house.
On second thought, it's hard to be a parent, when Obama is like a child, himself. He's good at making excuses and blaming others, even for months at a time. He keeps his bedroom door locked when his friends are over, even though he promised he would follow the house rules of transparency. He seems to love P.E. and speech class, but his math needs a lot of work, and it looks like his friends have been doing some of his writing homework for him. He loves iPods and DVDs and airplane rides and puppies, and tries his best to be nice to Crazy Uncle Joe and Aunt Nancy.
He's still unaware of the world's realities of good and evil, too young to understand that moral relativism doesn't work. He tries to be friends with everyone, which is admirable; except that he's naïve in thinking he can change the minds of bullies who steal bicycles and lunch money. And he's never held a real job.
Maybe we'll learn more about President Obama in the following year that helps us clarify who the man really is. Or maybe his chameleon skin will help him slide through his term without ever having to prove he is anything substantial at all.