On the holiday celebrating Martin Luther King's birthday, we celebrate also the first year of America's first black president, Barack Obama.
It's telling that 47 years ago, when Reverend King made his great speech on the Washington Mall, he did not say that he had a dream that one day, an African-American would become president. King's vision on August 28, 1963 was less ambitious:
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Even so, Barack Obama was elected president based on the color of his skin. On the night of November 4, 2008, African Americans wept with joy because one of their own had become president against all that they had been told and all their fears about a racist America. Liberals rejoiced because of the "first," that America had answered the question: Is America ready for a black president?
Some Americans voted for Barack Obama for non-racial reasons. Independents and disgruntled Republicans voted against the mistakes and the corruption of the Bush era.
Now that Obama is president, he is no longer being judged by the color of his skin. Now, the vast majority of Americans will judge him on the content of his character. It is his character, of course, that is the great unknown, as Charles Krauthammer has written:
Obama is a man of first-class intellect and first-class temperament. But his character remains highly suspect.
But word is starting to dribble out. Reports Hugh Hewitt on the latest campaign page-turner, Game Change by Mark Halperin and John Heilmann:
The portrait of the president is really an effort in poison-pen pointillism, where hundreds and hundreds of razor sharp paragraphs combine to create a deeply disquieting picture of the new president. President Obama is presented as insecure and needy of reassurance (p. 25), self-important, cynical and megalomaniacal (pp 30-31), petulant and spoiled (p. 111), touchy and vain (p. 112), hypocritical (p. 119), overweening (p. 184) and deceptive (p. 120.)
Another disquieting note is the overarching theme of Obama's first year of governance: the determination to govern against the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, which states that government gains its just powers from the consent of the governed. The American people do not consent to the $787-billion stimulus. They do not consent to the cap-and-trade bill. They do not consent to the federalization of health care.
The comparison to the character and governance of President George W. Bush is telling. We knew, before we elected him president, a lot about his character: his fight against business failure and alcoholism. President Bush's character was confirmed in the challenges of his presidency, when he submitted to a political immolation in his second term as the price of getting the war on terror right.
The awful chasm opening before us today after the first year of Obama is the realization that we have no knowledge of the man's character. If President Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, President Obama has been spoon-fed royal jelly by the worker bees in the liberal hive all his adult life. Even now, we know of no occasion in his charmed life when Barack Obama rose above the shibboleths and routine thuggeries of political faction.
Yet President Obama is called to lead the nation out of a nasty recession provoked by his party's compulsive manipulation of the credit system, a history that reaches from the $400-billion losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac all the way back to Andrew Jackson's war with the Second United States Bank.
In the year ahead, as unemployment stays high and as isolated desertions in the Democratic ranks metastasize into headlong routs of whole battalions, President Obama will face challenges that test every fiber of his being. Sensing his insecurity and need for reassurance, cunning men and women will suggest ways of using his political power to get back in the game. Will he sacrifice his party and his presidency and do the right thing, or will he sacrifice the American people on the altar of political expediency?
I fear the answer to that question.