In the brief time that has passed since Barack Obama burst onto the world political stage, he has been viewed as many things by many people.
By taking Tom Daschle's advice to "run before you have a record that they can use against you," he was able to present himself not as a candidate with a past, but as a concept with a future. His potential election was viewed as historic -- for some because of his proclaimed status as "the first black president of the United States," by others as the fulfillment, fifty years later, of the interrupted promise of Camelot. A large portion of the electorate bought into the Obama brand -- designed as the anti-Bush, a cool, constitutional lecturer who would bring a new tone, memorable rhetoric, and a likable family to Washington.
His opponents have struggled, largely unsuccessfully, to make allegations of radicalism stick, despite a record of personal associations that would have precluded his serving in any defense position requiring security clearance. Early in his presidency, he was feared to be a Muslim "Manchurian Candidate," having an ostensibly Muslim father and a childhood spent in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation on earth.
Over time, as we have seen and heard (and heard and heard and heard) from our new leader, each of these views which had been projected onto The One have gradually fallen away. With inner-city and minority unemployment at historic highs and no substantive programs focused on the problem, the Black Caucus complains of a conspicuous lack of commitment on Obama's part to "the black agenda."
The constitutional scholar with a supposed gift for rhetoric has professed to be uninterested in "the process" of drafting and passing legislation while showing a strong preference for victory at any cost. His rhetoric has been shown to be the same hackneyed product of political speechwriters, his communication skills very similar to that of any good news anchor ("Just read the news, Barry"), and his language has shown a disturbing tendency towards propaganda...short on facts, long on emotion, and big on inverted meanings where taxes are investments, spending is saving, and more government intrusion is freedom. Indeed, there is a new tone: a more toxic, intolerant, suspicious, taunting tone that has driven Americans' view of their government to new lows as our debt and tax load climb to stratospheric heights.
For all of the fears about Islam creeping into the White House, the POTUS has shown himself to be a purely secular leader. In his mind, all religions are equal (as are all nations in their claims to exceptionalism) and profoundly irrelevant. No church, no mosque -- just a spiritual e-mail a day from his staff to keep the Great One on track. As for the family, Michelle appears embittered by the lack of universal admiration which has played out for the past year, and the girls are safely ensconced at a prestigious private school in D.C., as the pampered children of any Harvard-educated senior bureaucrat should be.
Following a recent interview of the POTUS in which his handlers complained that he was questioned a bit too closely by interviewer Brett Baier, columnist Peggy Noonan neatly summarized the event. In her estimation, Obama revealed what he wanted to, which was that he didn't want to reveal much at all.
In point of fact, Obama has been shown to be an empty vessel into which hopeful Americans poured their hopes and dreams in 2008. In the same way that he described the U.S. Constitution as a "charter of negative liberties," distinguished by the behaviors it does not compel, so too is Obama a person of negative, or missing, traits.
Although African-American in appearance, he was raised by whites and educated in the most elite Eastern liberal tradition, with only a thin veneer of calculated street cred imbued by his time in the south side of Chicago.
Although swept to office as the recipient of the gift of soaring rhetoric, he has been found to be as heavily dependent on a teleprompter as any beginning mass communications student, and prone to stammering and self-contradiction in its absence.
So what's left? Start with Obama the candidate and remove the scripted speechifying, the calculated racial identity, and any pretense of spiritual engagement, and only a few unflattering character traits remain. The traits increasingly on display are dominated by Obama's unshaken confidence in himself, his willingness to dehumanize not only the opposition, but also his "poster child" examples (see also Marcellus Owens), and his peculiar view that the change demanded by Americans is "the great leveling" -- a spreading around of wealth among Americans, and eventually among nations, that will reposition the United States in its rightful place as one unremarkable, one unexceptional, one "fair" nation in which every American child can grow up expecting not equal opportunity, but equal outcome.
That's the kind of work that not only doesn't require a soul...but it's easier if you haven't got one. We've found just the man for the job: a post-racial, post-religious, post-American narcissist out to correct four hundred years of history as he sees fit.
If that doesn't scare you, then you aren't paying attention.