Obama and the Willful Blindness of the Conservative Beltway Intelligentsia

Fox News is justifiably proud of its star commentator Charles Krauthammer, widely considered to be the most influential conservative journalist in the country. In an hour-long interview with Fox News 6 P.M anchor Brett Baier that fist ran last Friday, the usually reticent Krauthammer told the fascinating story of his life, relating how he coped with the crippling accident that left him forever wheelchair-bound and how he almost inadvertently traded the psychiatrist's couch for the journalist's keyboard. Listening to this remarkable man, one couldn't help admiring his spunk, his strength of character and, above all, his towering intellect. And then out of the blue came a sharply discordant note alertly picked up by Rush Limbaugh.

Krauthammer mentioned the well-known story of how in January 2009, a week before the inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama met a group of five or six leading conservative pundits at George Will's residence. Prior to the meeting, Krauthammer and Will shared their puzzlement at how little was known about Obama's philosophy and ideological leanings. "Was he a centrist Democrat who would occasionally throw a bone to the left, or a man of the left who would occasionally throw a bone to the center?" wondered Dr. Krauthammer.  George Will concurred, likening the new President of the United Sates to a Rorschach inkblot test into which people read their own preferences.

In the course of the soiree that lasted three hours, Obama's interlocutors found him charming and engaging, but when it was over, they were nowhere near cracking the enigma:  the President's inner persona remained as elusive as ever. And it was not until five weeks later that Dr. Krauthammer, listening to the President's maiden State of the Union address, realized with a shock that the new occupant of the White House was a dyed-in-the-wool socialist.  But why did it take him so long? Was Obama really that inscrutable? Had Krauthammer, Will and other conservative pundits taken in by Obama's charm followed him on the campaign trail?

If they had, how could they have missed the numerous signs that Barack Obama was a far-left ideologue? They say that the past is prologue, and Obama's past offers more than enough clues as to his true identity. Was it possible to miss the significance of Obama's 20-year close association with the Rev. Jeremiah "God damn America" Wright, whom Obama called his friend and mentor, who married the Obamas and baptized their children. Could anyone believe that Obama, who for two decades had regularly attended the services at the Trinity United Church of Christ and listened to the Reverend Wright's fiery sermons pulsating with insane hatred and fury, never heard a disparaging word about America, as candidate Obama averred on the campaign trail?

Was it possible not to recognize the implicit threat in Obama's Philadelphia speech ostensibly designed to "explain" his relationship with that fervent proponent of the black liberation theology, but actually aimed at intimidating his opponents by warning that any further mention of the Reverend's name would be denounced as a racist provocation?  For that matter, could anyone miss the delightful spectacle of a racist card played by Obama on the past masters of racial demagoguery, the Clintons, that left them sputtering in helpless fury? Did anybody believe Obama's pathetic lies about his long association with unrepentant Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers?

And if circumstantial evidence was not enough, why not rely on what was coming straight from the horse's mouth. Obama was so confident of his invincibility that from time to time he let the mask of a moderate slip to reveal his true identity. Remember how he promised to a group of Democratic donors in San Francisco he would kill the coal industry even at the price of skyrocketing electric power rates for the consumers? Remember how he lectured Joe the Plumber on the need "to spread the wealth around?" Remember how he informed the stunned Charlie Gibson of ABC World News that he planned to raise the capital gains tax from 15% to 28% because "social justice" trumped the adverse effect such a measure would inevitably have on the economy. Was there anything ambiguous in Obama's pledge to radically transform America?

In short, Obama was all but shouting from the rooftops that he was an Alinskyite socialist harboring revolutionary designs. Millions of Americans heard him loud and clear -- but not the intellectual class, including some of the most prominent conservatives, notably George Will and Charles Krauthammer.    "Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not?" (Mark 8:18).  But whoever shuts his eyes, won't see. Whoever plugs his ears, won't hear. And that's exactly what some of the leading lights of the American intelligentsia did: they chose not to know the truth. Why?

Clearly, they were swept up by the wave of enthusiasm that carried Barack Obama to his electoral triumph. They thought they were witnessing an event of immense historic magnitude: the election of the first black president. Finally the era of racial antagonism will be over, the nation will see its curse receding in the rear-view window, and the great uniter Obama will usher in a new era of harmony. Certainly one couldn't help exulting at the dizzying vista, now could one? Couple that with the sure prospect of being branded a racist and cast out of polite society at the slightest critical remark about Obama. It was also a class thing; to be lumped together with the unwashed masses, who would not give the historic president the benefit of the doubt? Horrors, no!

Equally, if not more, important was the fact that Obama was an author, with a genuinely good book, "Dreams from my Father," to his credit. Conservative intellectuals were rapturous. The best book ever written by a President of the United States, better even that Ulysses S. Grant's Memoirs! Finally one of us, a true intellectual, ensconced in the White House! Who could not be elated? They had no inkling that by all indications, the President's signal literary achievement had actually been ghost-written by none other than Bill Ayers, as brilliantly exposed by Jack Cashill in his book "Deconstructing Obama." Also, the conservative journalists who hobnobbed with Obama understandably felt flattered that the President -elect sought their company, acknowledging their lofty status among Washington heavy-hitters.

The Ohio plumber easily saw through Obama, but the truth about him eluded many conservative intellectuals who bought into the Obama myth. Apparently they convinced themselves that the evidence of Obama's radicalism, too massive to be ignored, was just so much campaign hokum, Obama just being a "politician," and that once he was safely elected, his inner Ronald Reagan would assert himself and lead the country to the sunny uplands.  They wanted to believe no matter what and if the facts don't fit the theory, so much the worse for the facts, as Hegel taught them. Their powerful intellectual equipment helped them willingly suspend disbelief. While common people saw things the way they were, the sophisticates processed reality through the filter of wishful thinking, buttressing their delusion. A clear-cut case of willful blindness if ever I saw one.