We suffer most, not when the White House is a peaceful dormitory, but when it is a jitney Mars Hill, with a tin-pot Paul bawling from the roof. Counting out Harding as a cipher only, Dr. Coolidge was preceded by one World Saver and followed by two more. What enlightened American, having to choose between any of them and another Coolidge, would hesitate for an instant? There were no thrills while he reigned, but neither were there any headaches. He had no ideas, and he was not a nuisance.While I can't say that I agree with Gerson's thesis; while I only wish it were true that Obama's presidential progenitor and role model was Silent Cal; and while the word inspiration makes me reach for my Browning, I feel obliged to say that Gerson is right on when he writes that
In Obama's running seminar, a flawed thesis and a flawed antithesis are always resolved by the synthesis of Obama himself--the speaker as Hegelian culmination of history.Well, perhaps not entirely on. I'm not sure that "Hegelian culmination of history" is exactly it--not so much because it misinterprets Obama, but because it misreads Hegel. Well, we are talking about Michael Gerson, after all.
Nevertheless, it does find the big flaw in our President's self-pious dialectic, in which thesis-and-antithesis are ever reduced to the most asinine of superficially contradictory claims, the resolution of which is not synthesis so much as hybridization. The model is invariably: neither all of this nor all of that, but some of this and some of that at the same time. The method is intellectually shallow and oratorically banal, which perfectly describes Barack Obama, who strikes me as the sort of student who, though he never fails to achieve high marks, also never manages to get beyond a compare-and-contrast approach to his subject--in other words: smart, but not really intelligent.