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Years from now, historians may regard the 2008 election of Barack Obama as an inscrutable and disturbing phenomenon, a baffling breed of mass hysteria akin perhaps to the witch craze of the Middle Ages. How, they will wonder, did a man so devoid of professional accomplishment beguile so many into thinking he could manage the world's largest economy, direct the world's most powerful military, execute the world's most consequential job? Imagine a future historian examining Obama's pre-presidential life: ushered into and through the Ivy League despite unremarkable grades and test scores along the way; a cushy non-job as a "community organizer"; a brief career as a state legislator devoid of legislative achievement (and in fact nearly devoid of his attention, so often did he vote "present") ; and finally an unaccomplished single term in the United States Senate, the entirety of which was devoted to his presidential ambitions. He left no academic legacy in academia, authored no signature legislation as a legislator. And then there is the matter of his troubling associations: the white-hating, America-loathing preacher who for decades served as Obama's "spiritual mentor"; a real-life, actual terrorist who served as Obama's colleague and political sponsor. It is easy to imagine a future historian looking at it all and asking: how on Earth was such a man elected president?
Richard CohenObama has always been the man he is today. He is the very personification of cognitive dissonance — the gap between what we (especially liberals) expected of the first serious African American presidential candidate and the man he in fact is. He has next to none of the rhetorical qualities of the old-time black politicians. He would eschew the cliche, but he feels little of their pain. In this sense, he has been patronized by liberals who looked at a man and saw black and has been reviled by those who looked at a black man and saw “other.”