Why do conservatives really find the Obama campaign "scary"?

The same political movement that brought political worship to whole new levels with George W. Bush now claims that reverence for Obama is excessive.


Glenn Greenwald
March 7, 2008 3:00AM (UTC)

(updated below - Update II)

I'm anything but a fan of the various music videos floating around which promote the Obama campaign. For many reasons, they just don't personally appeal to me. But I nonetheless found the reaction today from National Review Editor Rich Lowry to the latest such campaign video to be rather bizarre, and quite revealing:

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That Obama Video [Rich Lowry]

Is sad, scary, and hilarious all at once.

He found the video "scary." Here it is; I'd love to know what he -- and so many of his comrades -- find scary generally about the Obama campaign and about this video in particular:



What's in there that might scare Rich Lowry?

Conservatives love to claim that Obama supporters have excess reverence for their candidate and see him as some sort of transcendent messiah figure. There is a small minority of Obama supporters -- as is true for most candidates and political movements -- who probably expect more from Obama than it is healthy to expect from political leaders generally.

But listening to this objection from the right-wing movement is the ultimate irony. There has not been a political figure in a long, long time who was revered, worshiped and transformed into a grotesque Icon of Transcendent Greatness the way the Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush, has been. For years and years, the Right sustained itself as little more than a glorified Cult of Personality around the Great, Conquering War Hero.

Here are some of the books they wrote about him:








And here is how they spoke of him:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

And:

I had the opportunity this afternoon to be part of a relatively small group who heard President Bush talk, extemporaneously, for around forty minutes. It was an absolutely riveting experience. It was the best I've ever seen him. Not only that; it may have been the best I've ever seen any politician. . . . .

The conventional wisdom is that Bush is not a very good speaker. But up close, he is a great communicator, in a way that, in my opinion, Ronald Reagan was not. He was by turns instructive, persuasive, and funny. His persona is very much that of the big brother. . . .It was, in short, the most inspiring forty minutes I've experienced in politics.

And, George Bush is "one of the most decisive, successful, and in the US at least, popular leaders of our time." Not only that, but the invasion of Iraq was "the gift George W. Bush has given to the world" and he is the "best presidential speaker since Franklin Delano Roosevelt."

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Bush's election was divine, mandated by God:

"This was Providence . . . . Anybody looking at the 2000 election would have to say it was a miraculous deliverance, and I think people felt it again this year." By allowing Bush to stay in office, God is "giving us a chance to repent and to restore some moral sanity to American life."

When introducing the Commander-in-Chief at the 2004 GOP Convention -- that Orwellian orgy of unprecedentedly creepy, relentless hero worship -- Gov. George Pataki said: "He is one of those men God and fate somehow led to the fore in times of challenge." The righteous Gen. Boykin said: "The majority of Americans did not vote for him. He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." Rudy Giuliani added: "I say it -- I say it again tonight -- I say it again tonight: Thank God that George Bush is our President."

And here is how they dressed up the Great War Hero when he addressed us all at the Convention:


In 2006, even Bill Kristol acknowledged to The New York Times that the "conservative movement" had become little more than a Bush-revering cult of personality: "Bush was the movement and the cause." And this is to say nothing of their ongoing canonization of the God-given Patron Saint of Freedom and Goodness, Ronald Wilson Reagan. He brought Morning to America.

But remember: what Rich Lowry and his friends find "scary" about the Obama campaign is simply that they think it's unhealthy to venerate a political leader too much. They're really against doing that.

UPDATE: Also at The Corner, Mark Hemingway makes this snide remark about the video:

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I mean, a second rate actor such as Ryan Phillipe telling me to vote for Obama because he wants a "better future for his children"? Alternatively, if Phillipe wanted a better future for his children he could have not gotten divorced amidst rumors of an affair played out in the tabloids, raising them in a broken home.

Is that really a view that supporters of John McCain want to be advancing?

As Nicholas Kristof first detailed, McCain's first wife was in a near-fatal car accident when he was in Vietnam and she was raising their children, an accident which debilitated her, causing her to gain substantial weight and actually lose several inches of height. McCain learned of how disfigured she was for the first time when he returned home in 1973.

A few years later, McCain began carrying on extramarital affairs, including with the very young, very pretty, and very rich heiress Cindy Hensley, for whom McCain eventually divorced his disfigured first wife in order to marry. McCain's three children (from his first marriage) were so disgusted by McCain's treatment of their mother that they boycotted the wedding. But not all was lost. Cindy's family money and Arizona connections launched McCain's political career.

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Speaking of Cult of Personality, creating one around John McCain is going to be the central political strategy to elect him. Given his own history, that tactic probably won't work as well if people like Mark Hemingway openly accuse divorced people and adulterers of not caring about their children.

UPDATE II: In Comments, Xrandadu Hutman reminds us of this Clear Channel billboard erected in Orlando, Florida in 2004:


As several people noted in comments -- accurately, I think -- one of the principal aspects of the Obama campaign, and that video, that so scares the Bush-led Right (and the political establishment generally) is the prospect that a cross-section of American citizens will actually start to become politically engaged again, angry about what has happened over the last eight years, and determined to seize the power to do something about it. On that level, the fear they have is probably understandable, maybe even rational.


Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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Washington, D.c.



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