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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Being There

Being There was a 1979 film starring Peter Sellers. The premise of the film is that a near imbecilic gardener -- who is mistakenly called Chauncey Gardiner -- comes to be regarded as a genius by all the high-powered Washington D.C. types who meet him. Gardiner, who loses his job when his lifelong employer dies, replies to any questions that come his way with simple-minded statements about gardening. But whatever he says is interpreted as having a deeper, allegorical meaning by the power elite, who elevate him to a status far beyond his capabilities.

It would be unfair to compare our current President to Chauncey Gardiner. Obama is obviously not an imbecile. And yet....I can't help but be reminded. Obama at many levels seems to function as a sort of human Rorschach test, and has all sorts of abilities attributed to him that he doesn't seem to have.

He is routinely described as brilliant. But if he were really that brilliant, would he have spent $950,000 on lawyer's fees making sure that all of his academic records and test scores remain sealed? Certainly some extremely bright people drift through college without grubbing for grades; but even with them, their SATs and LSATs tend to betray their intelligence. In 2000 we were treated to all four of the major candidates' test scores. Neither Bush, nor McCain, nor Gore, nor Bradley had particularly good scores, yet none of them tried to cover them up. So why is Obama so secretive?

If Obama were so brilliant, would he need to rely on Teleprompters even for press conferences and meetings with businessmen inside the White House? He is routinely lauded for his ability to give great speeches. Yet without a Teleprompter he is unmasked as an actor without a script. And when he occasionally makes a blunder like "I've been to fifty-seven states, with I think one to go," it is routinely swept under the rug by a compliant media.

When Being There first came out, it seemed utterly implausible, even as satire. Now, a little less so.

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