...the laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised."
Thomas Jefferson.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Obama’s Uncanny Gift For Mimicry.

This is so interesting, and it's great writing. There is more to the article but it's premium content at The New Republic. I have been steadfast in my determination to NOT pay for site access but I'm beginning to think the day is coming when...
The article is here if you have access or are willing to sign up for a two week free preview.

Nicholas Lemann

It’s worth listening to the audiobook version of Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Fatherbecause not so long ago Obama had both the time and the inclination to spend many hours voicing the recording himself. His regular speaking voice is by now in all our heads, but in the spoken version of the book we also get something that has had to be put away from public display: Obama’s uncanny gift for mimicry. Again and again he will encounter a character and deliver the material that appears within quotation marks on the printed page in the character’s voice. He can do men and women, old and young, foreign accents and street slang.
To pull this off requires not just vocal ability but an intensity of observation of other people—a quality of attention, of absorption—so fierce it’s as if one’s life depended on it. And there is a sense, in the case of Obama, in which his life did depend on it, sociologically and psychologically. He had to imagine his way into the center of American society from a very unusual point on the periphery, to invent an identity for himself that felt comfortable, to find a way to love parents whom one would more naturally resent for having been so often absent. There is no more vivid imitation in the book than the one of his father, whom he barely knew—big, lilting, funny, dominating, elusive. How hard Obama must have strained to drink in every drop of his father’s presence during the rare moments when he had it—but how little effort was required for him to figure out where his father ended and he began.
One of the zillions of differences between Obama and George W. Bush is that it is impossible to imagine Bush inhabiting another person in the way that Obama can. Yes, he prides himself, like many politicians, on his ability to “read people,” as he puts it in his memoir. Yes, he comes up with reasonably apt nicknames. But these are aspects of the exercise of power, not of empathetic understanding. Bush finds ways to extend his force field to encompass other people—but he doesn’t go to them, as Obama, at least when he was young, did. In his second book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama spends a page or two tossing off a perfect little drypoint sketch of Bush, on the basis of a brief encounter at a White House event; whereas in Decision Points, everybody but Bush exists, characterologically, as a figure in the drama of Bush, not as an independent figure under observation. Here’s a brief Bush-Obama encounter (just after the November 2008 election), as rendered by Bush, the opposite of vivid and more about Bush than Obama: “Barack was gracious and confident. It seemed he felt the same sense of wonderment I had eight years earlier when Bill Clinton welcomed me to the Oval Office as president-elect. I could also see the sense of responsibility start to envelop him.”

1 comment:

Paul said...

I just saw your tweet on taxing the rich. I just posted an article on this very subject. Just google: Talking Union, and go to: Fix economic crisis: Tax the rich.

Paul Krehbiel
Los Angeles