Victor Davis Hansen, riffing on Obama’s prop of a classical temple for his big speech, shows how a knowledge of ancient literature and history can help us understand contemporary politics:
Why and how did McCain catch up? Let us count the ways: the disastrous European victory lap of Obama’s; the uninspired professorial pontificating to Rick Warren; the deer-in-the-headlights serial responses to the Georgia crisis; and the McCain ads that were as cleverly effective as they were derided as childish by outraged liberals.
But perhaps the greatest consideration is Obama’s Hellenic hubris, which is different than simple arrogance. Hubris is a sort of fit, a haughtiness steeped in delusions of grandeur and divinity that takes over a weak individual, and soon encourages recklessness and overreaching (atê), all culminating in ruin and divine retribution (nemesis).
Go figure: Obama/Oedipus goes to Berlin. There he speaks in front of a grandiose Victory Column commemorating Prussian arrogance (after begging in vain to have a JFK/Reagan presidential moment at the grander Brandenburg Gate). He reviews American sins, revises the history of the Berlin Airlift, and claims (falsely) he’s the first black high official Germany has dealt with before. Then to hysterical applause from 200,000 Berliners, eager for subsequent free music and beer, he prances home, convinced that this was a success rather than an Apollonian trap.Meanwhile an Ethel in Tulare turns on the TV and sees thousands of Europeans (who habitually make fun of her country) applaud Obama—and makes the logical assumption that they apparently think he is one of them, rather than one of us.
Next, drunk with pride, Obama thinks that such a losing paradigm (again, really a warning from the gods) apparently was not only successful, but will work again in Denver. So he transfers his speech to an outdoor forum, where tens of thousands of raving fans can watch him apotheosize in front of a faux Doric temple and accept nomination.
Isn’t there one sane person on his staff who can stop this divine madness, a single henchman who can whisper in his ear as puts on his golden crown not Vero possumus (”Yes! We can!”), but as was true of returning heroes during Roman Triumphs—”Respica te, hominem te memento” (”Watch behind you; remember you’re just a man!”)?