Listen closely to that Tuesday night Wisconsin speech. Unhinge yourself from the mesmerizing voice. What one hears is a message that is largely negative, illustrated with anecdotes of unremitting bleakness. Heavy with class warfare, it is a speech that could have been delivered by a Democrat in 1968, or even 1928.
Right after the Wisconsin speech, TV broadcast another — by victorious John McCain. The contrast with Sen. Obama’s is stark. The arc of the McCain speech is upward, positive. Pointedly, he says we are not history’s “victims.” Barack relentlessly pushes victimology.
For Sen. Obama the military and national security is a world of catastrophe welded to Iraq and filled with maimed soldiers. Mr. McCain locates these same difficult subjects inside the whole of American military achievement. It nets out as a more positive message. Recall that Ronald Reagan’s signature optimism, when it first appeared, was laughed at by political pros. Optimism won elections.
I developed a rather different perspective on Obama’s personality than the multitudes whose opinion was molded by seeing him on TV. Rather than seeing him as “comfortable in his own skin” (a phrase common among those who know him from TV), his memoir showed a supremely uncomfortable 33-year-old who was “a literary artist of considerable power in plumbing his deep reservoirs of self-pity and resentment, an unfunny Evelyn Waugh. …Obama has a depressive’s fine eye for the disillusioning detail. … The book’s chief weakness is that its main character — Obama himself — is a bit of a drip, a humor-impaired Holden Caulfield whose preppie angst is fueled by racial regret. (Obama has a knack for irony, but of a strangely humorless flavor.)”
One possibility is that he goes through moderate hypomanic and depressive cycles. This is quite common among high achievers. The secret to winning your place in history is often to have an up cycle coincide by luck with a time when intense action is needed.