Monday, November 4, 2013

The Talented Mr. Obama

Patricia Highsmith wrote the book(s) on charming homicidal sociopathy when she invented a character named Tom Ripley. "Suave, agreeable, and utterly amoral" he was the consummate con artist, able to fool most of the people all of the time. He lied, he cheated, and he stole. And on the unpalatable occasions when he had to kill for security reasons, he cried crocodile tears in public and profited in private. Paradoxically, he absolutely detested having to murder people, Highsmith explained, unless it was absolutely necessary. When he did confess his crimes to sympathetic friends, they glossed over it. He was just so damned adorable, and he looked so cute when he smiled.  

Roger Ebert described Ripley as "charming, literate and a monster," devoted to his wife, offended by the bad manners of others less intelligent than himself, but polite and friendly to a fault. Oh, and understandably secretive and paranoid.

Explaining his personality disorder, Ripley told a confidante (and future victim), "I always thought it was better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody."

And now we come to the latest entry in the growing genre known as Inside the Beltway Gossip. It could be the long-lost Highsmith novel where Tom Ripley enters national politics, and the hordes of sycophants are so enthralled that even when they do notice his psychopathic tendencies, they don't care. It's because such tendencies and the actions that follow them have become absolutely normalized. The country has become as sick as the perpetrator leading it. 

We knew, of course, through "controlled leaks" that we have elected a man who personally selects his drone assassination victims on "Terror Tuesdays." When he deigns to publicly discuss the assassinations, he is always careful to disclaim "collateral damage" of innocents and insists that predator missiles are a necessary "tough choice" he has to make to keep America safe. He absolutely detests having to do it.

But now, out of the blue, we're discovering that our urbane president shockingly sheds this politesse when he's behind closed doors. He's bragged to his closest aides and confidantes about what a good killer he is. Dare we say that he enjoys what he professes to despise?

The book, "Double Down" by Mark Helperin and John Heilemann, isn't out yet, but a CNN reporter named Peter Hamby scored an advance copy and wrote a review for the Washington Post. The only thing more invidious than Obama bragging about assassinating people is that the writer buried the lead. He doesn't even get around to quoting the president saying "I'm really good at killing people" until the middle of his three-page review.

Of course, Patricia Highsmith does not get around to letting us know that the personable Tom Ripley is a maniac until the middle of the first novel in her series, either. The difference, of course, is that her narrative is fictional.

Before we get to pleasurable homicide-by-president we have to be told that Mitt Romney rejected Chris Christie as his running mate because he was too mean, too fat, and maybe just a little bit crooked.

But what really has the group-thinkers in a tizzy, and the White House scrambling to deny, is the snippet that Obama mulled dumping Joe Biden from the ticket like Ripley dumped his best buddy in Lake Como. Not true, the White House protests. And one of those "close aides," Dan Pfeiffer, even went on TV Sunday to announce that "the president is always frustrated about leaks."

"He hates leaks. Everyone hates leaks!" Pfeiffer shrilled, glancing over his shoulder nervously. (Okay, so I made the glancing part up. But how would you feel if your boss had told you in utmost confidence that he thinks he is very talented at killing people? Wouldn't you be a little antsy, and go out of your way to defend him in public?)

Pfeiffer made no mention of Obama's kill skills. So, I'm wondering if Obama's bragging to his entourage about his homicidal prowess is just one of those "controlled leaks" designed to establish his sociopathy cred to Dick Cheney, currently on his own book tour and still bragging about how he loved ordering torture. He remembers it fondly, with gusto, and he has no regrets. But flying in the face of all fact, he is still out there calling Barry a wimp and a nobody. And that cannot stand unchallenged. Better to be a somebody who drones than a nobody good guy.

And let's be clear. Washington insiders, Congress, Republicans and Democrats, citizens willingly in thrall to political somebodies who are nobodies, don't give a crap about murder-by-drone when the victims are out of sight, out of mind and "the other." When a group of survivors of Obama's drone-killing spree testified on Capitol Hill recently, only five congress critters even bothered showing up to listen. There was little to no coverage of their appearance by the corporate media.

We need a comeback for that other Ripley... the one who did the "Believe It Or Not" comic strip. He wouldn't have to look far to find  grisly new source material in the Age of Obama. 


Pearl said...

The talented Mr. Obama just happens to be in the presidential seat where he is watched too closely for his comfort. Had he ended up a Senator or a Wall Street gambler, these psychopathic tendencies would have been considered part of the big game being played in power circles. These are the characteristics that win big in our society and explains the political meanness of their decisions affecting the lives of the rest of us. Now that reporters are becoming more sensitive to the scent of evilness, the populace may begin to stir and respond accordingly. We need more courageous whistleblowers.

Wonderful, terrible, column Karen. Chills the bone because it rings so true. Thank you for being so courageous in the time of NSA.

ste-vo said...

I for one am going to have to re-watch "The Talented Mr. Ripley." I do believe that explains my uneasiness with Matt Damon in subsequent cinematic performances, and why I am now totally ill at ease with The Talented Mr. Obama in every context. Thank you Karen for this observation. As usual, it is a hit out of the park. Honestly, there are a few of you bloggers that I would love to meet for a martini and a face-to-face conversation. You consistently amaze me with your persistence and criticism with what ails us.


Zee said...

@Karen and @Pearl--

I don't particularly like psychological-profiling-at-a- distance, but when someone says "I'm really good at killing people," maybe the profile of "psychopath" really does start to fit.

I would love to see that quote corroborated. And I would also love to know why the WaPo reviewer buried that quote on page two, rather than making it the headline.

But I guess we already know the answer to that question.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I think I gave up on being politically active and trying to support the have-nots when after so much perfidy, so called liberals went to the polls and instead of using the one little piece of leverage they had, didn't vote for a third party. To listen to someone as ethical and smart as Rocky Anderson and then to vote for someone as smarmy as Obama told me that Americans were ready to lie down and be the doormats of the rich and powerful. They were willing to accept only crumbs from their masters' tables.

It is not that I am convinced that our votes actually count in elections. But they do signal an unwillingness to accept the status quo. A vote for a Third Party would have said, "We are on to what you are doing and we don't accept that it is OK." When people voted for Obama as "The Lesser of Two Evils - TLOTE," they embodied the outcome - the gamble that the Democratic Party of Corporate America took in making Obama their puppet and having him work only in the corporate interests – the gamble that they could convince liberals that they had nowhere else to go and they were better than the other guy. When so called liberal blogs and liberal newspapers endorsed Obama, they sealed the fate of the poor they pretended to care about. They showed they had no backbone and no integrity.

Yes, Obama is a Tom Ripley and yes, most of America couldn't be bothered to look up from their phones and gadgets long enough to compare the Obama that was being sold to them with the Obama who had been in office for four years. But in the end, I must lay a good part of the blame at the feet of my fellow members of the liberal intelligentsia who didn't have the courage and integrity to vote according to their convictions and to make public their reasons for doing so.


Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay - Ottawa said...

With two years remaining in Barack Obama’s second term, it is premature to speak of his legacy. Yet, there is good reason to expect that at least some historians will eventually characterize the Obama Administration as dependably incompetent. Many who voted for Obama in 2008 have discovered there is no correlation between the aptitude to promise and the aptitude to deliver, or to even bother to try to deliver.

On the other hand, Obama has been extremely effective in serving the insatiable needs of big-money elites. But that was accomplished not through organizational skill but mostly by doing nothing as Uncle Sam got mugged and rolled in plain view by the lords of greed.

Lately, the Obama administration has been embarrassed by Kathleen Sebelius whose HHS is doing a heck of a job implementing Obama’s legacy program, the Affordable Care Act, such as it is. Then, we have General Alexander of the NSA and the forgetful James Clapper. These two keep lying and keep getting caught at it. But no consequences brought down upon their heads by the boss.

Elsewhere, the highest ranks of the navy are this week reeling from a blossoming corruption scandal involving curious port calls and serious security breaches inside the Pacific Fleet.

As we look abroad, we find American foreign policy in shambles. Last year FORBES declared Obama second to Vladimir Putin as the most powerful man in the world. Of course, the USA as a country is still Number One.

At international meetings, Obama is the new wallflower to be ignored or even disrespected, and John Kerry is coming across as the clown who sets more fires than he puts out.

Once upon a time we thought the Middle East was in bad shape due to the meddling of George Bush. Look at it now after six years of Obama: instability boils from Tunisia to Pakistan. There is no correlation between the record-setting travel logged by Hillary Clinton or John Kerry and diplomatic accomplishments.

Lame Duck: "one that is weak or that falls behind in ability or achievement." (Merriam)

The Talented Mr. Obama has played the lame duck president since January 20, 2009. The Republicans made it easy for him to blame them.

His ultimate goal was private, the totality of which he achieved upon being elected. It was the office itself and the bully pulpit from which he could make nice speeches.

He never has acted – whether as a state senator, a US Senator or as president – in such a way to convince me he ever wanted to DO something for the millions who cast votes for him.

He climbed to the highest office of the land for no other reason than that it was there. The Talented Mr. Obama is nothing less than the country's most hard-working narcissist with the greatest Curriculum Vitae in the land. And nothing more.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I am not sure if anyone has mentioned this in another thread but I finally got around to seeing Bill Moyers' interview with Yves Smith and Dean Baker discussing the TPP (TransPacific Partnership). If you are someone like me who doesn't know much about it, the show is worth watching. Bill, Yves and Dean are so thoughtful and have a highly informed discussion about an agreement that will wipe out any shot at buying locally and trying to support jobs in our own countries. It is being kept very secret and the talented President Obama is about to rush it through Congress. I can't imagine, with Congress on the take, it will get much resistance unless there is a lot of bad press against it. Listening to them discuss the TPP, it sounds like it is a death knell for democracy world-wide and our dictators will be the multi-national corporations Incredibly scary - Here is the link -


The Doktor said...

Another great piece Karen!

For anyone interested; I recently lost my health insurance when my wife lost her job of 14 years when the engineering firm she worked was forced to close it's doors, in no small part due to the policies of Florida gov. Rick Scott. Alos in no small part our plight has been worsened and made more difficult by other policies of said gov., I will bravely forage into the morass of Obamacare as implemented in a State that is hostile to it's very existence, I will report back in the following days...

The Doktor said...

Hi Valerie! I watched the Bill Moyers video, start to finish, I have been following the TPP and that is some of the most solid information I've seen yet, there is a Facebook page that tracks it, it has people from all over the world posting to it, it's called "TPP, TTIP & Globalization Watch".

Karen Garcia said...


Yes please let us know how you fare trying to get health insurance in Florida. Meanwhile, I will do my part pushing Medicare for All till I drop.