Politics & Grand Opera

"Troubling Indicators" from The Ryskind Sketchbook

I'm just asking, but does Obama speak a 2nd language? Has any President in recent memory spoken another language? I mean, besides George W. Bush, whose Spanish is pretty good, even if his accent is thick and unmistakably Texan? I do have to laugh when by every measure the elites throw down: education, green lifestyle -- now Spanish mastery-- W. turns out to be the ideal man. But that is not what I was going to say.

Over the weekend, Mr. W & I traveled to the Berkshire mountains to (among other things) take in a concert performance of Berlioz' Les Troyens. As to the quality of the performance, I largely agree with this review (which includes an audio clip), but I confess my mind wandered to Mr. Obama when Cassandra's lover begged her not to think about the future, but to join in the collective national exuberance:
Cease to prophesy and you will cease to fear...let your heart hope again.
Even moreso when she sang:
this doomed people, drunk with hope,
plunging to destruction, with nothing, alas, that can stop them.
Indeed, as they move the Trojan horse into the city, everyone stops momentarily when they hear a clash of arms from within the belly of the beast...and then they foolishly take it as a good omen and keep going. I couldn't help but wonder in the midst of this prolonged meditation on false hope how many in the audience would vote for Obama. All of them, I'm guessing (they don't call it Taxachussetts for nothing).

Which brings me to this Spengler essay, America's Special Grace, which I read shortly before we left and neglected to call to your attention. It's mostly about America and her friends (whose numbers are growing, he thinks) and enemies (whose demographic trend is like Europe's), but towards the end he cites a passage from Obama's book:
I saw those Djakarta markets for what they were: fragile, precious things. The people who sold their goods there might have been poor, poorer even than folks out in Altgeld [the Chicago housing project where Obama engaged in community organizing]. They hauled fifty pounds of firewood on their backs every day, they ate little, they died young. And yet for all that poverty, there remained in their lives a discernible order, a tapestry of trading routes and middlemen, bribes to pay and customs to observe, the habits of a generation played out every day beneath the bargaining and the noise and the swirling dust. It was the absence of such coherence that made a place like Altgeld so desperate, I thought to myself.
Spengler observes:
For an American presidential candidate to refer to traditional society as the model for the solution to American problems has no precedent. It is one thing to denounce American errors while upholding American principles. Never before has America considered electing a president who prefers the alternative, and that might just be the most dangerous thing to happen to the United States since its Civil War.