But compare this passage from a piece by David Brooks:
Last week Jodi Kantor of The New York Times described Obama’s 12 years at the University of Chicago Law School. “The young law professor stood apart in too many ways to count,” Kantor wrote.
He was a popular and charismatic professor, but he rarely took part in faculty conversations or discussions about the future of the institution. He had a supple grasp of legal ideas, but he never committed those ideas to paper by publishing a piece of scholarship.
He was in the law school, but not of it.
This has been a consistent pattern throughout his odyssey. His childhood was a peripatetic journey through Kansas, Indonesia, Hawaii and beyond. He absorbed things from those diverse places but was not fully of them.
His college years were spent on both coasts. He was a community organizer for three years but left before he could be truly effective.
He became a state legislator, but he was in the Legislature, not of it. He had some accomplishments, but as Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker wrote, he was famously bored by the institution and used it as a stepping stone to higher things.
He was in Trinity United Church of Christ, but not of it, not sharing the liberation theology that energized Jeremiah Wright Jr. He is in the U.S. Senate, but not of it. He has not had the time nor the inclination to throw himself into Senate mores, or really get to know more than a handful of his colleagues. His Democratic supporters there speak of him fondly, but vaguely.
And so it goes. He is a liberal, but not fully liberal. He has sometimes opposed the Chicago political establishment, but is also part of it. He spoke at a rally against the Iraq war, while distancing himself from many anti-war activists.
This ability to stand apart accounts for his fantastic powers of observation, and his skills as a writer and thinker. It means that people on almost all sides of any issue can see parts of themselves reflected in Obama’s eyes. But it does make him hard to place.
…with this from Spengler:
Obama profiles Americans the way anthropologists interact with primitive peoples. He holds his own view in reserve and emphatically draws out the feelings of others; that is how friends and colleagues describe his modus operandi since his days at the Harvard Law Review, through his years as a community activist in Chicago, and in national politics.
This man is truly beyond the purview of conventional American politics, which is why, in a year when the Democrats should have a romp to the White House, they struggle to retain a statistically significant lead. Electing such an enigma to the presidency is a shot in the dark of monumental proportions, and even an electorate battered by the credit meltdown and high petrol prices senses it.