Friday, June 18, 2010

Hentoff on Obama: One of the Most Dangerous Presidents We've Ever Had

I just read an interview with Nat Hentoff that appeared in The New York Times yesterday.

Hentoff, who spent half a century at The Village Voice, is one of the few left-wingers in America who is ardently pro-life.

In fact, Hentoff's pro-life views are so strong they are what kept him from supporting Barack Obama in 2008.

Suffice it to say, Hentoff is even less a fan of Obama than he was two years ago. When Hentoff (who has long written about jazz) was asked about Obama's taste in jazz he had this to say:

Somebody told me that he has Coltrane on his iPod. But that doesn’t mean that anybody who listens to John or listens to Louie Armstrong’s “West End Blues” is going to be then transformed. Shelby Steele, who’s a very astute writer, wrote a book about Obama just before he came into office. And he said Obama is a man of many masks. And it’s hard to find out who the decent Obama is. In terms of civil liberties, I don’t see anybody there. And it could be that he responds to Coltrane.

But my sense of Obama, and I certainly have followed him very closely, is that his main concern is himself and how he’s going to look and achieve the power and the prestige that he wants. I think in many ways, and it sounds very hyperbolic, he’s one of the most dangerous presidents we’ve ever had. So as you can tell, I am not an admirer of Barack Obama, even though he listens to John Coltrane.

I find Hentoff's observations about Obama particularly interesting because nearly five years ago Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, made the argument that if Dick Cheney had listened to Radiohead's O.K. Computer it would have changed his life. Ergo there would be no war in Iraq. I thought Martin's views on the transformative power of music were rather silly and challenged them.

I'm not suggesting music doesn't have transformative powers but I think Hentoff is right on the mark with regard to Obama and John Coltrane. Or put another way, I like the Beatles and President Obama likes the Beatles (and at least one Beatle likes him) but I certainly don't admire Obama.

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