Putting aside for a moment the question of whether the McCain campaign intended to imply that Obama is the anti-Christ. They clearly did intend to imply that he has a Messianic complex and is breathtakingly arrogant. Rush Limbaugh calls him Lord Obama. Jonah Goldberg asks if Obama is the Messiah. This is a common theme throughout the conservative media.
Well, you might say, those were other people saying the candidate was served up to us by the Lord. This time around, it’s the candidate himself.
That’s the part that’s just not true. Saying that Republicans are taking Obama’s comments out of context doesn’t come close to capturing this. What Obama probably meant is pretty much the opposite of what they’re implying he meant.
The line used in the McCain ad, a campaign memo, and on just about every conservative blog in America is Obama’s quote: “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”
Witnesses who attended the closed-door talk at which Obama suposedly said this have claimed that Obama’s actual words were:
“It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign — that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions” [my emphasis]
There apparently was no transcript but this version fits what Obama has said in the past.
After getting a rousing welcome from students in Virginia, he said::
“This crowd is not about me. it’s about you. I’ve been a receptacle for your hopes and dreams.”…
Early in his campaign, he commented on how so many people had flocked to his campaign. “I do think that I’ve become a receptacle for a lot of other people’s issues that they need to work out.”
He’s repeatedly described himself as a “flawed vessel” and said that the race “wasn’t about me.”
Another line often cited to show Obama’s arrogance is the idea his quote that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” — the implication being that the world has been waiting for the Obamas.
Again, read the full quote:
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
His point was that change will not come by waiting for someone else but that “we” have to do it ourselves. This is classic community-organizer-speak. Take control of your own destiny, etc, etc.
There are plenty of things to mock or criticize Obama about, both stylistically and substantively. And I have no doubt that he has a very healthy ego. But in the debate about whether these McCain ads were funny or appropriate, let’s not lose sight of this basic fact: the quotes cited by Republicans to illustrate Obama’s Messianic complex were taken grotesquely out of context. That ought to matter.