Is Barack Obama the Risen and the True Vine? To answer this question, Slate has periodically gathered gratuitously adoring material from coverage of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner, best-selling author, Harvard Law Review president, Men’s Vogue cover model, two-time Grammy winner, efficient note-taker, physics wunderkind, descendant of George Washington’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, teenage jazz enthusiast, possible telepathic communicator with space aliens from distant galaxies, surpasser of all civil rights gains since 1957, calmer of turbulent Iowans, bearer of photographic halos, occasion for reportorial clairvoyance, and (not least) president of the United States. Our latest entry is from The Promise, my friend Jonathan Alter’s newly published account of Obama’s first year in the White House. The book is packed with wonderful Woodward-esque insider tidbits (The Big Money published a piquant excerpt about how Larry Summers froze out Paul Volcker) and renders some impressively tough judgments about Obama. (For example, Alter faults the president for failing to bring into government many people with extensive experience in business.) You should read it!
But The Promise also contains the following OMW-bait passage, on Page 102:
Rabbi David Saperstein, reading from Psalms in English and Hebrew, noticed from the altar that the good men and women of the congregation that day, including the Bidens and other dignitaries, had not yet stood. Finally Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Church asked that everyone rise. At that moment Saperstein saw something from his angle of vision: “If I had seen it in a movie I would have groaned and said, ‘Give me a break. That’s so trite.’” A beam of morning light shown [sic] through the stained-glass windows and illuminated the president-elect’s face. Several of the clergy and choir on the altar who also saw it marveled afterward about the presence of the Divine.
That last sentence, with its bizarrely unmodified noun “presence,” calls to mind Calvin Trillin’s recollection (recycled in his hilarious novel Floater) that as a young writer at Time, he once tried “to escape an overlong stay in the Religion section by writing ‘alleged’ in front of any historically questionable religious event.”
Obama Messiah Watch archive:
Jan. 29, 2007: Took very few notes in class!
Feb. 5, 2007: Mastered laws governing universe!
Feb. 7, 2007: Shares ancestor with George Washington!
Feb. 9, 2007: Dug jazz when he was still a middle-schooler!
Feb. 13, 2007: Communicates (possibly) with space aliens!
Feb. 14, 2007: Better than civil rights!
April 4, 2007: Accept no substitutes.
Sept. 12, 2007: Calms turbulent Iowans!
Feb. 13, 2008: Michelle Obama’s halo!
March 2, 2008: Reuters claps horns on Hillary.
March 24, 2008: Inspires clairvoyance at the New York Times!