A permanent case of the swelled head: Jeff Jacoby’s column of 12/10/08

Background.  Jacoby praises Mario Cuomo for his lack of hubris in choosing not to sit for an official portrait.  He then goes on to attack others for their hubris, including Barack Obama.

Dear Jeff,
I think you give too much credit to Mario Cuomo for a simple act of not sitting for a portrait.  Perhaps it is a sign of modesty on his part; but if it is such a sign, it is a very small sign, and not deserving of so much attention.
     At the same time, it is not your comments about Mario Cuomo that I find objectionable.  Rather it is your comments about Barack Obama that I find to be unfair and cause for this letter.  You write “Barack Obama has yet to take office, but he has already set the modern record for political narcissism.”  What is your evidence?  Your evidence is “faux-Greek columns”, a “triumphal foreign tour”, and a “quasi-presidential seal.”  But all aspects of your evidence was in the context of a heated Presidential campaign.   It is likely that Obama (or his staff) made these decisions primarily on a political basis, as would be appropriate.   You may not like the politics, but there is no reason to transform these decisions into the basis for a personal attack. You are very quick to argue that you can see Obama’s underlying motive, and it is vanity.   It is uncharitable on your part to attribute bad motives (and venal behavior) to Obama based on so little evidence.  And in my opinion, it was very poor evidence, not even pointing in the direction that you suggested.
    As for whether Mario Cuomo or Barack Obama suffers from pride, it is difficult to run for high office without some aspects of that sin.  But as far as I can tell from the way he lives his life, his political writings, and the way he interacts with his family and friends, Obama is remarkably well adjusted.

Regards, Jim

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