Saturday, February 16, 2008


Here's something I don't recall: I don't recall any of the more urbane, cerebral Republicans -- David Brooks, David Frum, people like that -- saying, at the height of George W. Bush's popularity, that maybe it would be a good idea to replace Bush on the ticket in 2004 because some of his supporters were enthusiastic about him to the point of zealotry.

Recall General William Boykin's assertion that "God put" Bush in the White House. And Bush himself encouraged such talk, while his team positioned photographers so they'd snap pictures of him with haloed.

But if some suggestible Bush fans were forming a Bush personality cult, his more even-tempered supporters didn't say, "Oh, no, we can't have that, even though it means he has a good shot at winning in '04 and continuing policies with which we agree -- we'd rather have a candidate who doesn't inspire that kind of enthusiasm because that kind of enthusiasm is unseemly."

If you don't think you'd like what Barack Obama would do as president, don't support him. If you think Hillary Clinton would make a better president or is more electable, that's sensible too. But if you resist Obama just because some of his fans go a bit over the top, that's missing the point about overzealous fandom: It's truly dangerous only when the object seeks to manipulate it for malign ends, and, obviously, Barack Obama is no David Koresh.

Look through your music collection. A lot of those people -- Elvis, the Beatles, Dylan, hell, even Liszt -- had overheated admirers. They didn't do much to discourage excessive levels of admiration, and in many cases actually encouraged it. But they did good work anyway, and they shouldn't be blamed for their craziest fans.

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