Despite an enormous fan base and adoration from around the globe, Barack Obama remains only a few points ahead of John McCain in polls. New York Times columnist David Brooks speculates that that's because he too often “stands apart” from others. His perapatetic childhood and multi-ethnic family gave him an outsider sensibility that keeps him from fully engaging in any of the institutions Obama has moved through, from law school to the Illinois state legislature to the US Senate.
"This ability to stand apart accounts for his fantastic powers of observation, and his skills as a writer and thinker," Brooks writes. "It means that people on almost all sides of any issue can see parts of themselves reflected in Obama’s eyes. But it does make him hard to place." Brooks finds Obama a member of the post-boomer meritocratic class, “conscientious and idealistic while also being coldly clever and self-aware." The caveat: "It’s not clear what the rest of America makes of them.”