In my dream, Barack Obama did not pass the backyard barbecue test.
Actually, I don’t think it was a barbecue, but you know what I mean: this notion that the person we elect to the most powerful office in the world should be someone we’d like to hang out with: have a couple of beers, shoot some pool, shoot the shit, whatever. By most people’s measure, the current occupant of the White House passes that test — or at least he did eight years ago.
In my dream (and how sad is it that my exposure to the quadrennial horse race has reached such a level that I’m actually dreaming about the candidates?) Obama had dropped in on an extended family gathering of some sort. It was kind of a third-person dream, in that I understood that I was looking through somebody else’s eyes, someone presumably a bit more important than a scruffy poet-blogger with few ambitions and fewer means. The central drama involved some sort of rare seabird with a long, ratlike tail making an emergency landing in the backyard, where it was immediately set upon by the cat. It got away, a chase ensued, and eventually “I” managed to grab the bird and put it in a box, intending to call the nearest wildlife rehabilitator the next morning.
Senator Obama sat off to the side, looking relaxed and watching everything with great interest. He was very friendly, and said all the right things before he left: how much he’d enjoyed meeting us and how unforgettable an evening it had been. He even cracked a joke about the cat and the bird, which I don’t remember (I have a terrible memory for jokes). But as soon as he left, there was a palpable sense of relief in the gathering. It’s not that he was intimidating, exactly, though there was no doubt he was the smartest person there. It was just that he gave very little of himself away. His almost preternatural sense of composure and self-containment prevented him from being the kind of person one wanted to really unburden oneself to.
Now of course I have no idea how accurate this dream-perception might be as an insight into the real Barack Obama. But it does point to one quality that I think most of us want in the people we hang out with: they should be at least as flawed as we are, so they can empathize when we fuck up. Something tells me the current POTUS will be needing a lot of those kinds of friends in a few months — if he can find any who aren’t too busy writing bestselling books about how their own dreams of him were betrayed.