Virginia Postrel has sharp piece on Barack Obama in The Atlantic, arguing that the candidate's personality cult and the conspiracy theories that dog him ultimately emerge from the same source:
Barack Obama has brought glamour back to American politics–not the faux glamour-by-association of campaigning with movie stars or sailing with the Kennedys, but the real thing. The candidate himself is glamorous. Audiences project onto him the personal qualities and political positions they want in a president. They look at Obama and see their hopes and dreams.
Glamour is more than beauty or stage presence. You can't generate it just by having a wife who dresses like Jackie Kennedy. Glamour is a beautiful illusion–the word glamour originally meant a literal magic spell–that promises to transcend ordinary life and make the ideal real. It depends on a special combination of mystery and grace. Too much information breaks the spell. So does obvious effort….
Like any candidate, Obama of course has position papers on specific issues. But even well-informed observers disagree about whether he represents the extreme left wing of the Democratic party or something more market-oriented and centrist. As the NAFTA flap demonstrates, his supporters can't even decide what the candidate really thinks about free trade. His glamour makes it easy to imagine that a President Obama would dissolve differences, abolish hard choices, and achieve political consensus–or that he's a stealth candidate who will translate his vague platform into a mandate for whatever policies you the voter happen to support.
Where optimists fill in mystery with their hopes, however, pessimists project their fears. The flip side of glamour is horror: the vampire, the con man, the femme fatale, the double agent. These glamorous archetypes remind us of how easy it is to succumb to desire and manipulation. What, ask his opponents, is Obama hiding?