Alex Massie

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

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My friend James Forsyth picks up on another of my favoured non-trivial campaign trivia questions*:

Barack Obama got the question about who he would invite to his ideal dinner party from a newspaper in New Hampshire. The guest list of Jesus, Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln was revealing about how he sees himself. First, it is noticeable that Obama doesn’t pick a Democrat. Second, no figure from the civil rights movement is included. Finally, the mention of Jesus is typical of Obama’s comfort with talking about faith.

Well, with all due respect to James, maybe. But if any normal person gave this answer you would, quite rightly, laugh at them. Could there be a more cliched, yet priggish selection than this? No real person could possibly consider this the ideal guest list for the dinner party of your dreams. Apart from anythnig else, this party promises to be exceptionally dull. Twenty seconds thought produces half a dozen more obviously interesting and appealling trios**. Yet Obama smiles and says it's "Not a bad list". If James is right that his selection reveals how Obama sees himself then god help us all.

So, that being the case, what would have been a better answer for Obama to give?

*Standard Rules apply: these matters are illuminating because they are more likely to show us who a candidate really is than the so-called Big Picture questions. Plus, if they can't tell the truth answering this sort of trivia then when can or will they? True, this is a better indicator of character than how they'll actually perform in office but, hey, you can't have everything.

**Off the top of my head: Aaron Burr, James Boswell, Muhammad Ali; Rudyard Kipling, John Paul Jones, Benjamin Disraeli; Learie Constantine, Simon Bolivar, Ferdinand de Lesseps; Harry Flashman, Frederick Twistleton 5th Earl of Ickenham, Sebastian Dangerfield... And that's before I even start to think of the ladies...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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