“Mensch” is a fairly unique Yiddish word, in that, in this single word, Jews have managed to encompass vast discourses on our fundamental humanity — or lack therefore.
For those who know German, “mench” is a prosaic word that simply means person. For Jews, however, the notion of what it means to be a person soon outstripped the mechanical concept of a two legged mammal with thumbs and the capacity for speech or cognition. Instead, “mensch” began to take on a moral component. In the Yiddish world of words, a mensch is a fundamentally decent human being, one who is the antithesis of the human capacity for low, immoral, animal-like behavior. Think of someone you know who is a genuinely good and kind person, with a strong moral compass, and who lacks the cold self-righteousness that sometimes can characterize people too proud of their morality. That personal is a mensch.
I’m quite certain that, whichever person you thought of, that person was not Barack Obama. In a beautifully reasoned article at American Thinker, Peter Kirsanow explains why he does not like Obama (a dislike I translate into the fact that Obama is, at bottom, no mensch). This dislike does not arise simply because Kirsanow disagrees with Obama’s political beliefs. We all know people whose political beliefs strike us as wrong, yet we can still recognize them as good (albeit misguided) people. Kirsanow, however, gives chapter and verse why Obama, with his cold, self-involved, calculating personality, and his barely concealed ambition, is fundamentally unlikeable — he is the anti-mensch.
Incidentally, if you want an antidote, in the form of some menschlichkeit (having the quality of a mensch), read Kyle Anne Shiver about McCain the man (not the politician), and the family that raised him.