Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Bubble Bursts on Obama Worship

Ah, yes. I remember well all the blog posts and conversations that dealt with the utter lack of substantial experience possessed by the freshman Senator Barack Obama from Illinois. I wrote and talked about it all, too. The left went nuts. Barack Obama was like no other earthly human being ever to walk the same ground as we do. He was the Chosen One. He was the Savior of the Universe. And, oh yeah, he was to be the first bi-racial President in our nation's history so any criticism or hesitation towards his candidacy came from a hateful place of racism.

Good times.

So, it is quite interesting to watch it all fall apart. For most political observers, Barack Obama is not exactly living up to the hype.

The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

Will the disappointed masses vote for Barack Obama's re-election in 2012? Yes. Black voters will feel the pull of loyalty and the most ardent of Democrats would never consider voting for a Republican. Period.

The task is tougher now, though. President Obama is a known entity. We've watched as he flounders and tosses the work to Congress. We've clucked as he and Michelle party like rock stars and appear oblivious to the despair felt by many in these times of high unemployment and uncertainty. "No drama Obama" has transitioned into a very cold and calculating character.

C'mon. What kind of man writes an autobiography at such a young age when his biggest career accomplishment was election to the Illinois state legislature? It was all about book sales as he pursued his accelerated drive into national politics. Frankly, the arrogance was astounding to those of us not in the Obama swoon. How could our friends and family be so gullible about this guy?

I admit, I never drank the Obama kool-aid. I heard a couple of stories about the guy during his college days by friends of friends who were Obama classmates along the way, back in the day. There was a lack of folks coming forward to speak of their old friend, Barack or their classmate Barack, or their mentor Barack. There was no one out there but the likes of Rev Wright or Oprah singing his praises.

Yes. I blame Oprah for the Obama presidency. I'm only about half kidding about that.

Barack Obama is savvy enough to accomplish goals but not really so smart of a man.

Our economic distress seems to bear this thought out. And, to Barack Obama, it is everyone else's fault.

Mr. Obama, by contrast, appears to consider himself immune from error. Perhaps this explains why he has now doubled down on Heckuva Job Geithner. It also explains his insulting and politically inept habit of suggesting—whether the issue is health care, or Arab-Israeli peace, or change we can believe in at some point in God's good time—that the fault always lies in the failure of his audiences to listen attentively. It doesn't. In politics, a failure of communication is always the fault of the communicator.

Much of the media has spent the past decade obsessing about the malapropisms of George W. Bush, the ignorance of Sarah Palin, and perhaps soon the stupidity of Rick Perry. Nothing is so typical of middling minds than to harp on the intellectual deficiencies of the slightly less smart and considerably more successful.

But it takes actual smarts to understand that glibness and self-belief are not sufficient proof of genuine intelligence. Stupid is as stupid does, said the great philosopher Forrest Gump. The presidency of Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does.

And now it just looks like we are stuck with another Jimmy Carter.

So it must have stung when the New York Times's Maureen Dowd recently quoted an unnamed Democratic senator moaning that "we are watching him turn into Jimmy Carter right before our eyes."

She was not alone. Eric Alterman earlier this year weighed in with a column in U.S. News whose headline declares, "Obama's Awful '70s Show Echoes Jimmy Carter." The unkindest cut of all comes from Zbigniew Brzezinski—Jimmy Carter's national security adviser and one of the first to hop aboard the Obama bandwagon—who on MSNBC last month brought up the word most associated with Mr. Carter, though he never actually said it: "malaise."

Many have noticed this trend. Few appear to appreciate that the record shows an even stronger parallel between Messrs. Obama and Carter. For there was a day—especially after he finished ahead in the 1976 Iowa caucuses—that Mr. Carter was hailed as the intelligent outsider who was going to clean up Washington and forever change American politics.

Some of us knew Barack Obama would never live up to the hype of the 2008 campaign. No person could do that. Yet, the press and the willing puppets in the media continued on and were all in for their favorite candidate. And, most of all to blame is Barack Obama himself. He is the biggest fan of his hype. He brings a whole new level of arrogance to the White House.

In other words, it's not just the way President Obama's policies have not worked out that invites the Jimmy Carter parallel. It's also the over-the-top praise each received before entering office. In both 1976 and 2008, each Democrat was presented as the kind of smart, cool, new politico who was going to—fill in the cliché—"transcend politics as we know it," "appeal across traditional lines," "bring America together," etc.

Ironically, here Mr. Romney has a case, for some of the differences between the two presidents favor Mr. Carter. Faced with raging inflation and a declining dollar, President Carter appointed Paul Volcker chairman of the Federal Reserve. He supported deregulation. Most of all, in contrast to President Obama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because he wasn't George W. Bush, President Carter actually earned his, at least for the Camp David Accords that brought about peace between Israel and Egypt.

Mr. Obama can't be blamed for the excesses that saw him hailed as the new FDR, the new JFK or the new Lincoln, or for the Norwegian committee that bestowed upon him a Nobel. He can be held to account for encouraging them: by delivering a campaign speech in Berlin, by accepting a prize he hadn't earned, by breaking out not only a Lincoln quotation but the Lincoln china and the Lincoln Bible for his inauguration.

An American politician steeped in—dare we say it?—Niebuhrian realism would have appreciated that no president could live up to such hype. And such a man would not be surprised to find that people who once hailed him as the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln are now dismissing him as the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

The mighty Barack Obama has fallen. Even his most ardent supporters are noticing.

1 comment:

Beverly said...

Why has it taken so long?