Wednesday, February 04, 2009
I TOLD YOU SO. It's easy to minimize the bumps in the road that have gotten the biggest play in the press, but Obama's problems may already go beyond a few lame cabinet choices and a rocky introduction to the process of working with the congress. Victor Davis Hanson has a brief but excellent analysis of the president's missteps thus far, and his conclusions are sobering.
The Impending Obama Meltdown
Some of us have been warning that it was not healthy for the U.S. media to have deified rather than questioned Obama, especially given that they tore apart Bush, ridiculed Palin, and caricatured Hillary. And now we can see the results of their two years of advocacy rather than scrutiny.
We are quite literally after two weeks teetering on an Obama implosion—and with no Dick Morris to bail him out—brought on by messianic delusions of grandeur, hubris, and a strange naivete that soaring rhetoric and a multiracial profile can add requisite cover to good old-fashioned Chicago politicking...
Hanson proceeds to offer up an itemized list of major blunders at home and abroad. The former are serious, but the latter are rapidly mounting up to potential disaster.
Abroad, some really creepy people are lining up to test Obama's world view of "Bush did it/but I am the world": The North Koreans are readying their missiles; the Iranians are calling us passive, bragging on nukes and satellites; Russia is declaring missile defense is over and the Euros in real need of iffy Russian gas; Pakistanis say no more drone attacks (and then our friends the Indians say "shut up" about Kashmir and the Euros order no more "buy American").
This is quite serious. I can't recall a similarly disastrous start in a half-century (far worse than Bill Clinton's initial slips). Obama immediately must lower the hope-and-change rhetoric, ignore Reid/Pelosi, drop the therapy, and accept the tragic view that the world abroad is not misunderstood but quite dangerous... If he doesn't quit the messianic style and perpetual campaign mode, and begin humbly governing, then he will devolve into Carterism—angry that the once-fawning press betrayed him while we the people, due to our American malaise, are to blame.
It's all well and good to end a dismal reckoning with upbeat bullet points about how to clean up the mess, but Hanson's finale is the only disingenuous part of his essay. In some sense, all this was -- and is -- inevitable. The frightening core of the situation is that Obama really is more messiah than politician. Yes, he showed considerable talent and flair at getting elected, as well as a ruthlessness about tactics which must have convinced his inside-the-beltway followers that he was, something like Reagan and JFK before him, a Natural. But the attainment of high office is only half the skill set of a gifted politician. The other half is the tempering of ideological conviction with the grubby pragmatism of problem solving: being a shrewd and skeptical judge of character, knowing the difference between delegating and losing control, and understanding when pure idealism must bow to the realities of the people, places, and timeframes involved.
But messiahs don't sell, bargain, close deals, and hammer out tough compromises. They simply speak and expect everyone to accept their wisdom. That's why Obama still hasn't figured out that all his gloom and doom characterizations of the economy are the antithesis of effective presidential politics. He is a true contemporary liberal, which means that he is a deep down opponent of America's traditional rugged individualism and can-do spirit.
Back in October 2005 I took the liberty of describing the real core beliefs of liberals. Does any of this ring a bell in terms of the rhetoric you've heard from Obama and the Democrat congress since the election? (Coincidentally(?), this was another time when Limbaugh was under assault for his claim to speak on behalf of conservative principles.)
What Limbaugh doesn't say is that liberals could articulate their own views almost as clearly if they weren't so at odds with the pesky national consensus that determines election outcomes. They could say: "We believe in group entitlements, expanding government, government-managed socialist economies, a judiciary empowered to act as an elitest super-legislature, rigid public secularism, government redistribution of assets, opportunities, and rights based on race and sex, and subordination of the national interest to the rulings of international bodies. We support government schooling under the absolute control of teacher unions, urban-centric government make-work programs, tax increases and increasing progressivity of tax rates, dynamic expansion of welfare into the middle class (a la France and Germany), exclusion of all religious institutions from public life, government controls on political speech we dislike, subordination of property rights to government-based social engineering initiatives, and a swift end to all military and unilateral aspects of the war on terror."
But they will not say such things out loud because they know a slender majority of Americans are too stupid to understand the superior wisdom of their ideology.
All that's changed since then is that Obama won the election and somehow believes this fact means the nation as a whole subscribes to exactly the beliefs enumerated above. He thinks we're all, or mostly, converts to this dark view of the American opportunity. Everything about us is wrong and he's been Chosen to fix us and the country. He believes our belief in him is so strong that it will survive even a prolonged period of chaos while he remakes the social contract and the international scene in the image of his utopian vision.
Any real politician would know just how thoroughly wrong that particular belief of his is. No heterogeneous population will long accept a vision that is fundamentally bleak and insulting to the people it's supposed to inspire.
Obama has begun as he had to. He will proceed as he must. I don't doubt that he still has some smoke and mirrors in his arsenal, but eventually smoke blows away in the wind, and the empty image inside the mirror may very well shatter it beyond repair.