No ‘Hail to the Chief’ on Presidents day
By: Robert E. Meyer
Up until now you probably have noticed that I have not engaged in much criticism of president Obama. I suppose it could be said that for me the honeymoon period was longer than usual. Actually, I have always believed it more profitable to point out what I dislike about a candidate before the election, rather than wait until afterward, and hit you with a bunch of meaningless “I told you so” comments. That implies that though there has been little pejorative commentary over the past year, there is plenty of fodder to deal with. That is certainly the case.
Obama came in riding a white horse of “hope” and “change,” but for all the fanfare, there has been little of either over the past year. It has been primarily a year of hype and divisiveness that has cast a pall of doubt and dismay over this nation. Of course there is a superfluity of the worn-out plea to give Obama a chance–which is in order considering the situation that Obama stepped into. But “giving someone a chance” is only a virtue of patience if you believe they are heading in the right direction, and more time is all that is necessary to turn the ship around. In Obama’s case, I might reply, “A chance to do what?” It might have been apropos to give Ronald Reagan a chance were it March of 1982–a time when I believe things on balance were worse than today–but that was only because I could endorse Reagan’s policies. The Obama Kool-Aid bibbers could be saying in six years, “You can hardly expect Obama to turn around in two terms, what it took the Reagan-Bush political complex 20 years to screw up, can you?” So the push will be on to repeal the amendment limiting the presidency to two four-year terms.
Obama’s policies go at least a bridge too far in retooling the American economic system into something foreign to American traditions. While America was evolving gradually toward “Democratic Socialism” long before Obama was born, his policies have accelerated the transition to the point that even the proverbial frog knows that it is being boiled. That is the impetus for the reaction in the American populist movement today, and a reaction that has largely been dismissed as renegade by Obama and his apologists. While Obama’s poll numbers have been steadily sinking, it should be noted that the worst may be yet to come, as almost half of America still gives a thumbs-up to his job performance. That has provided Obama with a false hope that Americans have given Obama a mandate for his policy excursions. While it is true that perhaps 30 to 40 percent of Americans believe in Obama’s ideologies whole-heartedly, and that may put a floor under his popularity rating, there are signs of weakening support among radical liberals, who think anyone to the right of the late Howard Zinn is too conservative or compromising.
Nearly every administration boasts of the new level of bi-partisanship and transparency they will bring to political discourse, but this one wasted no time in demonstrating that such a claim was pre-election rhetoric designed to deceive, rather than just the usual failure to deliver on campaign promises. That fact can be viewed through the lens of the recent attempt at passing health insurance reform, where there has seldom been a greater example of monolithically force-feeding an agenda that nobody seemed to understand. Many people liked the idea of universal health care, but you got the idea that they were totally ignorant about what they were getting into.
Can any ultra-liberal be happy with Obama’s progress in ending the war and bringing the troops home? Can any conservative be happy with Obama’s hedging about whether to commit more troops in Afghanistan as the commander in that theatre had requested? How can we rationally despair over the Bush deficits, yet applaud and nod approvingly, as Obama brings about prosperity by spending us into oblivion?
Obama is being pinched from both ends to some degree, although I don’t know where the liberal malcontents are going to go. Such disapproval may simply manifest itself in less enthusiasm at the polls come this November. A year ago, significant conservative gains in November of 2010 amounted to a right-wing pipe dream. Today, expectation of a conservative landslide are rapidly becoming the forgone conclusion of conventional wisdom. The recent victory of Scott Brown, taking the “Kennedy seat,” only amplified that possibility. There is weakening support for Obama’s competence, even among his own ranks.
But for all this and more, I can’t really blame president Obama. After all, isn’t Obama just being who he really is? We had ample evidence of the radical ideologies of Obama’s mentors, but that evidence was spurned in favour of attributing moderation and competence to his smooth campaign speeches. Many assumed that compelling arguments against Obama were little more than right-wing smear tactics. His lack of experience was more than self-evident, but the disgust over the last administration allowed a majority of the American public ignore that glaring defect with little mental reservation. History offered Obama a unique opportunity, he took it, and who can blame him?
And neither do I blame those who ravenously cheered Obama’s victory that November night in Lincoln Park. Many of them were either young idealists who saw Obama’s election as the final significant step in implementing Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, or they viewed leftist policies as the vanguard of social justice. For them, eventually changing their views may be as simple as becoming full-fledged adults and gaining life experience.
The people I blame for this detour are the ones who should have known better. So-called moderates who claim to be ideologically neutral, who can never seem to make up their minds on an issue. Those who catch and ride the sentimental wave. Those who actually believed Obama could bring the hope and change they desired. Those who now say they are sorry they voted for him. How could they have been fooled.
We might look back on this and say the Obama was the best thing that happened for the conservative movement. On the other hand, if Bill Clinton’s re-election serves as precedent, it might turn out that a conservative landslide is the best thing for Obama. Time will tell.