Based on news accounts of the time, Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency was nothing short of messianic. Hell, he even claimed that his inauguration was when “the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Fixing myriad problems with a government or economy weren’t enough, he was going to repair an entire planet.
How has he fared?
The economy, clearly, is an unmitigated mess. Joblessness abounds. Health care expenses keep rising. American education continues to decline. Our international presence remains aggressive and costly. The noose around the neck of our civil liberties has tightened. The dollar, the reserve currency of the world, continues to be further exposed as a sham.
This was not the change we believed in, much less what we hoped for.
Indeed, disapproval ratings are as low as they’ve ever been for The One at, as of August 10, 56% “total disapprove.”
So how is this disconnect in results explained? Currently, there seem to be two primary forms of apologetics - often intermixed - from the left.
The first puts the blame of Obama’s failures squarely upon the shoulders of the unthinking masses, too stupid or self-centered or racist or confused to properly support the true savior. In particular, the tea party - that generally amorphous, decentralized coalition of libertarians and conservatives whose ostensible primary object (at least at its inception) was to effectively shrink the size and scope of government - has been directly implicated as the nefarious criminals in the plot to destabilize a nation.
During the recent debt negotiations, Vice President Joe Biden agreed with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) that the tea party were “terrorists,” echoing sentiments by former Rep. Martin Frost that the tea party had “much in common with the Taliban.” Not to be outdone, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera referred to the tea party as “terrorists” waging “jihad” with “suicide vests.” Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker took exception to this: “Actually, no, Mr. Vice President, the Tea Party gang wasn’t ‘acting like terrorists.’ They were acting like kidnappers. Let’s get our insults correct.” Economist Paul Krugman concurs with this assessment, as he declared that “Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage.” Jacob Weisberg of Slate referred to some of those who would obstruct Obama and the left’s Keynesian economic manipulations as “intellectual primitives.” Bill Maher preferred a fight-fire-with-fire approach: “The only way to pull the debate back from the far right is for liberals to elect their own slate of 60 unstable, loony tune, mad-as-a-hatter, crazy motherf*ckers.”
Not that the tea party does not deserve some grief, particularly its current neo-con-usurped mutation that is more establishment than revolutionary - but the criticisms of the tea party here are more broad strokes against all critics as a way to deflect liability. As the left sees it: if only the unhinged “teabagger” dolts and other non-leftists simply acquiesced to the enlightened whims of their loving statists in power, we’d all be drinking rainbow milkshakes and dancing on cotton candy clouds.
The other popular form of leftist apologetics, when the previous administration is not blamed, actually does blame Obama. But he is blamed for being too conciliatory, too centrist, too much to the right, too eager to compromise.
Drew Westen, a professor of psychology at Emory University and Democratic “strategic consultant,” wrote in the New York Times last week that Obama’s weakness is that he is a “centrist” who “seems so compelled to take both sides of every issue.” (And to not leave the first narrative unsaid, he also added: “we are a nation that is being held hostage… by an extremist Republican Party.”)
Krugman, in writing about the “cult of balance” and “centrist fantasies,” bemoaned Obama’s “extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities.” And he took it further still, claiming many of Obama’s policies have been downright conservative.
Slate’s Weisberg continued on his aforementioned piece about the imbecilic opposition: ”there’s no point trying to explain complicated matters to the American people. The president has tried reasonableness and he has failed.” He calls Obama the “supine president.”
Of course, anyone who’s not a partisan ideologue can plainly see the ridiculousness of such claims. There was nothing “centrist” about the largest entitlement expansion in the history of the country rammed through without a single vote from the opposing party. There is no “reasonableness” about continuing the steady march of government spending and expansion and debt accumulation - during a recession and facing a debt crisis, no less - and calling it a “cut.”
Ultimately, the truth is Obama is pretty much exactly what intelligent detractors expected him to be: a slick, central-planning authoritarian. Nothing he has done - except for his very Bushesque foreign policy - should be surprising; nor has it likely surprised anyone with a proper distrust of government and a firm appreciation of presidential history.
The commonality between the two popular forms of apologetics is that it is not the ideology itself that is blamed. Never must the benevolent state of modern left-liberalism be questioned! In Obama, the left truly had, in nearly all respects, the president they wished for - but reality never comported with their dreams.
Unfortunately, it’s only in existing outside of reality that the leftist worldview could ever work.
And to admit that would be blasphemy.
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