Tuesday, May 18, 2010

PART 1: Barack Obama -- The Definitive Explanation -- My Question

I know people who love Barack Obama.  Literally love him; adoration does not do justice to their emotional attachment to the man.   Some others I know merely like him and would vote for him again.  I count myself among those who like him a little bit, but not a lot, and less as time goes by.  I did not vote for him, but neither did I like who I did vote for, and I was pleased to be bidding the feckless incumbent godspeed.   I actually thought Obama was going to be OK, wrong about most things but nondestructive, perhaps a bit Clinton-like, and I freely confess to having felt the occasional frisson of intrigue at the prospect of this exotic, intelligent, history-busting man in the White House.  We've survived bad presidents, surely we can survive this guy.  Better speeches, anyway.

Jeez, what a disappointment.

This article is not going to suggest why anyone should feel the way I do about him, or argue policy.  Time for that as November approaches and voters have their opportunity to apply necessary correctives, a process which may have already begun.  Instead, I am going to suggest why he is the way he is, why he is doing what he is doing.  I think I know.

We are experiencing a President who has not enacted or expressed a single popular policy.   If I were arguing the merits of his presidency, I would argue that there are good reason for their lack of public approval.  They fall on a continuum that starts on the top end with "foolish" and decline through "stupefying" all the way to "bad beyond the power of conventional English to express."  I started to make a list of failures and failures-in-waiting, but it threatened to tilt this article towards the merits of his presidency, rather than the why of the thing.

So let me come at it from a different direction:  Consider the ohmygawd plummeting of the President's popularity.  This guy came in riding an incredible wave of goodwill and affection and national pride (and, as noted, even some amour), but after only a year his postives and negatives have entirely switched polarity.  Think about that -- one year and we've gone way past buyer's remorse all the way to buyer's freakin' griefThe man has single-handedly created a new opposition grassroots political movement.  I guess maybe he is a good community organizer, after all.    (He did have some help from the dithering Republicans)   My unscientific evidence of his striking decline in public esteem is that I no longer see the same Obama-love on Facebook that I saw in 2009. 

I am not one who believes that leaders should pay particular heed to poll numbers.  Leaders are supposed to lead.  The fact that a very large chunk of the American Center, which is a very large chunk of the public generally, is appalled nor only by almost everything he has done, but also by how he has done it and his attitude about the whole thing -- is not necessarily a reason for him to do things any differently.  There is even a kind of bravery about his dismissal of public opinion, which is why I like him a little bit.

But it isn't just him.  He's taking the Democratic Party -- or at least those impressive Democratic congressional majorities -- down with him.   Some of those Democrats are already gone, many more will be gone come November.  I don't have a firm notion of whether the Republicans will gain control of anything, but it isn't going to be pretty for many of those who have done what the President has asked them to do.  As for 2012, I suspect that the more people see of this President, the less they are going to like his policies and -- you can already see it starting to happen -- they more they are going to understand that he's not really that good a guy.   Polls can change overnight, but unless the Republicans nominate Sarah Palin or other lightweight -- of which they are entirely capable -- Obama will gain the additional historical distinction of being the first one-term black president in the nation's history.

If you're a POTUS supporter, you may be preparing to cancel your subscription.  OK, sorry, don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  But I warn you -- I am actually about to get to the point.

This serious prospect of electoral disaster -- a swing in the electorate that could stay swung for years -- brings us back to the question:   Why is he behaving in this way?  Why is he advancing policies that threaten to guarantee his place among American presidents alongside Jimmy Carter, Warren G. Harding, and Andrew Johnson?  Doesn't he at least care about re-election?  In the short run, doesn't he care about maintaining Democratic majorities in Congress?

Well, no.  No, he doesn't.  And I have a hunch why.

Part 2 will appear later this week.


  1. Cool Hot Steve: I think Obama does care about re-election: he is, if anything, narcissistic, perhaps even more so than Bill Clinton (ugly thought). Like Clinton, he also cares about his legacy, and he wants a big one, expecially after making history as the first African-American president. He knows that legacies are measured by big accomplishments, not by length in office: JFK, who didn't make it through a single term is remembered for the Peace Corps; LBJ, who chose not to run for a second full term, is remembered for the Great Society. On the other hand, Bill Clinton, the first Democrat since FDR to serve two full terms, is remembered for - well, what, exactly, besides chasing skirts?
    I actually don't think Obama is the great scholar, writer, speaker, or thinker that his accolytes claim. He was reportedly rarely seen around the U of C, where he "lectured" just one class and never wrote any scholarly articles; it now sorta looks like Bill Ayers might've written most of both his books for him; he can't even speak extemporaneously to school kids without using TelePrompters; and when recently asked he couldn't name a single favorite player from the history of the White Sox team he claims to root for.
    Still, I think he's smart enough to know that four years (two at this point) is a long time in politics, that people have short memories, and that 2012 will have a whole new crop of voters who are only 15 or 16 right now. So he needs to ram through what he wants to be his legacy now, let people forget that they didn't like it, and coast to victory again in 2012 on the grounds that the economy is better then than it was in 2008, which it almost certainly will be (and almost equally certainly not because of anything he actually did).
    Looking forward to Part 2 so I can see if you agree or disagree.
    Your Big Fan in the Big Apple

  2. Thanks, Anonymous Big Apple Fan. Stay tuned. We're not so far apart on this.

    Sure, Obama cares about re-election in the abstract, but he's already made his big splash in history. He's not looking forward to running on an actual record, something he's never had to do before, and I suspect he won't take it well, and that that will be apparent. My concern is that the Republicans will not offer a credible alternative.

    And you may have noticed that The Cool Hot Center sometimes exaggerates to make a point.

  3. How about a review of The Wrestler or Wall-E? Those should be hitting your art-house about now.

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  5. Oh dear, yet another anonymous jab at my habit of reaching back in time to review items I find worthwhile (or warning of those that are not). Actually, I'm going to start going a lot further back than than the two relative cultural babes you mention. Anon, I'm sure you'll enjoy my upcoming "guilty pleasures" series.