Republicans and non-Republicans who consider themselves centrists, many of whom voted Democratic in 2008, are giddy at the exposure of Barack Obama as a poor president and kind of a lame-o guy generally.
I can't join them. The giddiness seems premature to me. I'm still working out why, but this is my site, so I'm going to try to work it out here at my typical overlength.
My concern is that the President's opponents may not invest their recent gains wisely. They are showing signs of being entirely capable of plowing their unexpected windfall into a dot-com IPO.
I can't put my finger on this; perhaps you can help me out. It'll help if I ramble some.
I was one of those people who believed that the last general election presented us with a choice between a flashy, amateur fraud (+ punch-line running mate) and a conventional, predictable fraud (+ ditto). I held my nose and voted for the latter, but the former won. Flashy is sexy. Flashy is fun.
But he was still a fraud, a well-spoken mediocrity, and it is no surprise that his inexperience in sustaining a fraud on a national scale has resulted in even many of his star-stunned supporters turning on him. So the current piling on is, in some ways, great fun to observe.
OK, we're getting there -- it's the fun that's bothering me. Here's an example: A few days ago, I came upon an article on The American Thinker website called "The Smallest President" by Geoffrey P. Hunt. It was a corker. Let me quote a few tasty passages:
"Would someone remind us again why the nation elected this man to be president? A man with no resume, a man with no experience in running anything other than a political campaign, a man who is ignorant of history, economics, and technology? A man who is shallow and lazy? A man who shares neither character nor temperament with the American people in this vast republic? How did this happen?
"Only a partisan or a fool could deny the irredeemable failure of these ideological handmaidens, the genius of Obama's shrinking presidency.
"In utter exasperation, the citizens of Arizona finally took matters into their own hands, only to be vilified by Obama and his cohorts, who have neither the will nor the capacity to do anything about it.
"Those who use the currency of identity politics appeal to the ideals of justice and fair distribution of resources and outcomes. But in reality they prey on those who are underprivileged and dependent, making claims of dispossession against those who have enjoyed success and independence derived from their own sweat, equity, and competence.
"Identity politics combined with incompetence have exposed the absurdity in the ambitions of big government and made Obama the weakest, most anemic and flaccid president in the modern era."
Yes, this is rhetoric, but it's great rhetoric. I agree with most of it. (Although I would argue that it's tough to beat Jimmy Carter for weakness, anemia, and flaccidity.) It's delicious. And deeply satisfying to those of us who have mistrusted Barack Obama and his fickle media acolytes since the instant he announced his candidacy.
But recently, pieces like Mr. Hunt's, as schadenfreud-y as they are, have started to bother me.
Gloating over the President's tiny profile isn't going to get us anywhere. Let me ask you to assume for the moment what no less an observer than Peggy Noonan assumed in her piece a week or so ago and what I somewhat more nervously predicted in a couple of recent posts -- this administration is almost already finished. It imploded in record time, scarcely a year from inauguration. (And somehow, the President has even managed to take something that was manifestly neither his nor his administration's fault, the BP Gulf Spill, and turn it into the occasion for a demonstration of how being a community organizer and running a large political campaign doesn't prepare a president for dick squat when it comes to leadership, resolve, or action.) The administration has plenty of time to right itself, but as I have written here and here, I don't think President Obama gives a Rahm's ass about his electoral legacy, and I don't see him shedding his titanic self-regard to admit that his course is inimical to American freedom, not to mention common sense. I don't think he's going to take his foot off the gas as he continues to execute his hard left. And he'll keep going right into Poucha Pond.
Well, that's what I would like to think, anyway. But when I see the reaction of the center and the right to the President's woes, I wonder. After I read pieces like Mr. Hunt's -- and there are dozens upon dozens of articles like them these days -- I think:
Enough already. Fun is fun, but where is it getting us?
The Republicans seem to have short memories, but I suspect that the electorate will not. It wasn't very long ago that we were all appalled at the indirection, diffidence and incoherence of the Bush Administration. President Obama continues to remind us of this, and it's an intelligent strategy.
This is the answer to Mr. Hunt's opening question: We ended up electing this man to be president because we were so unhappy with the lazy, dithering twit we'd had for eight years that we voted against his party and ended up with a twit who is even lazier and whose dithering makes Bush look positively resolute.
So I'm thinking that it's time for those who oppose the President to stop the piling on. The runner is down; it's fourth and long for POTUS. It's time for us to figure out what we're going to do when we get the ball back.
The question people like Mr. Hunt and the Tea Party people and the disaffected centrists and I need to be asking ourselves is -- whatta we got? With whom are we going to repopulate Congress and the Oval Office? What are the values and beliefs we are looking to associate with the political class with whom we hope to replace the Democrats?
It is not enough, and it is wrong, to say "limited government people" or "family-values people" or "God-fearing people," or "people closest in spirit to the Tea Party movement." But that's what the opposition is starting to look like. It is offering us people like Sarah Palin and Rand Paul and pappy Ron, and others who appear to be beholden to the Tea Partiers, and I am here to tell you ladies and gentlemen of good sense and moderate good will, although it may feel good to scratch that anti-government itch right now, if what you put up against Barack Obama and the Democrats has no more going for it than that, by 2012 you will find yourselves in the outer darkness for four more years.
Because upon the electorate's mature reflection, it will prefer the urbane moderate-sounding special-interest huckster to the reactionary peckerwood.
Or, not to put too fine a point on it: Voters will prefer someone who sounds smart to someone who sounds dumb. (George Bush is not a counterexample. Albert Gore and John Kerry, in addition to not sounding smart themselves, had weird and oddly repellent personalities. And there are those who would say that Gore did win that election.)
The country leans conservative but it does not lean crazy. It leans toward the centrality of personal responsibility but it does not lean toward meanness. It is as nervous about the self-certainty of fundamentalist Christians as it is about that of fundamentalist Muslims. It does not believe that government is inherently evil. Candidates who talk as though they do begin very soon to sound deranged.
Let's take Sarah Palin. Now I happen to like quite a lot about Sarah Palin and I would probably agree with most of what she has to say. But look deep into your souls and your brains, Tea Party people, and tell me -- do you want to see Sarah Palin debate Barack Obama? Do you want the country to see her say, in such a debate, what she recently said to Bill O'Reilly -- that our "founding documents" are "quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 commandments, it’s pretty simple."
And the Bible would say what, exactly, about credit default swaps? British Petroleum? the border with Mexico? the space program? Affirmative action? Wealth transfer from the rich to the poor? Well?
And yet we see Ms. Palin with very respectable poll numbers among Republicans. And I can't help but think the reason is that it feels so, so good to stick it to the smarmy, elitist, arrogant, fact-evading, redistributionist Democrats by supporting someone way the hell the other side of the spectrum, saying to the odious Pelosis and Reids you're so wrong that we're going to support someone who is against everything you're for just because you're for it.
That's uh . . . reactionary.
It's not my intention to demonize Ms. Palin, or Christians. I voted for her presidential ticket and might find it necessary to do so again. But that ticket lost. It lost to one that sounded one helluva lot smarter, and with Joe Biden on that ticket that's not saying much for the ticket I voted for. When the time comes to sweep Washington clear of its current ideological rubble, we should be looking for women and men who are for something, who are willing to acknowledge that government has a role to play in making our lives better, that the free market isn't good at stopping ecological disasters, that intelligent immigration policy is good for the economy -- you see where I'm going.
Formulating a coherent, forward-looking set of policies isn't as much fun as bashing Barack Obama. And I'm all for continuing to document his errors and infirmities. But in the meantime, we need to resist the tendency to answer the demagoguery of the godless left with demagoguery of the Christian right.
We need to be positive, and we need to be smart. And we need to sound like both.
I feel a little better, thanks.