Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Do You Remember the Moment? No, Really, When Was It?

There are a lot of folks out there who still strongly support President Obama. There are also folks out there who thought him an irredeemable fraud from the moment of his nomination and before.

This article is not for them.

It’s for those who supported him and welcomed the Democratic hegemony that trailed him into office and now don’t like either one. It’s even for folks like me who didn’t vote for him but thought there was a fairish chance he would govern practically, somewhat like Bill Clinton; or folks (also a little like me) who found his stylish sophistication a welcome change that carried with the possibility for an enhanced American profile in the world. That, combined with bulletproof Democratic legislative majorities, guaranteed at a minimum that the era of extremely disappointing Republican rule was over.

My question for that rather large and growing cohort of Obama/Democrat apostates is – when did you know? What event finally convinced you that Obama and the Democrats (who were unanimously following his lead) had clearly broken faith with their promise and were not going to turn back to the center?

Here’s my example from the latest Bush administration. I’ll bet I share it with a lot of people who voted for G.W. a couple of times but gradually grew disgusted with his spending, his inattention to the military situation in the Middle East, and his failure to communicate clearly his . . . well, just about everything.

If there is one presidential gift that keeps on giving, it’s Supreme Court justice appointments. When Sandra Day O’Conner retired, President Bush’s base saw that rarest of opportunities to replace a mostly-unfriendly and at best unreliable vote with a much more solid jurist, an asset that could pay ideological dividends to the Republican core for years to come. There were many distinguished candidates, some of them women. But what did Bush do? He walked out of his office, spotted White House counsel Harriet Miers, said “you’ll do,” and walked right back in.

Harriet Miers and President Bush

It may not have been quite that casual – he might have run it by Karl Rove – but the decision couldn’t have been given much more care than that. It was a terrible pick. Miers and her views were unknown. She had crafted a successful but careful career as a Texas lawyer. Abortion, one of the most important issues to the base – no idea where she stood. No judicial experience. She was a woman for a “woman’s seat,” apparently her sole recommendation. Tokenism plus cronyism, sheesh. It was George W.’s equivalent to George H.W.’s reneging on his “read my lips – no new taxes” pledge. The Miers nomination pretty much proved to anyone still prepared to give Bush the benefit of the doubt that the man simply did not give a damn – or that if he did, he was giving altogether the wrong kind of damn.  The entire right and much of the Cool Hot Center revolted and Bush was humliated into withdrawing her nomination.  A far superior candidate (Samuel Alito) took her place.

Many pundits have speculated on the cause of President Obama’s breathtaking decline. (I hesitate to call it a “fall” – I’m not at all sure the guy won’t make a comeback, and sooner than anyone might think. He’s been formidable and can be again, especially if the Republicans continue their flirtation with Tea Party peckerwoods like Sarah Palin as serious presidential possibilities.) Amazingly, Obama is lazier than either Bush. But if he rallies, look out.) You hear a lot of chatter about the failure of the massive stimulus to create jobs, but I hold with those who believe the discontent runs much deeper – people feel defrauded generally, and they absolutely disbelieve the promises made for the President’s policies.

Yeah, but when did you know that the awfulness of O/Dems’ first year was only going to intensify? When did you know that they simply had to go?

I have a candidate.

I feel for President Obama just a little. (I mean, it’s really a tiny little feeling, itty bitty thing.) He put his legislative agenda in the hands of two of the least appealing political figures of our time: Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  Pelosi is tough but not smart; Reid is – I don’t know, it just seems like the guy needs more sleep or maybe an adjustment to his spectacles prescription.

First Lady Michelle Obama demonstrates appropriate presidential obeisance to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

It was Pelosi who gave us that crystallizing moment on March 9, 2010. Heavens, let’s not take it out of context:

"You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

"But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

There it was, in one sentence, in one phrase. And this was not a casual misstatement or an offhand response to a reporter’s question. This appeared in remarks prepared for delivery to the Legislative Conference for National Association of Counties. Rep. Pelosi is proud of this statement.  She issued a press release and you can still find it on her website.  Now in fairness: If you read the whole statement, you might conclude that her intention here was to say that the blessings of healthcare reform will only be fully appreciated when it is enacted.

But recall that this statement was issued at a time when it had become apparent that legislators themselves in fact did not know what was in the healthcare bill, could not explain its operation, fled from questions about its contents, had to be bribed to vote for it (Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson's shocking abandonment of princple was only a couple of months old) and had not, in fact, even bothered to dip into its 2,409 pages to discover the monstrous new bureacracy that would have charge of a huge chunk of the U.S. economy.    (Source: Republican Congressman Kevin Brady’s staff. If the accuracy of this chart has been challenged, I haven’t been able to find it. Brady has said that this is only a partial chart containing only about a third of the plan’s Medusan entanglements. (Actually, he didn’t use the phrase “Medusan entanglements.” That was, uh, me.))

So when Rep. Pelosi said that we have to pass it to find out what’s in it – you know, “away from the fog of controversy” caused by people asking to know what’s in it – she broadcast O/Dems’ fundamental contempt for the deliberative process. It showed their arrogance and indeed, the arrogance of contemporary liberalism, which is no more attractive or justifiable than the arrogance of the right personified in the bad old days by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove (who have in recent years somewhat repented of that attitude). It was disrespectful. And it was myopic – the O/Dems simply saw things wrong. They misread the results of the election. They misread the interest and attention span of the American public. The congressional Democrats misread the nature of Obama’s appeal (so did Obama). And they misread history and the experience of every country (and state – let’s not forget the failing Romneycare in MA) that has ever nationalized healthcare. And, of course, they didn’t even misread the law they passed – the horrors hidden in its labyrinthine prose (and folks, I know a little something about labyrinthine prose) are still being excavated, because they never read it at all.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) (top); Reptilicus (political affiliation unknown)

That was the moment for me. The contempt, the arrogance, the misunderstanding, the regular-style ignorance, and the intentional ignorance – folks, this is how the entrenched political elite thinks. Some Republicans, too. 

Get out the brooms.  And keep them close at hand for 2012.

Nancy Pelosi, President Obama's deluded handmaiden, has done us the favor of explaining the Tea Party in seventeen words.


  1. Nicely done, Mr. Lawson. There was no single "big moment" for me and, in truth, I hold out some hope that he may regain his senses. The "old pol" hack speeches he gave on Labor Day were mind-numbingly off-base and cliche-ridden. We didn't think we were electing a hack, but I'm starting to believe we did.

  2. I go back and forth on whether Obama is a hack. I don't think he is. I think he has realized too late that people don't want what he's selling so he's trying to sound a little more conventional, and it just rings false -- you know he doesn't believe it himself. That makes him a hypocrite, but I think that viewing him as an old-style pol carries with it the danger of underestimation. Thanks for checking in, Johnnus, appreciate your patronage.