James Poulos, who does double-duty at PJM and Ricochet (and whom I was happy to meet in person last week in L.A.) explores the limits of “Our Passive-Aggressive President” at Ricochet:
A pattern has emerged. With the Wisconsin union drama, with the long, tormented passage and reversal of Obamacare, even with the Skip Gates scandal, the president has oscillated, one way or the other and sometimes both, between a mild-mannered non-interventionism and a terse, testy, yet attenuated variety of interventionism. So it is again with Libya. Neither the passivity nor the aggressiveness is without its bemused critics, right and left. And neither has proven very effective. Put together, they seem to deliver the worst of both worlds. His errors unforced, his support unreliable, his strategy inscrutable, Obama as president has time and again left allies and opponents in an uncanny perpetual lurch.
In 2008, it was John McCain who was lampooned and derided as the Erratic One. Three years later, Obama has shown a clear consistency only in his unwillingness to package his public policy conceptually for the American people. What could be more mysterious coming from a man whose presidential campaign was the most crisply and effectively delivered high-concept political pitch in American history?
Obviously I share James’ frustration with America’s passive-aggressive president, but it’s not like his campaign was all that effective a sneak preview of his presidency. It’s certainly not much of a contest for a candidate when the referees have declared him to be the second coming, mutually decided to look the other way at his errors, and did his dirty work by trashing his opponents for him. Not to mention that Obama had no executive experience or real world before taking office, of course, and whose own life experiences were within radical chic politics and academia. (Which was of course were the tip-offs that trouble was lurking ahead.)
Only now are most Americans getting a chance to see the real man. But then, in politics as in the movie industry, “high concept” is a euphemism for hoping that shiny surfaces, great acting, and expensive special effects are enough to ignore a one sentence plot. For Obama, that one sentence was “He’s not Bush.”
That was good enough in 2008, particularly after five years of the MSM pummeling the 43rd president before choosing the 44th. It took a couple of years for Americans to realize that it’s a bug, not a feature.
But don’t worry, they’re likely to forget that by next November when an even worse product rolls out: the high concept sequel.