“Thus Spake Obama” writes Mark Steyn in his weekly column, with a nifty Nietzschian allusion. Hey, I knew Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Zarathustra was an Übermensch of guy, and Barack Obama is no Zarathustra:
The most telling line, the one that encapsulates the gulf between the boundless fantasies of the faculty-lounge utopian and the messiness of reality, was this: “What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Gee, thanks for sharing, genius. Maybe you should have thought of that before you governmentalized one-sixth of the economy. By “we,” the president means “I.” Out here in the ruder provinces of his decrepit realm, we “folks” are well aware of how complicated insurance is. What isn’t complicated in the Sultanate of Sclerosis? But, as with so many other things, Obama always gives the vague impression that routine features of humdrum human existence are entirely alien to him. Marie Antoinette, informed that the peasantry could no longer afford bread, is alleged to have responded, “Let them eat cake.” There is no evidence these words ever passed her lips, but certainly no one ever accused her of saying, “If you like your cake, you can keep your cake,” and then having to walk it back with “What we’re also discovering is that cake is complicated to buy.” That contribution to the annals of monarchical unworldliness had to await the reign of Queen Barry Antoinette, whose powdered wig seems to have slipped over his eyes.
Still, as historian Michael Beschloss pronounced the day after his election, he’s “probably the smartest guy ever to become president.” Naturally, Obama shares this assessment. As he assured us five years ago, “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors.” Well, apart from his signature health-care policy. That’s a mystery to him. “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working,” he told us. The buck stops with something called “the executive branch,” which is apparently nothing to do with him. As evidence that he was entirely out of the loop, he offered this:
Had I been I informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, “Boy, this is going to be great.” You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, “This is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,” a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work.
Ooooo-kay. So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.
Michael Beschloss is right: This is what it means to be smart in a neo-monarchical America. Obama spake, and it shall be so. And, if it turns out not to be so, why pick on him? He talks a good Royal Proclamation; why get hung up on details?
Obama certainly doesn’t — the president “didn’t even consult with insurance providers before dumping his ‘fix’ idea on them,” John Hayward wrote at the Breitbart.com group blog on Friday.
In “The Great Prevaricator,” Paul Rahe of Ricochet explores the idiosyncratic postmodern nature of Obama’s aloof character:
In David Maraniss’ largely hagiographical account of Barack Obama’s family and his upbringing, there is a chapter entitled “The Moviegoer,” which deserves careful attention. In it, Maraniss limns one crucial aspect of the man’s character—his propensity to stand back, aloof, and observe his own conduct and that of those about him as if he was the director of a film. He is, in fact, our first postmodern President, and he is always looking in the mirror. He believes that thinking makes things so. He believes that the most important part of the universe within which we live is the imagination. And when things go amiss, he is apt to tell his aides not that he or they have blundered in their deeds, but that they have “lost the narrative.” Everything is always about the man his aides call “Obam-me.” He is the Prophet of “Change We Can Believe In.” Belief is the operative word.
There is something to be said for this species of Idealism. Our imaginations are exceedingly powerful, and we can easily enough be bamboozled by those with an expertise in the deployment of words. Barack Obama has demonstrated this time and again, and he understands, better than any American politician in my memory, that what he resolutely refuses to mention or mentions only once in passing and never touches on again may simply disappear down the memory hole. What ever happened to Fast and Furious? to the IRS scandals? to the Benghazi blunder? to the Associated Press wiretaps? You and I are aware of what is going on, but the general public has only a vague and hazy memory of these scandals.
It helps, to be sure, that the press is servile—eager to provide cover for the Administration at almost every moment. But that is not the whole story. Barack Obama’s “no drama” pose works. It works very, very well.
Sooner or later, however, reality bites.
And that’s the moment where Mr. Obama reveals to the world that he’s not he Übermensch; he’s Nietzsche’s Last Man.
At Hot Air, Mary Katharine weaves her readers through “The ignorant omniscience of President Obama.” As MKH writes, “He knows everything. And yet he seems to know nothing.” With a propensity to take action in the areas he knows the least about. Quoting Mr. Obama’s astonishing claim on Thursday that “what we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy,” Ham responds: “So, when you know something pertinent about federal technology failures that could increase the chances of success for your pet project, do nothing. When you know absolutely nothing about the subject of your ambitious pet project to remake 1/6 of the economy, try to do everything.”
The reason for this is the animating feature of Obama’s leadership style, if you can call it that, is not presuming to know all the facts and micromanaging every project ala Jimmy Carter. Nor is it acknowledging he doesn’t know all the facts and surrounding himself with experts he trusts ala George W. Bush. And, no, it’s not combining an intellectual strength and a mind for policy detail with a populist flair ala Bill Clinton. The animating feature of Obama’s leadership style is simply making pronouncements. Making them about things he knows, things he knows not, and waiting for everyone and everything to fall in line. And, when things don’t magically come together, he pronounces his disappointment and anger. Wash, rinse, repeat.
As John Hayward noted on Monday at Breitbart.com, the Obama administration “lives from one the news cycle to the next.” At NRO on Friday, Yuval Levin wrote that the failure of Obamacare will make that even more apparent. Also quoting the passage in which a president sold to the American public in 2008 as being omniscient discovers for the first time that “insurance is complicated to buy,” Levin responds:
These are the words of a man who has had to internalize a lot of grim briefings lately, and to come to terms with some painful realities. And the decision the president announced is the decision of a man who has to just think about politics day by day now, rather than in terms of large goals and visions.
It may turn out, of course, that the situation of Obamacare and its champions is not in fact this dire, that the exchange system will find some balance relatively soon and function in a way that bears some resemblance to how it was designed to work, and that the politics of health care in 2014 will be more mixed and complicated than the fiasco the Democrats now face. But the last few days have suggested that Democrats, including the president, are beginning to lose faith in that possibility.
“Dems have only themselves to blame for Obamacare quagmire,” Jonah Goldberg adds. The fault isn’t Obama’s alone, although plenty of Democrats will be throwing Obama under the bus next fall. But they’re equally guilty of lying to the public:
There’s a lot of chatter in Washington that Democrats on the Hill feel like they were lied to or misled by the White House. But if you understand how our Constitution works — and they should, given that they only took an oath to defend it — it’s Obama who should feel lied to.
The law is really quite clear. It was so clear that the Congressional Budget Office — their own in-house think tank — said that millions would lose their health-care plans. Obama even said so with the Democratic leadership in the room.
More to the point, the law was intended to cause millions of people to lose their existing plans so they would enter the exchanges.
Now the same people who literally wrote the law feel betrayed when the law does exactly what they intended. That’s like getting mad at a remote-control car when you crash it. Yes, the website’s failures make the panic more acute, but the fact remains that the Affordable Care Act is doing precisely what it’s supposed to do.
A great many Democrats voted for the Iraq war and then, when the war became unpopular, claimed they’d been lied to by President Bush. That was dishonorable enough. But at least the Democrats could claim they didn’t have all of the information.
When it comes to the quagmire of Obamacare, the only liars they should be mad at are Democrats.
Finally, at Power Line, Steven Hayward explores “The Upside of Obama’s Second Term,” beginning with a reminder that if it had been Mitt Romney attempting to avoid the oncoming disaster of Obamacare bequeathed him by his one-term predecessor, “Romney and the GOP would be blamed right now for this ongoing catastrophe, as the insurance cancellations were long-programmed features of the law. The Democrats would cry ‘sabotage!’, and the media would surely play along:”
Just as it is a clarifying fact that Obamacare passed on a straight party line vote, now, too, it is wonderfully clarifying that Democrats wholly own this catastrophe. And they’re going to reap the whirlwind from it, as Charles Krauthammer says today.
So smile when you see Obama in his agony. I suspect this is even going to affect his golf swing this weekend. Don’t just smile; a full chuckle is in order. New slogan for liberals: “If you like your smugness, you can keep your smugness.”
And some on the left, such as Nancy Pelosi, are doing just that. At moment, it’s all they’ve got, as they watch harsh reality descend upon a postmodern fantasy.
Valerie Jarrett, the president’s most trusted, probably most powerful, aide, once said in admiration that Mr. Obama has been bored his whole life. The implication was that he is above things, a man alone, and anointed. Perhaps this moment—a presidency coming apart, the incompetent social engineering of an entire health-care system—will now claim Mr. Obama’s attention.
Or, perhaps not.