Anyone in need of a therapeutic laugh — and who isn’t these days? — should click on over to Slate and savor Jacob Weisberg’s latest exercise in unintentional comedy. The fact that Weisberg’s column is called “THE BIG IDEA 2009: The thinking behind the news,” is already grounds for a chuckle, since Weisberg has scrupulously excluded ideas of any but microscopic size and all thinking whatever from his writing for as long as anyone can remember. All the left-liberal clichés all the time. That’s his motto, and he’s sticking to it.
Still, with his current column Jacob Weisberg really outdoes himself. The title says it all “Obama’s Brilliant First Year.” Yes, I did a double-take, too. In fact, the only reason I clicked on the story — which I stumbled across on RealClearPolitics — was because of that ostentatiously absurd title. It’s about as truthful as “Dubai’s Brilliant Financial Leadership” or “North Korea’s Brilliant Human Rights Record.” It’s the sort of hyperbole that a humorist like Stephen Potter would have appreciated. (If you’re planning to dazzle the punters with fibs, make ‘em big ones he advised in Oneupmanship.) “Surely,” I thought, inspecting Weisberg’s latest, “we’re in for a bit of irony or sarcasm.” Perhaps, I speculated, this was The Onion undertaking a spoof of Slate, of Weisberg? My innocence wavered when I digested the subhead:
“By January, [Obama] will have accomplished more than any first-year president since Franklin Roosevelt.”
Another joke? If, like me, you’ve read The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes’s percipient book about FDR and the Great Depression, you might at first have been inclined to suppose that here was another piece of irony. “. . . more than any first-year president since Franklin Roosevelt”: get it? By the end of his first year in office, Roosevelt had made a dog’s breakfast of the economy, derailing an incipient recovery and putting the country firmly on the road towards the financial disaster that would envelop America over the next several years. [UPDATE: See Ed Driscoll for some informative charts on this subject.]
But, no. Had I been paying attention, I would have known. After all, I had absorbed the byline. Indeed, it was really the conjunction “Obama’s Brilliant First Year” and the name “Jacob Weisberg” — why is that smile producing? — that prompted me to position the cursor over the relevant URL and quickly depress the Kimball digit on the mouse. Maybe some second thoughts were afoot? Maybe Jacob Weisberg, like Paul on the road to Damascus, had undergone a metanoia?
Maybe the moon is made of green cheese.
I ought to have known what I was in for. Having failed in the past to exercise proper precautions, I had occasionally exposed myself to some columns by Jacob Weisberg. Experience had forewarned me. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for the combination of naïveté and smugness. Item:
If, as seems increasingly likely, Obama wins passage of a health care reform a bill by that date, he will deliver his first State of the Union address having accomplished more than any other postwar American president at a comparable point in his presidency. This isn’t an ideological point or one that depends on agreement with his policies. It’s a neutral assessment of his emerging record — how many big, transformational things Obama is likely to have made happen in his first 12 months in office.
Weisberg’s Big Idea was thinking way behind the news in this case. It was posted on November 28, 2009, i.e., yesterday. Yet he says it is “increasingly likely” that Obama will have rammed his obscenely expensive effort to extend bureaucratic control over another huge swathe of the eocnomy — and your life — by January 20, 2010. In fact, it is increasingly less likely that Obamacare will pass by January 20. The Washington Examiner , in a story posted November 27, has the news: “Growing public backlash over Obamacare”. Ony 38 percent of the public now favors the plan, the Examiner reports. The bill squeaked by in the House with the narrowest of margins. The Senate just barely managed agree even to discuss the bill. Grass-roots organizations like ReversetheVote.org are springing up all over the country to rally voters and persuade Congressmen that Obamacare is an express ticket to electoral defeat. Maybe something will pass by January 20. If so, I predict, it will be something that, though it might be called “Obamacare,” will be purged of most of its more toxic elements. If we’re lucky, the whole bill will crash and burn.