4) The Deadline Lies. Remember those? You’ve seen that sort of “if you don’t, then you….” in the supermarket when the poor harried mom has the three-year-old kid screaming and kicking on the aisle floor, and screams back as she blocks shoppers, “If you yell one more time, I’m going to spank you!” — as he screams and kicks all the louder.
Guantanamo shut by January 21, 2010? Iran in non-proliferation compliance by the UN summit or the G-20 meetings or the October face-to-face negotiations or the first of the new year? Remember health care done by the summer break? By Thanksgiving? By Christmas or else? By the first of the year?
I used to have a relative of sorts who came around the ranch and wanted $500. I gave it to him once and he’d return sheepishly every three months, and promise, “This spring I am going to pay you back.” “This summer I’ll paint your barn.” “Before the first rain, I’ll fix that tin roof on the shed.” Finally, I forgot I ever gave him the money, and now only vaguely recall how silly I was. So too, we forget the promises, so frequent and impossible they now seem.
The list could be expanded exponentially and already, reader, you are screaming even as you read this, “But Victor, you didn’t list the worst of all, the lie about (fill in the blanks)…”
What are the catalysts for such prevarications?
1) Habit. Obama could more or less say anything in mellifluous tones, and the media would become enraptured. This ability to charm by sounding honey-tongued while saying nothing started perhaps in the Ivy-League and has never ceased. Some habitual liars persist since they are never caught or even admonished. Obama is never called to account (cf. Robert Gibbs’s angry reaction to the blasphemy when asked about the C-SPAN fantasies). The most transparent administration in history hasn’t had a news conference since mid-summer, even amid the toadies (Note to media: photo-ops and interviews are not press conferences). The media and Obama have an unspoken pact that goes something like the following: “We both are educated elites who know best for the Neanderthals. So from time to time I will have to lie to you to get our shared aspirations realized; and I accept from time to time, you will have to play act as critics to cling to some sort of legitimacy that is likewise necessary for our joint aspirations.” (And then we’ll both have a beer together afterwords.)
2) Morality. All philosopher-kings believe that the ends justify the means. To make us loving, caring equals — with no rich, no poor — we must sometimes adopt the Chicago politics that we insist we abhor. A Tony Rezko is bad, but a Tony Rezko is temporarily necessary to get the sort of hope and change we’ve been waiting for.
3) Squaring circles. You can reconcile thinking that the U.S. is culpable for its race/class/gender felonious past, and globe-trotting the world on a presidential luxury jet with the red, white , and blue plastered all over it — the logical manifestation of a uniquely meritocratic, capitalist, and free-enterprise economy. One cannot damn insider, influence-peddling, private-jet flying Wall Street bankers, corrupt insurers, and “the rich,” and then hire the same, frequent the same, and aspire to be the same. Class warfare is hard when your own profile is the logical target. And so one is bound to change the story as hypocrisy begins to cramp.
4) Personal confusion. Read both Obama memoirs (is that the right word for these auto-hagiographies?), and it becomes clear that he is still confused who he is. Barry Soetoro? Barry Dunham? Barack Dunham? Barack Obama? Barry Obama? Prep school upper-middle class in Hawaii or impoverished minority in need of affirmative action? African or African-American or plain old American suburbanite? Harvard Law Review and Chicago Law lecturer or unpublished wannabe legal professor? Harry Reid’s unaccented “Negro” dialect or Harry Reid’s ability to turn it on only as needed? Racial healer who wows the suburbanite and NY-DC insider clique, or angry racialist who throws out “stupidly,” the clingers speech, “typical white person” and brags about not missing a Rev. Wright sermon to the Chicago Sun-Times? When one is confused about who one is, one creates alternate narratives and personas — and, yes, often they will clash.
The economy might just be in what we heard once (wrongly, in fact, in 2004) categorized as a “jobless recovery.” And, yes, the people have roared that they don’t want the remedies of statist health care, mega-deficits, higher taxes, more government, green boondoggles, apologetics abroad, blanket amnesty, and more lunatic appointments like Van Jones and Anita Dunn.
But what is taking Obama down below 50% approval is mostly a public awareness that they elected a deeply cynical man, who either cannot or will not speak the truth or keep his promises (note the Nixonian resonance in “perfectly clear about…”). In fact, it is worse than that — in the postmodern world of Barack Obama there is no truth per se, just competing narratives privileged by the relative degree of power behind them and the relative perceived moral intent involved.
So when the advocates of hope and change, of non-traditional America, of the poor and the needy and the more noble, say something, it must be true because, you see, it should be true.