Ed Driscoll

The Coming Post-Inauguration Letdown

As Jonah Goldberg writes in the L.A. Times, on the campaign trail, Barack Obama was every candidate you wanted him to be. But that’s about to change once he actually takes office and begins to govern:

Presidential inaugurations are in many ways the high-water marks of any presidency because they’re so full of hope. All things seem possible. The rivalries and backbiting haven’t set in yet, at least not publicly. Even the inevitable disappointments over Cabinet picks and White House staffing are tempered by the wide-eyed dreams of an ambitious agenda. Everyone — or at least everyone who backed the guy — has that “we can make this the best yearbook ever!” feeling.

Then comes the letdown. No, I don’t mean Barack Obama will be a failed president. But even the most successful presidents bitterly disappoint some people, usually some of their biggest supporters. Indeed, they can only disappoint supporters because disappointment first requires confidence and hope. Those who voted against Obama can either have their low expectations fulfilled or be pleasantly surprised.

Many conservatives, for example, had hoped that George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” was simply a marketing slogan. They were dismayed to discover he really meant it. In the 1980s, Republican factions were deeply divided in the “let Reagan be Reagan” debates. Everyone heard what they wanted to hear during the campaign and expected the man’s presidency to jibe perfectly with their expectations.

Obama’s ideological compass is far more difficult to discern than Reagan’s or Bush’s were. This is why his conservative detractors often called him a cipher. Obama’s supporters rolled their eyes despite producing often-contradictory evidence to rebut the charge.

This raises perhaps the most interesting question of the Obama presidency: “What wasn’t Barack Obama lying about?”

I don’t mean this to be as harsh as it sounds. I’m not talking about what his conservative critics said he was lying about — say, the true nature of his relationship with William Ayers. I’m talking about issues where his own supporters seem to have just assumed he had his fingers crossed.

Not the least of which is Obama’s infamous statement on bankrupting the coal industry, uttered a year ago in the midst of an hour long conversation the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle and then unnearthed by a blogger in the last weekend of the election; the closest anyone remotely associated with the feckless McCain campaign came to delivering an October surprise. After The One’s latest flip-flop on this issue, Ed Morrissey wonders if the freshness dating has expired on that statement–but concludes, don’t be too sure.