It certainly took her a while, but it seems like Peggy Noonan is finally souring on Obama, not the least of which because he’s not the sort of squishy Clintonian centrist she and the rest of the Ruling Class were expecting in 2008:
He really dislikes the other side, and can’t fake it. This is peculiar in a politician, the not faking it. But he doesn’t bother to show warmth and high regard. And so appeals to patriotism—”Come on guys, we have to save this thing”—ring hollow from him. In this he is the un-Clinton. Bill Clinton understood why conservatives think what they think because he was raised in the South. He was surrounded by them, and he wasn’t by nature an ideologue. He absorbed not the biases of his region but of his generation and his education (Ivy League). He had ambition: Liberalism was rising and he’d rise with it. And on the signal issues of his youth, Vietnam and race, he thought the Democrats of the 1970s were right. But that didn’t mean he didn’t understand and feel some sympathy for conservatives, and as a political practitioner he had a certain sympathy for the predicaments of his fellow pols. That’s why he could play ball with Newt Gingrich and the class of 1994: because he didn’t quite hate everything they stood for. He had a saving ambivalence.
Barack Obama is different, not a political practitioner, really, but something else, and not a warm-blooded animal but a cool, chill character, a fish who sits deep in the tank and stares, stilly, at the other fish.
He doesn’t know how to confuse his foes with “outreach,” with phone calls, jokes, affection. He doesn’t leave them saying, as Reagan did, “I just can’t help it, I like the guy.” And because he can’t confuse them or reach them they more readily coalesce around their own explanation of him: socialist, destroyer.
This isn’t good, and has had an impact on the president’s contacts with Republicans. And it’s added an edge to an emerging campaign theme among them. Two years ago I wrote of Clare Booth Luce’s observation that all presidents have a sentence: “He fought to hold the union together and end slavery.” “He brought America through economic collapse and a world war.” You didn’t have to be told it was Lincoln, or FDR. I said that Mr. Obama didn’t understand his sentence. But Republicans now think they know it.
Four words: He made it worse.
Obama inherited financial collapse, deficits and debt. He inherited a broken political culture. These things weren’t his fault. But through his decisions, he made them all worse.
And speaking of Clinton and the economy, back in November of 2009, less than a full year into the Obamapocalypse, Sean Trende perceptively asked at Real Clear Politics, “Can the Clinton Coalition Survive Obama?”
Clinton intuited that suburban voters are, generally speaking, culturally cosmopolitan – they don’t like it when you call someone “macaca,” and aren’t crazy about the religious right. But they’re generally not particularly socially liberal either, and are fans of “law and order.” They like taxes low and appreciate economic growth, but like good schools and a clean environment. Having to balance a bunch of spending priorities with somewhat limited income in their daily lives, balanced budgets are the ultimate “good government” indicator for these voters.
Clinton delivered on all of these issues, keeping tax increases fairly small, and balancing the budget for much of his term. In so doing – and this is very important – he re-branded the Democrats as the party of fiscal responsibility, economic growth, moderate taxes, and smart government. In other words, he finally shed the “Carter” label for the Democrats. This, in turn, made it plausible for his much more liberal heirs to benefit from this presumption of competence for Democrats – one that they probably would not have enjoyed without him.
George W. Bush’s presidency, in turn, was an upper-middle class suburbanite’s nightmare. An aggressive social agenda, a fiscal trainwreck, two poorly-managed wars and a financial collapse later, these suburban voters trended even more heavily Democratic then they were in the Clinton era. By 2008, Democrats held most of the suburban districts around major metropolitan areas, and were threatening in the exurbs. The right Democratic candidate probably could have put together a massive 2008 Presidential majority, combining minorities, liberals, Jacksonians, Catholics, and suburbanites. The mood of the country was certainly right for a 1920/1932/1952/1980 result.
But the Democrats nominated Barack Obama. The party’s grip among Jacksonians had weakened since Clinton left the stage, but they abandoned Obama completely. Jay Cost and I have detailed this here. This movement is why Obama received 53% of the vote, instead of the 60% or so we might expect given the voters’ attitude toward Bush’s Presidency.
And yet, despite far left CNN talking head Ali Velshi* wanting to plug his ears and shout “LALALALALA,” as Jim Geraghty noted yesterday on the little-watched opinion network, “barring a sudden drop in the unemployment rate between now and November 2012, the unemployment rate for every month of Obama’s presidency will be higher than it was for every month of Bush’s two terms.”
That doesn’t sound like a good position to be in, going into an election year.
* Even amongst the rest of the Obama groupies at CNN, Velshi’s Obama cheerleading literally takes the cake.
Update: At The Blaze, David Harsanyi on “The Age of Obama #fail:”
Republicans might have the wrong answers. They usually do. But what exactly has this administration done right? What creative ideas have they offered? How many alternative realities (you know, ‘things could have been worse’?) do we have to accept? Fact is, while these condescending technocrats accuse their opponents of being nihilists, ideologues and radicals, they are the ones that refuse to deviate from dogma no matter how much evidence of failure confronts them.
Don’t miss the scary-ass unemployment chart that accompanies David’s post.