Ed Driscoll

Let It Go

On Thursday, Jim Geraghty noted that even Mark Halperin of Time has realized how boxed in Mr. Obama is. “Obama can’t win if he can’t swing the conversation away from the economy and render Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat, an unacceptable alternative in the Oval Office,” Halperin writes. As Geraghty writes in response, “I continue to marvel that we have a presidential campaign unfolding in which one candidate is openly trying to keep the ‘conversation’ away from the topic that is far and away the most important priority to most voters:”

We can play the “what if Republicans did it?” game, and conclude that an incumbent Republican president who sought to avoid discussion of the voters’ top concern would be endlessly, and deservedly, pilloried, denounced, ridiculed, and mocked.

But here’s the simpler and perhaps more reassuring thought: If you have lost voters’ confidence on their top concern, and your entire strategy is to try to get people to stop conversing about it . . . you’re done. You’ve lost. The only way the economy could be eclipsed as voters’ top concern is some other problem coming up — God forbid, some horrific terror attack or natural disaster or something.

Shortly after Obama took office and things began to go “unexpectedly” wrong, the Economist magazine began to have the aura of a penumbra of an emanation of second thoughts about the man they championed for the White House the previous year. As Mark Steyn wrote in response:

This is the point: The nuancey boys were wrong on Obama, and the knuckledragging morons were right. There is no post-partisan centrist “grappling” with the economy, only a transformative radical willing to make Americans poorer in the cause of massive government expansion. At some point, The Economist, Messrs Brooks, Buckley & Co are going to have to acknowledge this. If they’re planning on spending the rest of his term tutting that his management style is obstructing the effective implementation of his centrist agenda, it’s going to be a long four years.

And how about this?

In an accomplished press conference this week, Mr Obama reminded the world what an impressive politician he can be. He has a capacity to inspire that is unmatched abroad or at home.

Oh, dear. That’s so January 20th it makes these toffee-nosed Brits sound like straw-sucking hayseeds.

It has been a long four years, but the rubes at the Economist finally figure it out:

Incumbents tend to win presidential elections, but second-term presidents tend to be disappointing. Mr Obama’s first-term record suggests that, if re-elected, he could be the lamest of ducks. That’s why he needs a good answer to the big question: just what would you do with another four years?

The answer is, more of the same. As always when the left fails, it can never be their ideology, merely that it was sold incorrectly to the bitter clingers, to use Mr. Obama’s nuanced description of his fellow Democrats in Pennsylvania, those with “low-sloping foreheads,” which is how the New York Times sees its potential customers in the midwest, who are “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command,” which is how the Washington Post views those who are beyond their chief demographic. Which is why CBS Tampa reported on Thursday, “Obama: I Didn’t Do Good Enough Job Selling Americans On Stimulus Plan:”

In an interview with Time magazine, Obama says he expects Republicans in Congress to work more cooperatively in a second term, since his re-election would no longer be a factor.

“My expectation is that there will be some popping of the blister after this election, because it will have been such a stark choice,” Obama said.

The president says he also wants to do a better job of explaining to the public how his policies will help the economy grow. Obama claims he didn’t do a good enough job selling Americans on the stimulus plan and the auto company bailout because he was so focused on acting to fix the economy.

By the way, the “popping the blister” phrase is a curious one, considering that Calvin Coolidge’s son died from just that in 1924, four years before penicillin was invented. But then, at this point, no expects Mr. Obama to know much about the lives of the men who preceded him in the Oval Office.

Or about life in the real world: “On the same day the administration releases rules mandating a near-doubling of fuel economy standards, GM announces it is suspending production of its plug-in hybrid Volt amid disappointing sales,” Investor’s Business Daily reports, which neatly sums up the dichotomy of this administration.

And yet, as Pejman Yousefzadeh writes, using a golfing analogy that MSNBC would no doubt find racist, Mr. Obama wants a mulligan from the same American people he despises. Pejman quotes a Wall Street Journal article that notes:

The president views a second term in some ways as a second chance, an opportunity to approach the office differently, according to close aides. He would like to tackle issues such as climate change, immigration, education and filibuster reform.

The tell in the above article is the phrase, “a second chance,” Pejman writes:

[T]he Romney campaign needs to make clear to voters that a second term is not supposed to be a second chance. It’s supposed to be a reward for a job well done in the first term, along with a validation of an agenda for a second term. If the president is asking for a second chance, he is implicitly admitting that he squandered the first one.

And given that admission, he shouldn’t be re-hired for another four years. Rather, he should be sent home.

If not, why would the American people expect anything different? In his last year in office, President Carter and the Democrats in Congress grudgingly tried a few free market reforms, but it was too little, too late. After spending his first two years governing much like Mr. Obama, President Clinton saw his party get shellacked in Congressional elections; following the advice of Dick Morris, Clinton then tacked rightward, where he could largely govern as the moderate he originally ran as, and held onto office in 1996. But both of these men had more or less successfully governed in the same rural states that Northeast Corridor establishment liberal elites loathed, and knew how to bend with their times. Or as Steve Green once memorably quipped, Clinton was in office largely for the chicks and the stardom, Al Gore was the True Believer in liberalism — or whatever liberalism had metastasized into, in the Goracle’s fevered brain.

Obama is a True Believer in his own radical form of liberalism. It isn’t so much a question of why would he do anything different, but that he can’t. A passage in Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus To Our House, on how limited the vocabulary of “progressive” architecture had become only a few decades after its birth also neatly sums up the “progressive” limitations of Mr. Obama’s worldview:

As for the compound taboos concerning what was bourgeois and nonbourgeois, these soon became the very central nervous system of architecture students in the universities, as if they had been encoded in their genes. There was a bizarre story in the press at the time about a drunk who had put a gun to the head of an upland Tennessee footwashing Baptist and ordered him to utter a vile imprecation regarding Jesus Christ. The victim was in no mood to be a martyr; in fact, he desperately wished to save his own hide. But he was a true believer, and he could not make the words pass his lips, try as he might, and his brains were blown out. So it was with the new generation of architects by the late 1940s. There was no circumstance under which a client could have prevailed upon them to incorporate hipped roofs or Italianate cornices or broken pediments or fluted columns or eyebrow lintels or any of the rest of the bourgeois baggage into their designs. Try as they might, they could not make the drafting pencil describe such forms.

Try as he might, Mr. Obama can’t bring himself to do anything that might admit that his policies upon taking office were wrong — despite the fact that he has the most pliant media in the history of mass communications, who would happily declare in a second that Oceania has never been at war with East Asia — or promised to bankrupt its coal industry.

To put it another way:

Best of the Web posts a 2004 interview with Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times in which Obama defines sin, not along traditional Christian or Muslim lines, but along self-referential lines:

Falsani: Do you believe in sin?

Obama: Yes.

Falsani: What is sin?

Obama: Being out of alignment with my values.

With the left having reached this level of epistemic closure (to coin a phrase), they might be wise to take Michael Ledeen’s advice this weekend:

If you’re one of those leftists, unable to sort out how the world works nowadays and unable to win an honest debate with your political and intellectual opponents, it makes you very angry, and you lash out at them with a violence that often surprises observers who are less engaged in the political or intellectual wars.  The left has died as an intellectual force worth taking seriously.  Its mission belongs to another time.   It is reduced to fighting for political power alone, and its weapons are what we recently called “the politics of personal destruction.”  It’s the only way they can hope to win.  None of us should be surprised when the leftists accuse the righties of pushing old women off of cliffs, or murdering cancer-afflicted employees, or waging war on women, and so forth.  They have to destroy their opponents one by one. They no longer have a “movement” of any significance.

That’s what happens when you become an anachronism.  For me, the greatest line of the week was Ryan’s, the one about the fading Obama poster on the wall of an unemployed young American.

Once upon a time, the left was able to lay claim to intellectual and moral superiority, and to look at the conservatives with imperious disdain.  No more.  Their heroes are fading to the point where a cultural icon, from Hollywood of all places, sees that the seat of authority is entirely empty, and that it’s time to just let its nominal occupant go.  Away.

The chair is empty, the poster is fading, the ideology has been tried and proven exhausted. Barack…let it go:


Related: “The Fed is out of bullets. The only thing that can stimulate this economy is a change in fiscal policy.”