President Obama possesses a distressing detachment from both his words and actions. His cool demeanor now seems cold. His movie star nonchalance, calculated. His soaring rhetoric, the words of a pastor who has long since stopped believing them.
Yet it is not Obama who has changed. After having had time to watch him make decisions, the world now simply can see and comprehend who he is.
During the campaign, those who saw this dissonance in Barack Obama could be dismissed as partisan. His most strident critics were accused of heartless cynicism, or worse — bald racism. As if critics of the man were driven primarily by his skin color or else hated all things Democrat. Senator Obama had the misfortune of being both.
Those who disagreed did so because of their “reptilian brain,” said Janeane Garofalo.
Barack Obama seemed right. Processing his words through the frontal lobe, they sounded good. Since he wasn’t pressed or questioned, since even Bill O’Reilly seemed beguiled by Barack Obama’s verbal deftness, he rarely had to prove or defend. He was always given enough rhetorical wiggle room. He still is given that room, by the the press anyway. But something always felt wrong. It wasn’t a primal reaction to the “other,” like Olbermann and Garafalo like to claim. It was something ethereal, because Senator Obama had no concrete policies or past accomplishments besides community organizing upon which to stand. His associations aroused some suspicion, but to most they seemed trivial and the press was uninterested.
His associations seem more important these days — at least to the voters. And they’re providing concrete evidence of why some voters felt discomfort before.
The intangibles manifest now because the rhetorical rubber is meeting the policy road. President Obama still tries to have it all ways, but the constraints of legislation do not let that happen. His words matter now and his actions have consequences.
While the unemployment rate continues to rise, the president extends his indulgent Martha’s Vineyard vacation. Worse, when he returns to work, he promptly goes golfing. Forget the optics of such actions. The actions themselves are callous.
Now 9/11 is here. Who can forget it? Evidently, President Barack Obama can. It’s not just that he seems to want to diminish it with a National Day of Service — turning attention away from those lost and the new era we live in — it’s that he seems to not think the day matters all that much. It was cruel to send Air Force One through Manhattan with a military escort plane over the Statue of Liberty. The people were terrified, and this fear was wrought by their own president’s administration.
In addition, one cannot help but wonder about the timing of President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress only two days before the 9/11 anniversary. It seems to display a gross lack of perspective. The health care debate won’t be solved in one peppy speech. Congress and Americans were told to sit and listen, not unlike the nation’s schoolchildren this week, and be lectured by the professor in chief.
Some humility in the face of such a great and terrible day would be wise.
So the words ring hollow. People liked a presidential candidate that sounded smart. He turned a phrase. He made sense. Well, he made sense to this constituency and that constituency and that constituency, but taken altogether, he was contradictory and evasive.
Will there be a public option in the health care bill? As of today, yes. In the speech before Congress, the public option was defended. After being told to “man up” by the progressive left, President Obama decided to embrace soft socialism against the will of the people.
What about policy actions to date?
The effectiveness of the obscenely expensive stimulus package can be judged. Nearly seven months in, it’s an abject failure. Certain industries are decimated and the Wall Street bump appears to be nothing but a wave that will come crashing down.
And then there’s the debt. It’s oppressively huge. It is so big and incomprehensible, the weight of it hangs over every other decision the president wants to make. As people consider the new government proposals, as they themselves tighten their belts, they wonder if there is any common sense to be had. How can the government spend more when they receive less?
Then there are foreign policy fumbles. The president’s stance on Iranian citizens fighting tyranny seemed uncaring. His abandonment of the Honduran people was head-scratching. His support of the enemies of Israel, disconcerting.
Does the president care for the small businessman, the doctor, the laborer, the Israeli, the Iranian, the Honduran, the ally? The taxpayer? His words might be academic to him, but the actions they serve to catalyze produce results. So far, bad ones.
Is America some grand experiment to make over? President Obama is trying this and that idea, seeing what sticks, and adopting a curious observant stance — as if he has nothing to do with the chaos.
This detachment is worrisome. His cool, sly smile now seems to be indifference. Why? To Americans, health care is real. The taxes to pay for this mess will be real. The doctors and insurance companies and employees, the small businesses and the uninsured, the elderly and everyone else affected by this legislation are real.
President Obama’s policies contradict the people’s will, yet he seems disaffected by those outside his circle of influence — union bosses, crazy green czars, old-time cronies. The American people are disenfranchised from their own government.
The president talks or he golfs, but none of his words or actions convey sincerity or principle. Mostly, they convey disinterest, as if the actual act of governing seems to be too much trouble and a whole lot more difficult than he imagined. Is it apathy? Is it cynicism? Is he overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the problems and checking out? Hard to tell, but his attitude doesn’t inspire hope — far from it. Mostly, he inspires anxiety.
If his manner continues, the next three-and-a-half years will be unstable. The president’s leadership does much to determine the mood. People may have hated President Bush, but they knew where he stood and what actions he’d take. People could choose their next action based on his character.
But President Obama vacillates. He seems unconcerned about circumstances outside his experience. He seems not here. He seems out there and everywhere.