A Sudden Realization
Ron Fournier reveals that yet another highly placed Democrat has quit on the president. He's not naming names but paraphrasing what they said. The thing that broke the camel's back for some was the Bowe Bergdahl incident. But it was not Bergdahl itself that mattered, so much as the train of events of which it was a part.
The email hit my in-box at 9:41 p.m. last Wednesday. From one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, a close adviser to the White House, the missive amounted to an electronic eye roll. "Even I have had enough."
Another Democrat had quit on President Obama.
The tipping point for this person was the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl case—not the soldier-for-Taliban swap itself as much as how the White House mishandled its obligation to communicate effectively and honestly to Congress and the public. More than that, Obama's team had failed once again to acknowledge its mistakes, preferring to cast blame and seek cover behind talking points.
On closer inspection the real reason for the low-level Democrat fever is the unease from the growing suspicion that Obama doesn't listen to them -- listen to people who fancied themselves influential in the Democratic party. One of the foundations of insider self-esteem is to imagine you are a player. If all of a sudden you find the steering wheel through which you imagined yourself exercising influence proved actually like one of those child's toys which only allow the user to pretend he's driving -- then you realize that you're not an insider after all.
The illusion of concordance may have held up at first, at the start of the Obama administration. But ever since Hope and Change left the off-ramp it seems headed off into the blue and nobody is quite sure where it's going. A terrible realization has set in among insiders. Suppose this wheel is disconnected from the steering linkage?
In the 18 months since I began writing columns focused on the presidency, virtually every post critical of Obama has originated from conversations with Democrats. Members of Congress, consultants, pollsters, lobbyists, and executives at think tanks, these Democrats are my Obama-whispers. They respect and admire Obama but believe that his presidency has been damaged by his shortcomings as a leader; his inattention to details of governing; his disengagement from the political process and from the public; his unwillingness to learn on the job; and his failure to surround himself with top-shelf advisers who are willing to challenge their boss as well as their own preconceived notions.
Whoever Obama's listening to, it's not to the people complaining to Fournier.
Although it fashionable to caricature the liberal mindset, intelligent liberals are no fools. Many of them have a record of solid achievement believed they could safely engage in income transfers, arms control, engagement with American enemies or even opening the border because they could turn off the valve if things threatened to go too far. They were comfortable with power and certain -- perhaps over certain -- of their own judgment.
The cornerstone of liberal of the liberal self image is the belief that they can sup with the devil and hold their own. They say "I'm not stupid. I know when to stop."
But that assumes the brake will work when the time comes. Now these same intelligent liberals are finding the steering wheel disconnected from the linkage. And a sinking feeling is creeping over them. Fournier describes the problem baldly. (The emphasis is mine)
I got that one from an Obama family friend. The same mistakes get made again and again, provoking a familiar chorus of friendly fire, which leads me to conclude that either Democrats aren't being honest with the president, or he isn't listening. Either way, when those closest to him are quitting on him, it's hard to maintain the audacity to hope that Obama will change.
They're a bunch of authentic geniuses on a runaway train wondering what went wrong. The blindspot that fooled them was basic. They took the terms of the train journey at face value. That made them highly vulnerable to the one man who boards the train for whom the agreement means nothing at all; the man who puts one last doll inside all the layers of Matryoshka dolls.
Back at the end of 2013 Alan Dershowitz said something pathetically obvious. "Alan Dershowitz, who has made much of his friendship and fireside chats with former Harvard Law School colleague U.S. President Barack Obama, said he now doubts his friend’s promise to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons."
Any damn fool could have said the same. What is truly amazing is why it took a smart man like Dershowitz so long to figure it out. He is a textbook example of the sort of person I described visiting a hypothetical Dinosaur Island whose preconception of the T-rex's gentle nature trumps his common sense. He stands on the beach watching destruction approach and can't quite accept the monster is going to eat him even when its mouth is agape. The T-rex was gentle because ... look it says so right here in the book.
Speaking on the sidelines of Israel’s Globes 2013 Israel Business Conference, Dershowitz said, ”Obama promised me in a personal conversation that Iran would not develop a nuclear weapon on his watch, and I believed him. Nonetheless, I am not sure that he can keep this. Therefore, Israel cannot outsource its security.”
And so the train thunders down the track. Conservatives by themselves can't put the brakes on a runaway. To accomplish this they need a coalition with elements of the left; to make common cause among intelligent liberals.
But it won't happen yet -- won't happen for a long time -- despite the evidence of their senses, because they have an almost religious attachment to the Cause. The Left is a religion. It looks away from the obvious sins of its leaders the way earlier generations of churchgoers sometimes averted their gaze from the misdeeds of their own. The Left will abandon the Left around the time the Wahabis abandon Wahabism.
It is so central to them that life without it would be meaningless. Leaving the Left is like being a man without a country. It is easier to change your passport than to change your friends. As one person put, "If I had to choose between my country and my friends, I hope to have the courage to choose my friends". The reason people on the Left can't rebel isn't because they cannot bring themselves to doubt Obama. It's because they can't bring themselves to stop going to cocktail parties.
That doesn't mean the Left can't change. It only signifies that the shift, when it comes, will be no ordinary change of mind. It will be more akin to a Pauline conversion than a matter of fact acknowledgment of a mistake. To non-ideologues being proved wrong is nothing important. You just admit to error and correct yourself. By contrast, because ideology defines the self-importance of ideologues, to confess you've been took is a humiliation beyond description.
The only thing likely to precipitate such a change is either some blasphemy by Obama against their creed or an existential danger so great that even family friends will break ranks. Any oppression of the hated right or hostile creeds by the Lightworker won't anger anyone on the left much. Only when the precipice yawns before the train will people start to jump.
In this, the highly placed but disgruntled liberals are like the Old Bolsheviks. These were people who fought alongside, befriended for decades, or who were sometimes related to the Joseph Stalin. The Old Bolsheviks were the first to see (because they were insiders) how ghastly it was turning out to be. Yet each believed that staying on the inside was best; and they were not worried because they believed their personal closeness ("fireside chats") to Stalin would protect them.
An unbelievable percentage of them finished up in the Gulag. The safest place to be in relation to a runaway train is off it. Implausible as it may sound, if history is any guide, being a red-necked, church-going, NASCAR-watching, gun-toting, Bible-thumping person is safer in the long run than being a dear old friend of the driver of the runaway train.
I expect Fournier to keep getting emails from disgruntled Obama confidantes. All I can say is: I hope they encrypted it.
Revolutions, even mild ones, eat their own. The time for liberals to to realize that is early, before the train makes the thundering turn into that long, long stretch of track -- the one that culminates in a ravine.
Recent items of interest by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.
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