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A C-SPANer in the works, or "Read my lips" for Obama

Politicians are not saints. But like saints they depend for their authority on a species of charisma. In the case of saints, it is the odor of sanctity. In the case of politicians it has something to do a reputation for integrity, or at least plain dealing. A year ago, observers were agog at the electric panoply of Obama phenomena. For susceptible souls, the man radiated charisma and character, promise and panache. Has an U.S. administration ever lost the countenance of heaven so precipitously? I cannot recall a competing instance. I do not just mean Obama's performance in the polls.


No doubt that steep declivity is something that troubles the slumbers of Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. But seen in context it is merely one symptom of more profound decay. Obama's administration is still in its springtime, but an element of rancidness is abroad. With the loss of charisma comes a loss of seriousness -- not, I hasten to note, that Obama has ceased taking himself seriously. On the contrary, he takes nothing more seriously than himself. It's just that the rest of us -- foreign leaders, news reporters, fellow politicians, the American public at large -- we have trouble taking him seriously. A curious feature of this administration is its flickering quality -- its tendency to oscillate between the appearance of blithe incompetence at one moment and power-hungry arrogance the next. The two are not unrelated, indeed the former feeds the latter. What Governor Mitch Daniels called Obama's "shock and awe statism" has shocked, has awed us. As the evidences of incompetence mount, however, not even the "Rahm-it-through" arrogance of Obama's cavalier disregard of critical campaign promises can distract an alarmed public from recoiling from this monumental assault on on its credibility. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, invoking the authority of CSPAN when talking about a government takeover of medical care. How bad could it be, people thought, if Obama is willing to have an open, televised debate in which the public was a partner, not just the recipient of diktats from above? Well, now we know, or at least are beginning to know.

That hissing noise you hear is the air going out of the Obama bubble. It will be interesting for some future historian to mark the date when his administration became posthumous, a "dead man walking." I suspect that the name "CSPAN" will enter into the calculation.