Le charme Obama est rompu. Fouad Ajami
La boucle est à présent bouclée: du candidat Obama aux accents idéalistes et centristes, au Président Obama à la Carter-McGovern et à nouveau à l’aspirant 3e voie à la Clinton. La seule constante – aucune véritble identité, aucune ferme croyance, aucune conviction centrale pour convaincre que sa vision de gauche est la bonne pour le pays. Vous voyez, M. Obama n’avait jamais eu à le faire auparavant: le dogme de gauche avait toujours été une religion d’état dans les cercles où Obama a propspéré et une fois que le rossignol Obama a commencé sa chanson, peu des hypnotisés se sont inquiétés du message inepte qui a suivi. Victor Davis Hanson
Bush n’était pas le problème. Obama n’est pas la solution : un an après l’arrivée à la Maison Blanche d’un président démocrate, le désenchantement est réciproque de part et d’autre de l’Atlantique. Les alliés découvrent – si tant est qu’ils l’ignoraient – que les malentendus vont au-delà des personnes. (…) Après avoir dénoncé l’impérialisme de M. Bush, les Européens reprochent à M. Obama son impuissance. Le Monde
Et, toujours aussi courtois avec ses alliés, vient d’annuler sa venue au prochain sommet UE-Etats-Unis de la fin mai …
Retour, avec le commentateur américain Victor Davis Hanson, sur quelques unes des raisons de cette incapacité à tenir une promesse et cette chute.
Comme le manque total de convictions et d’identité personnelle d’un homme dont, à défaut d’un véritable bilan, d’actes réels ou de réalisations concrètes, le soi-disant charme, origine raciale ou discours avaient jusque là tenu lieu de sésame.
L’incarnation vivante du refus postmoderne de toute vérité ou réalité en faveur d’un relativisme et d’une équivalence morale systématiques.
La croyance néo-socialiste en la justification des moyens par la fin par une sorte de philosophe-roi paternaliste sachant seul et mieux que tous ce dont le peuple a vraiment besoin.
Enfin, le narcissisme du prophète ou du messie convaincu, au besoin contre les faits et la réalité, de la justesse de sa propre vision.
Sauf que cette fois-ci, le charme, comme le rappelle Fouad Ajami, semble définitivement rompu …
As Predictable as Clockwork — the Obama Three-step
Victor Davis Hanson
January 31, 2010
I think we could see what was coming. This presidency has about as much subtlety in plot as a grade-B western, soap opera, or teenage tantrum.
A lackluster McCain candidacy, the September 2008 meltdown, weariness with eight years of Bush incumbency, conservative anger over spending, liberal furor over Iraq, a toady media, and Republican congressional corruption all led to a 50/50 electorate that was open to being mesmerized by Obama’s rhetoric and the dream of the nation’s first African-American president.
With congressional majorities, a compliant press, soaring public support, a soon-to-be President Obama was convinced, as he had been convinced by his success in the Ivy League, in Chicago, and in the Senate (surely praise in Cambridge means those in Toledo would be similarly wowed), that he had a left-wing mandate and he could hope and change his way to almost anything he wanted — thin record, self-contradictions, constant inconsistencies, and general confusion be damned.
The hard left was salivating that at last they had an effective delivery system that could usher in a long awaited European socialism. So what followed was predictable: In his hubris, Obama cast off the campaign mask of moderation. Thick and fast came proposals for state-run healthcare, government take-overs, talk of nationalizing the student loan program, bailouts, mega deficits, more borrowing as stimulus, multicultural mea culpas abroad, loony symbolic appointments, and promiscuous talk of higher income, payroll, inheritance, and healthcare taxes, but only on “them.”
In other words, we saw in a trendy, new cool form, the age-old attempt to institutionalize an equality of result, as freedom and liberty give way to mandated egalitarianism and fraternity.
But wait — two thorny problems arose.
(1) The country not quite yet is left-wing, but voted for Obama for the perfect-storm reasons outlined above. Anyone who had read the history of America could see that it was always a different sort of place than France, Germany, or Sweden — at least for a while longer.
(2) So to ram down a left-wing agenda, the thespian Obama would have to continue his role as the bipartisan healer, centrist, reformer, purple-state uniter, transracial unifier, etc. But, alas, instead old habits die hard; and the public soon began here and there to get glimpses of the old reality behind the new mask.
The wages of years with Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers, the easy path through the Ivy League, the Axelrod at our throat politics, and the snow job that had wowed deans, philanthropists, and tony suburbanites all reappeared. How could they not? Still, if one is going to hypnotize the electorate to sleep-walk them into Belgium, then one cannot in Pavlovian fashion revert back to hard-left idolatry.
So even as Barack Obama sought to convince the farmer, plumber, and insurance agent to accept state healthcare, a landscape of windmills, and an E.U.-foreign policy, he slipped back into his old self. Thus we got the nut Van Jones and his racist, truther bombast. Anita Dunn praised Mao. Commissars at the NEA boasted of the new Caesar.
Stimuli were in part apportioned on red state/blue state agendas.
The Skip Gates incident prompted the president to trash the police first, and get the facts second. Creditors were politically rescheduled for bailed-out businesses. The president thoughtlessly weighed in on everything from the Special Olympics and the tea party movement to Fox News and America’s purported sins.
Suddenly we were no longer exceptional, but the Muslim world in fact had jump-started the Renaissance and Enlightenment. The old bad guys — Ahmadinejad, Assad, Castro, Chavez, and Putin — earned new kind talk; the prior president was reduced to contemporary satanic status. Readers, you can cite far more footnotes to these now run-of-the-mill absurdities.
So after a mere year, Obama has crashed and plummeted lower than any first year administration in polling history. His “let me be perfectly clear” and “make no mistake about it” are the equivalent now of the serial teenage filler “Ya know.”
Deadlines mean only more deadlines: “Please stop that Iranian nuclear program — or else I will set another deadline!”; “Pass healthcare before the summer recess; no, before Thanksgiving; no, before the Christmas holidays; no, before the first of the year!”; “We will air healthcare debates on C-span; and we will air them; and we will air them; and we…”
Conservatives are in a “I told you so mood” — as the 2008 talk-radio bombast about Bill Ayers, Rev. Wright, “redistributive” spread the wealth, European socialism, etc., well, turned out not to be 2009 bombast at all.
Moderates and independents sigh, “I can’t believe this is happening to me; he seemed just like Clinton with all that balanced budget talk, balanced energy policy, and mainstream help-the-little-guy talk. What happened to the Barack we trusted?” David Brooks, Peggy Noonan and Christopher Buckley no longer talk of the knowledge of the great books, of a first class mind and temperament, and a detached calm and sense of competence.
Liberals wonder, “Why is the coolest guy around suddenly flubbing every opportunity to get our agenda passed?” The hard-left laments, “This guy is a triangulator who gave us a nibble, then pulled away the bone.”
His supporters counter, “See, he is a pragmatist and centrist who alienates the extremes.” No, no, no — he alienates them, but now the middle as well. What keeps his approval ratings in the forties is only the idea that the American people cannot quite yet accept a failed presidency after a mere 12 months — one that they had invested such hopes in after the poll crashing of Bush’s final two years.
The finger-pointing and blame-gaming begin since no one can properly address the real and only problem: Barack Obama has had no previous identity or independent ideology. By osmosis (rather than by careful study or life-long experience) he absorbed the trendy left-wing cant that variously manifested itself wherever he traveled, from the Occidental lounge dorm to the Ivy League salon groupthink to Chicago organizing to Rev. Wright’s pulpit to the liberal caucuses of the U.S. Senate. For a while, it was all as easy as sonorously thundering “hope and change.” He never before had to articulate his leftism in any real detail, defend it, debate it, or analyze it.
But now as his polls dip, we hear instead gripes over tactics, not the essence of the problem — the absence of an identity confidently and honestly expressed. So we get nonsense: “He’s too detached and cool: we need a fighting Bob Lafollette!” “He outsourced his agenda to the polarizing, corrupt and inept Reid/Pelosi wing.” “He surrounded himself with one too many shady Chicago pols.” “He took on too much all at once.” “Who thought up the idea that healthcare and cap and trade ranked above the recession in the public mind?”
What’s next? We can predict it in our sleep. He will continue the “let me be perfectly clear,” “fat-cat banker” talk to his base, do his selected-audience hope and change rants while trying to do a move-to-the-center light. Oh yes, a commission to balance the budget — sorta. Tough talk abroad — kinda. Healthcare reform we can all agree on — maybe.
In the past, every time Obama has been in a jam, two things followed. He first throws under the bus perceived liabilities (yesterday’s Rev. Wright and grandmother will be this year’s Rahm Emanuel, Timothy Geithner and Janet Napolitano).
Second, he adopts the no more red state/blue state, “bipartisan,” “there is only one America” rhetoric. Yes, soon we will indeed hear abroad of American exceptionalism, and a thing called “the war on terror,” and, at home, deficits that must be paid back and “working across the aisle.”
I doubt we get genuine effort at balancing the budget, keeping businesses competitive, cutting waste, restoring American alliances, securing borders, centrist appointments, real bipartisanship, or a simplified tax system.
Instead, we’ve come full circle from the idealistic-sounding, centrist candidate Obama, to the Carter-McGovern President Obama, back to the wannabe Clinton triangulator. The only constant — no real identity, no firm belief, no core convictions from which to make the argument that his left-wing vision is good for the country. You see, Mr. Obama never had to: left-wing dogma was always a state religion in the circles Obama thrived, and once Obama the nightingale started in his song, few of the hypnotized worried about the inane message that followed.
Being president is all so, so unfair!
Victor Davis Hanson
January 30, 2010
All politicians fudge on their promises. But this president manages to transcend the normal political exaggeration and dissimulation. Whereas past executives shaded the truth, Barack Obama trumps that: on almost every key issue, what Obama says he will do, and what he says is true, is a clear guide to what he will not do, and what is not true. It is as if “truth” is a mere problem of lesser mortals.
1. Obama now rails against a pernicious Washington and its insiders: ergo, Obama controls Washington through both houses of Congress and the White House, and wants to expand Washington’s control over the auto industry, health care, energy, student loans, transportation, etc.
2. Obama bashes the Supreme Court on weakening public efforts to curb campaign contributions. Therefore, we know Obama has done more than any other president in destroying public campaign financing by being the first presidential candidate in a general election to refuse public funds — in confidence that he could raise a record $1 billion, much of it from big moneyed interests on Wall Street.
3. Obama calls for a freeze on government spending and deplores deficits. Hence, we know that the possible $15 billion savings in some discretionary spending will not affect the Obama record budget deficits that will continue to grow well over an annual $1.5 trillion a year — as Obama piles up the greatest budgetary shortfalls in any four-year presidential term in history.
4. The president calls for the Guantanamo Bay detention center to be closed within a year of his inauguration, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of 9/11, to be tried in New York. Accordingly, we know that Guantanamo won’t be closed within a year and KSM won’t be tried in New York.
5. Obama issues four serial deadlines in autumn 2009 for Iran to comply with non-proliferation accords. Presto — we know that Iran will get the bomb unimpeded by U.S. opinion.
6. Obama promised an end to earmarks and lobbyists in government — of course, we assume, then, that lobbyists will be ubiquitous among his presidential appointments, and there will be thousands of earmarks.
7. Obama announces that he will end the war in Iraq by removing all combat brigades by August 2010. As a result, we understand that George Bush long ago signed an agreement with the Iraqis for a joint agreement on removing U.S. combat forces by August 2010.
8. Obama laments that his fall in popularity resulted from a failure to communicate directly with the American people. We conclude as a result that Obama has given more interviews, radio and TV appearances, and stump speeches than any first-year president in history.
9. Obama reiterates that “this is not about me.” That reflects the fact that he has employed the first-person pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my” more than any prior president.
10. Obama assures on eight occasions he will televise all healthcare deliberations on C-SPAN. This is clear proof that nothing will be televised as debate occurs behind closed doors, punctuated by votes purchased through $300 million bribes and state exemptions from federal statutes.
11. Obama promises to be a tax-cutter. So we know that vast new taxes will come through revised income tax rates, caps lifted off payroll taxes, Cadillac healthcare charges, and a variety of surcharges.
12. Obama warned that if another stimulus were not passed, unemployment would reach double-digits; hence, we were assured that the jobless rate would reach 10%.
13. Obama calls for bipartisanship and an end to finger-pointing. Of course, then, he will begin and end nearly every speech with attacks on George Bush and the prior administration.
I could continue ad nauseam, but you get the picture. So why does Obama serially tell untruths, mislead, and do the opposite of what he promises?
Here are four brief reasons. They are complementary, rather than mutually exclusive.
1) He does this because he can. Obama, from college at Occidental to Chicago organizing, has never been called to account. He was always assured that his charm, his ancestry, or his rhetoric alone mattered, while his record, actions, and accomplishments were mere footnotes. He channels our hopes and dreams and need not traffic in reality. We, the people, like the media, have tingly legs and believe the president is “some god,” and therefore need not question the charismatic face on the screen.
2) Obama is a reflection of an era of liberal academic postmodernism. There are no absolute facts; truth is only an illusion in the eye of the beholder. Reality instead is relative, and predicated on the basis of power. Ergo, what others say is true is simply a reflection of their race/class/gender/religion/cultural privileges. Speaking “truth” to power means simply opposing those who, you deem, have more advantages than you and yours.
3) Obama is a neo-socialist who believes the ends of social justice justify most means necessary to achieve them. As a philosopher-king who knows what is best for ignorant lesser folk, who can’t possibly appreciate all the ways in which he works and suffers on our behalf (Cf. Michelle’s “deigns to run”), Obama reluctantly must employ Platonic “noble lies” to achieve the common good: OK, we don’t understand ObamaCare and therefore fear it and the way it is packaged and sold; but once it is forced down our throat, we will come to love — what is good for us.
4) Obama is a narcissist, who believes that his reality is our reality, that his rules are our rules. If the king, the autocrat, the heart-throb, the prophet, or the messiah says something is true, then facts and reality adjust accordingly. Facts and corrections are boring. And if confronted with contrary evidence, the self-infatuated simply smiles with the assurance that the problem is others’, not his.
And it is, sort of.
The Obama Spell Is Broken
Unlike this president, John Kennedy was an ironist who never fell for his own mystique.
The Wall Street Journal
February 2, 2010
The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history. That moment began in the fall of 2008, with the great financial panic, and gave rise to the Barack Obama phenomenon.
The nation’s faith in institutions and time-honored ways had cracked. In a little-known senator from Illinois millions of Americans came to see a savior who would deliver the nation out of its troubles. Gone was the empiricism in political life that had marked the American temper in politics. A charismatic leader had risen in a manner akin to the way politics plays out in distressed and Third World societies.
There is nothing surprising about where Mr. Obama finds himself today. He had been made by charisma, and political magic, and has been felled by it. If his rise had been spectacular, so, too, has been his fall. The speed with which some of his devotees have turned on him—and their unwillingness to own up to what their infatuation had wrought—is nothing short of astounding. But this is the bargain Mr. Obama had made with political fortune.
He was a blank slate, and devotees projected onto him what they wanted or wished. In the manner of political redeemers who have marked—and wrecked—the politics of the Arab world and Latin America, Mr. Obama left the crowd to its most precious and volatile asset—its imagination. There was no internal coherence to the coalition that swept him to power. There was cultural « cool » and racial absolution for the white professional classes who were the first to embrace him. There was understandable racial pride on the part of the African-American community that came around to his banners after it ditched the Clinton dynasty.
The white working class had been slow to be convinced. The technocracy and elitism of Mr. Obama’s campaign—indeed of his whole persona—troubled that big constituency, much more, I believe, than did his race and name. The promise of economic help, of an interventionist state that would salvage ailing industries and provide a safety net for the working poor, reconciled these voters to a candidate they viewed with a healthy measure of suspicion. He had been caught denigrating them as people « clinging to their guns and religion, » but they had forgiven him.
Mr. Obama himself authored the tale of his own political crisis. He had won an election, but he took it as a plebiscite granting him a writ to remake the basic political compact of this republic.
Mr. Obama’s self-regard, and his reading of his mandate, overwhelmed all restraint. The age-old American balance between a relatively small government and a larger role for the agencies of civil society was suddenly turned on its head. Speed was of the essence to the Obama team and its allies, the powerful barons in Congress. Better ram down sweeping social programs—a big liberal agenda before the people stirred to life again.
Progressives pressed for a draconian attack on the workings of our health care, and on the broader balance between the state and the marketplace. The economic stimulus, ObamaCare, the large deficits, the bailout package for the automobile industry—these, and so much more, were nothing short of a fundamental assault on the givens of the American social compact.
And then there was the hubris of the man at the helm: He was everywhere, and pronounced on matters large and small. This was political death by the teleprompter.
Americans don’t deify their leaders or hang on their utterances, but Mr. Obama succumbed to what the devotees said of him: He was the Awaited One. A measure of reticence could have served him. But the flight had been heady, and in the manner of Icarus, Mr. Obama flew too close to the sun.
We have had stylish presidents, none more so than JFK. But Kennedy was an ironist and never fell for his own mystique. Mr. Obama’s self-regard comes without irony—he himself now owns up to the « remoteness and detachment » of his governing style. We don’t have in this republic the technocratic model of the European states, where a bureaucratic elite disposes of public policy with scant regard for the popular will. Mr. Obama was smitten with his own specialness.
In this extraordinary tale of hubris undone, the Europeans—more even than the people in Islamic lands—can be assigned no small share of blame. They overdid the enthusiasm for the star who had risen in America.
It was the way in Paris and Berlin (not to forget Oslo of course) of rebuking all that played out in America since 9/11—the vigilance, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the sense that America’s interests and ways were threatened by a vengeful Islamism. But while the Europeans and Muslim crowds hailed him, they damned his country all the same. For his part, Mr. Obama played along, and in Ankara, Cairo, Paris and Berlin he offered penance aplenty for American ways.
But no sooner had the country recovered its poise, it drew a line for Mr. Obama. The « bluest » of states, Massachusetts, sent to Washington a senator who had behind him three decades of service in the National Guard, who proclaimed his pride in his « army values » and was unapologetic in his assertion that it was more urgent to hunt down terrorists than to provide for their legal defense.
Then the close call on Christmas Day at the hands of the Nigerian jihadist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab demonstrated that the terrorist threat had not receded. The president did his best to recover: We are at war, he suddenly proclaimed. Nor were we in need of penance abroad. Rumors of our decline had been exaggerated. The generosity of the American response to Haiti, when compared to what India and China had provided, was a stark reminder that this remains an exceptional nation that needs no apologies in distant lands.
A historical hallmark of « isms » and charismatic movements is to dig deeper when they falter—to insist that the « thing » itself, whether it be Peronism, or socialism, etc., had not been tried but that the leader had been undone by forces that hemmed him in.
It is true to this history that countless voices on the left now want Obama to be Obama. The economic stimulus, the true believers say, had not gone astray, it only needed to be larger; the popular revolt against ObamaCare would subside if and when a new system was put in place.
There had been that magical moment—the campaign of 2008—and the true believers want to return to it. But reality is merciless. The spell is broken.
Mr. Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is the author of « The Foreigner’s Gift » (Free Press, 2007).