Many people, Charles Krauthammer writes, believe that Barack Obama has checked out of his presidency.
Obama excels at campaigning, so he continues to campaign. He has no idea how to be a chief executive so he avoids playing the game of governance and leadership.
I have suggested that Obama’s inexperience with the ways of the real world forced him to use an ideologically-driven fiction as a frame of reference. He sees himself as a character in the great scheme of history, a scheme that will work itself out, regardless of what he does. He can only position himself correctly and history will vindicate him.
Three weeks ago I wrote on this blog:
If you are living a fiction, you are obliged to play your role. The outcome is inevitable. If you are playing a game you can take actions that can influence the outcome.
Barack Obama believes that he is right and that everyone who does not see it his way is wrong. He does not see a need to change course, because he believes that history will vindicate him.
If history is a grand narrative whose ending is predetermined, the best Obama can do is to place himself on the right side and wait.
And I quoted Peggy Noonan to the same effect:
He thinks he is in line with the arc of history….
This morning Krauthammer picks up the same point. Rejecting the notion that Obama’s disinterest is psychologically motivated, Krauthammer suggests that Obama has tuned out of leadership because he is confident that he is on the right side of history:
Obama’s passivity stems from an idea. When Obama says Putin has placed himself on the wrong side of history in Ukraine, he actually believes it . He disdains realpolitik because he believes that, in the end, such primitive 19th-century notions as conquest are self-defeating. History sees to their defeat.
Since history is on his side, Obama does not need to intervene actively in world crises. History will vindicate him.
At what price remains unclear.
Behind this thinking lies the notion that we are all for nothing when faced with the great tide of history. This Hegelian or neo-Hegelian notion has infected many minds. It tells us that we need but get on the right side of history. It also tells us that human agency, human actions based on the exercise of free will are for nothing in the equation.
As I argued in The Last Psychoanalyst, you can see the world as a drama or as a game. If it is a drama or a fiction you are a mere character following a predetermined script. The denouement will come to pass, regardless of what you do. If life is a game, you are an agent. Your actions will be instrumental in determining what happens.