Friday, November 27, 2009

Falling Out Of Love With Obama

Sometimes it's much too easy to fall in love. I am not just thinking of love-at-first-sight, but also of those love affairs that begin when you think that your dream lover has magically appeared in the flesh.

Call it wish fulfillment, but when you are convinced that your prayers have been answered, that your dreams have come true, and that your hopes have been realized you are likely to throw yourself into the affair with uncommon haste. As the poker enthusiasts say, you quickly go all-in.

Falling out of love is much harder. Even if your lover betrays your trust, you might just hang on to love because you believe that betrayal is a test of your love.

Besides, it is not very easy to admit to friends and family that you have made a colossal error of judgment. How can you explain why you foisted that error on them, taxing their patience and good feelings?

The first sign of falling out of love is a thought: this is not the person I fell in love with. This thought is almost inevitable because if you fell in love at a single glance you did not fall in love with a person in the first place. You fell in love with your own vision become flesh.

For the record, I do accept that there are some cases where people who fall in love at first sight live happily ever after. I suspect, however, that most of those loves involve people who meet in controlled circumstances, in a club or community where people can vouch for each other's good character.

When you fall in love at first sight with someone you have met at random in a bar or on a street corner you are far less likely to arrive at the kind of happy ending you find in fables.

Now, once you have fallen out of love with someone you fell madly in love with, it is extremely difficult to fall back in love.

If falling in love means buying a story, once you find that the story was a fiction, you will find it far more difficult to blind yourself to the person's faults.

All of that to introduce Peggy Noonan's new column about President Obama. Noonan understands, as many others have before her, that America, especially in precincts on the political left and in the mainstream media, fell madly in love with Barack Obama. Link here.

Obama was their knight in shining armor, their champion, their savior, their Prince Charming who was going to save America from the devil George Bush and those wicked Republicans.

Barack Obama was charming, witty, urbane, sophisticated, eloquent, intelligent... he had all the qualities that the political left was seeking in a lover. He embodied their culture and their values, their hopes and their dreams.

And he was manifestly a winner. For liberal politicians who had, for far too long, been excluded from the corridors of powers, Obama offered a way back in. What was there not to love?

Whatever deficiencies Obama had, they ignored. Blinded by love they went all-in for Obama.

Now, as Noonan notes, the first tangible signs of disappointment and disaffection have appeared in articles by seasoned liberal commentators like Leslie Gelb and Elizabeth Drew. Links to their articles are here and here.

Gelb and Drew offer highly critical assessments of the way Obama is conducting his presidency. They are among the first on the left to declare publicly that Obama is not the man they thought he was. They are saying that Obama is in way over his head. The lack of experience that they and others ignored during the campaign is coming back to bite them.

Surely, Obama is still witty, charming, urbane, sophisticated, intelligent, and eloquent. He still fulfills the conditions of the narrative that they bought in the first place. The trouble is, as Noonan notes, that Obama is beginning to be seen as fundamentally incompetent.

It's one thing to get your hopes up when you see Prince Charming riding to the rescue of the damsel in distress. Quite another when you start thinking that the Prince was a mirage and that a mirage is not going to save the damsel or the country or the world or the earth.

Noonan adds a point that I have blogged about: Obama's failure to understand the most elementary aspects of diplomatic protocol. In her analysis Obama's bow to the Emperor of Japan, following upon his bow to the King of Saudi Arabia, is becoming an iconic image. It is beginning to stick to him, defining him and his presidency.

I would add another striking moment. During an interview with Major Garrett of Fox News, Obama declared with a straight face that we would have to get our fiscal deficits under control, lest we risk a double dip recession.

Barack Obama, budget hawk! The image was jarring because it was so completely out of character. The biggest spending president ever, a president who fought for a massive stimulus program that would save the economy, who signed a supplemental spending bill that added hundreds of billions to the deficit, who was going to work his hardest to pass a health care reform bill that would add further hundreds of billions to the deficit... this Barack Obama was worried about the debt!

To be an effective president or an effective leader you have to know who you are and what you stand for. Perhaps during a campaign you can be all things to all people, you can be Protean, a chameleon, but as president, such arrant posturing will seem false and unlovable.

[Paul Rahe offers some illuminating comments on the same Noonan essay on the Powerline blog. Link here.]

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