Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is It Time for Liberals to Throw Obama under the Bus?

Normally, the last thing I would do on a Sunday morning is read Frank Rich. While Rich is a capable wordsmith, he is inadequate as a thinker. This drama critic turned commentator-propagandist has distinguished himself mainly for feeding the prejudices of his readers.

Not all the time, as we shall see, but most of the time.

This morning was not like other Sunday mornings. I glanced briefly at another of Maureen Dowd's embarrassing efforts to suck up to the Saudis and even more briefly at another of Tom Friedman's golly-gee columns about how Green innovation was going to solve the Great Recession.

This reading exercise was dispiriting. Twice in one week Dowd has allowed herself to be duped by Saudi theocrats. Last Wednesday she wrote a column asserting, with a few pro forma caveats, that Saudi Arabia was liberalizing while Israel was fast becoming a theocracy. Link here.

It was hard to imagine that anyone could do any worse than Tom Friedman did when he bacame all gooey-eyed over the prospect that the Saudi King was confiding a new, Friedmanesque, Middle East peace plan, but, to her eternal demerit, Dowd succeeded. Clearly, she is getting ready to retire from punditry. Or at least we can hope.

And then there was Friedman's column about Green innovation. When reading these columns, you must keep in mind that Friedman owns a Green franchise. In his latest book Friedman hopped on the environmental cause, so now, while continuing to collect royalties, he also flies around the world giving very well paid lectures on the Green Revolution.

At a time when we all need to restore the old, discarded work ethic, the notion that two innovators, ensconced in corporate laboratories, are going to have eureka moments, producing new technologies that will provide for the world's energy needs while cleaning up the environment is simply fatuous cant.

At best, these speculations, these assertions that we need merely await the arrival of innovative saviors to rescue the economy, will help Friedman clean up on the lecture circuit. Beyond that they are best ignored.

I offer that prologue to excuse the momentary desperation that led me to read Frank Rich. After Dowd and Friedman, how much worse could it get? Link here.

Of course, I was expecting yet another feeble attempt to rationalize Obama's failures, whether by blaming it all on George Bush or by passing the buck to all of Obama's underlings.

I was willing, if only for a moment, to ignore the fact that Obama's leadership style, his messianic posturing, owes a great deal to his media enablers, people like Frank Rich, who managed to convince him that he was the Savior and that when he said, Let there be health care, there would automatically be health care.

Be that as it may, I was shocked to discover that Frank Rich had simply run out of scapegoats. He could not find anyone else to blame for the failures of the Obama presidency, so he declared that the buck had just stopped at Obama's desk.

Rich said that if Obama loses the House vote on health care reform, his presidency is effectively over. More amazing than that, Rich added that it will not even be possible to blame it on Republicans.

If Frank Rich cannot blame Republicans, that is news. Not as much news as it would be if Paul Krugman said it, but news nonetheless.

This morning Rich declared that when you control both Houses of Congress and the presidency you are responsible for the fact that nothing gets done. If the nation takes it out on the Democrats, well then, Frank Rich understands. He is not going to blame Republicans or cast aspersions on the Tea Party. The fault, he said, lies with the man himself, Obama.

In other words, we are getting very close to, Throw Obama under the Bus Time. Idealists on the left, people who invested everything, from their time and energy to their journalistic integrity, in getting Obama elected, are beginning to realize that they made a mistake.

As much as they love Obama, they hate to lose, and if Obama is going to lead them to ignominious defeat and destroy liberalism for a generation, then he will have to be sacrificed to their will-to-power.

Of course, Rich still holds out the smallest glimmer of hope. If only Obama can learn to communicate a compelling narrative, then all might again be well.

Here I disagree with the recycled drama critic. The problem is not that Obama has not communicated a compelling narrative; he has more than succeeded on that score. Obama fails in articulating a policy, in going high concept, as I and even Rich have described his problem.

What is the difference between a compelling narrative and a policy? I'm glad you asked.

Obama has been articulating a narrative vision of America all along. In his America the nation is divided against itself. Obama is the master of class warfare, and class warfare, which is certainly not a principle on which you can govern, is a narrative. To those of more leftist bent it is a compelling narrative.

If you believe that politics involves turning the rich against the poor, the sick against the insurance industry, Main Street against Wall Street... then Obama's your man.

This narrative does not unite the country; it invites people to band together to fight against their neighbors.

Obama has succeeded in communicating a compelling narrative. As it happens, more and more Americans are not buying it.

If Congress passes health care reform on a strictly party-line vote, Americans will be faced with a policy that will incite division and conflict for years to come. At that point it will not much matter whether people accept the narrative. Like it or not, we will all be living it.


vanderleun said...

One of the great pleasures of reading the web on Sunday is the sure and certain knowledge that somebody has read Frank Rich so I don't have to.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Glad to be of service! I think it was just dumb luck that he managed to say some sensible things today. Beyond that, I promise not to make a bad habit of reading him.

Darrencardinal said...

You know, articles like this are better written and more compelling to read than anything in the NY Times.

The response to Rich's column is better than the column itself.

Why the papers don't look to the web for talent is beyond me.

vanderleun said...

Because they are dumb, stupid, packed full of shit and dead, dead, DEAD!

Fat Man said...

Rich wasn't the only hack in the NYT calling BO's communications skills into question today.

"Message Maven Finds Fingers Pointing at Him" By Mark Leibovich in the New York Times on March 7, 2010 at page A1:

Chris Lehane, a former top aide to Vice President Al Gore, says the administration should tell a clearer story. “They have been enormously capable in dealing with the day-to-day challenges of the government,” Mr. Lehane said. “But they don’t seem to get the credit they deserve for that because they’ve communicated no overarching big idea or philosophical framework of where they want to take the country.”


I disagree, BO has made it plain that his goal is "Socialism or Death". His problem is that the American people DO understand him.

P.S. Chris Lehane was a hit man for the Clintons. His brother Dennis is the novelist: "Mystic River" "Shutter Island"

Robert Pearson said...

To me the key passage is this:

To galvanize the nation, Obama needs to articulate a substantive belief system that’s built from his bedrock convictions. His presidency cannot be about the cool equanimity and intellectual command of his management style.

The question is, does the President have any "bedrock convictions"? I read his autobiography and came away still wondering. Is there anything he would kill, or die, for? I assume his family, but that is a commonplace. At his very heart, he doesn't believe America is exceptional beyond other nations, he doesn't believe liberty is the root of all human progress, and he doesn't believe that strength and resolve is the best protector of peace.

He seems to believe in expediency and psychology, at best. His long-term attendance at Wright's church was for the purpose of preparing to be Mayor of Chicago. His friendship with Ayers was nothing extraordinary, just another "guy in the neighborhood." This lack of a true unshakable core shows in his current job. All he has is cool, and style, and these have a very limited shelf life, while true convictions are like diamonds, forever.

Anonymous said...

But the wild thing was that the minister was Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia....

No, Maureen, you're the Wild Thing, Habibi.

Has any woman ever wanted to wear a hijab and live in the harem of a sheikh more than Maureen Dowd?

I believe she would find it 'liberating' to be swaddled in mufti by day, cosseted, and banged silly at night.

She wouldn't have to keep up this snarky feminist NYT writer thing up--it's obviously wearing on her.

Take the angry-pants and sensible shoes off a feminist and all they want to do is cuddle....