Sunday, August 21, 2011

Obama or Liberalism?

The Light Seers Brigade is expanding. More and more liberals are seeing the light about Barack Obama.

They are not happy. They are disappointed and disillusioned.

They see the champion of their cause leading it toward ignominious defeat. In the poet’s words, he is leading liberalism: “into the valley of Death.”

Maureen Dowd did not join the Light Seers Brigade yesterday. She has long since expressed despair over Barack Obama‘s failings.

Adept at debunking Obama’s pretense, she devotes part of her column this morning to refuting the arguments he was trying out on his pre-vacation bus tour.

In her words: “President Obama bashed Congress on his bus tour. But after delegating to Congress time and again with disastrous results, he continues to play the satellite to Congress.

“He shouldn’t be driven by the Washington schedule. He should be setting it.

“At long last, he promised a clear economic plan. Unfortunately, he had the fierce urgency of next month, when Congress gets back to town.

“Americans are rattled and want action. They don’t know or care what Congress’s schedule is. They just see the president not doing anything.

“Cruising white Midwestern hamlets in his black bus, Obama tried to justify not calling lawmakers back to D.C. by saying they’d just continue to bicker. But what does he think they’ll do in September? The truth is, he doesn’t want them back in the capital any more than they want to be back. It would have screwed up his vacation and upset Michelle, who already feels trapped in the Washington bubble.”

With friends like that, you don’t need conservative critics.

Another Times columnist, Charles Blow, echoes Dowd’s sentiments. Happily for my metaphor, he sees Obama leading the nation into a valley: “Yet here Obama is, down in the valley, struggling to connect with the American people and failing, increasingly coming across as dispassionate to some and outright revolting to others.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Like Dowd, Blow quickly dispatches another of Obama’s talking points, namely his effort to blame it on the Republicans: “Of course, Republicans haven’t helped. They’re absolutely committed to, and obsessed with, his failure. But that cannot be the excuse. Great leadership isn’t shaped in the absence of opposition but in the presence of it. Great leaders draw us together by our universal humanity; they galvanize the wills of the willing; they draw clarity from the spigot of chaos.”

And yes, I see that Blow has jumbled his metaphors in his last sentence.

It’s more important to correct Blow’s assertion that great leaders appeal our “universal humanity.” First, because the phrase is empty of meaning. Second, because great American leaders appeal to our pride as Americans.

Whoever would have imagined that Barack Obama would not know how to appeal to our pride as Americans, and thus, would fail to be a galvanizing leader?

At the end of his column Blow describes Obama in terms that might have come from the keyboard of one of his detractors: “A robotic Sustainer-in-Chief with an eerie inhumanity will not satisfy.”

Describing Obama as something other than human is downright harsh.

Let’s understand that Maureen Dowd, Charles Blow, and Jeffrey Sachs (see previous post) are people Barack Obama reads and respects. I suspect that they are addressing their remarks to Obama himself.

If so, what are they trying to tell him? Perhaps they are telling him to grow a pair, as the vernacular would have it, but they do not seem to have even that much hope.

I think that they are casting a vote of no confidence in  Barack Obama. Apparently, their president has lost their confidence. The elite intellectuals who put him where he is, the philosopher-kings who elevated him to a position that far exceeded his capacity or his competence are throwing him over the side.

Unless I miss my guess-- if so, it will not be the first time-- they are also telling him that it is time to step aside.

Clearly, he does not like the job. He would rather be hanging out with the liberal swells on Martha’s Vineyard. He has demonstrated no real competence and no real leadership, so it is time to take one for the team.

Liberals are in trouble. They are suffering their own intellectual crisis. Either they are going to abandon Barack Obama or they are going to abandon their ideas. Since their philosophy requires that they worship at the altar of Ideas, Obama will have to go.

But, they cannot challenge him in the primary. They do not want him to become another Jimmy Carter. So, they are trying to see him as another Lyndon Johnson, a man who had the good grace to step aside in 1968, to refuse to run for president again.

All things considered, it’s a touchy matter. No Democrat can win an election without a strong turnout by Obama’s base.

If his base sees Obama being forced out of the presidency by a bunch of liberal intellectuals, it might become alienated from the Democratic party.

Rest assured that liberal thinkers will give up on Obama before they will give up on their cherished beliefs. Even Jeffrey Sachs, clear-headed about his judgment of Obama’s leadership, still wants to apply liberal nostrums to the nation’s economic problems.

In his most recent Financial Times op-ed, Sachs offers his own policy prescriptions. He declares that the nation needs upgraded skills-- i. e., more spending on education--, more spending on infrastructure, higher taxes on the rich, low-carbon energy, and no more wars.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s the liberal platform. It was the Obama campaign platform.

So now, liberal elites blame Obama for not implementing all of their agenda.

They are torn between thinking that Obama is an inept leader and recognizing that his programs did not work. In fact, his programs seem to have made things worse.

Having to choose between being wrong about Obama or being wrong about liberalism… they will happily throw Obama over the side.


GM Roper said...

Stuart, I have a hard time believing that the uber-progressives will abandon Obama, though he has not delivered on a single well turned program yet (Obamacare being a twisted wreck before it was signed into law). He owns the current economy despite his disavowals and his attempts to point to everyone else.

Alas, in keeping with the Peter Principle, he has been promoted beyond his competence.

Good post my friend.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, George. While I agree that they will probably stick with BHO, I suspect that they are wishing that maybe he would do the right thing and step aside.

Actually, I don't think he has it in him to do it... that would take more character than he possesses.