Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Gift of Obama

Here is what I wrote about Obama in the moment of his election two years ago.

This is not a moment of hope and change, or a moment that will transform the world. This is just the prelude to new disasters as more and more government programs unreformed for twenty, fifty, or—in the case of public education—over a hundred years run off the road into the ditch.

The reason is simple.

You can’t deliver on hope and change when you have a vast government apparatus eating up 35 percent of gross domestic product and your program is to increase it.

Actually, I recall that my real reason for voting for President Obama was that I felt that we needed the Dems in charge of foreign policy. They'd spent the last eight years barracking (!) President Bush about his stupidity and his cowboy attitude and his lies and his failed war in Iraq. Now they needed to take the controls and actually get in contact with reality. What did they really want to do about radical Islam? The American people and the world needed to know.

Well, now we do know. President Obama has presided over the worst two years in American government since President Carter 32 years ago. His foreign policy is a disaster and his domestic policy is a disaster. His party is going to suffer the worst mid-term defeat in our living memory.

But there is no gratitude in politics. If you want a friend in Washington, said Harry Truman, get a dog. So here we have Michael Barone reporting on Democrats turning on President Obama, the chap that gave them pretty well everything he could, given the limitations of practical politics, and then some.

The nasty truth is that the Democrats of the 2000s wanted to see a total humiliation of Bush's America.

They hoped to see an abject and abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within weeks of the Obama inauguration. They hoped to see a beginning of withdrawal from Afghanistan not in July 2011 but in the early months of 2009. They hoped to see the detention facility at Guantanamo closed and shuttered and the detainees tried in civilian courts or freed to regale the media with tales of torture.

But of course, President Obama can't give them that. His job is to defend the United States and promote its power interests. So he has disappointed the Angry Left at every turn.

This was why I voted for Obama. To force the Democratic ruling elite to confront reality. So far, so good.

I realize now that I expected the Angry Left to become sadder and wiser as Obama tried and failed to give them what they want. Instead they are surly and angry, and they want to take it out on Obama.

Without saying so, Obama has found himself having to teach this lesson to the Adam Serwers of the world. They don't like hearing it. They're keeping their ears plugged up and their eyes defiantly shut. Their MyObama Web pages are inactive and their checkbooks are closed. They've tuned out of the campaign and many of them won't even vote. The president they helped elect -- and the world -- have turned out not to be what they thought.

These folks are delusional. They are too stupid to see that Obama has tried to give them everything they wanted, but the fact is that he can't. If they cannot see that then they need a long spell in the political wilderness. So Job #1 of the Obama Years is complete.

But now we face the bigger question left undone by the Bush years. It is the job of setting a new direction for America in domestic politics. And that means, sooner or later, abandoning the government-centric entitlement state and re-socializing America.

You can call it what you like: a free society, spontaneous sociability, a culture of trust. It all comes down to the same thing. Government is force; politics is power. Society is something bigger, something deeper than mere government.

We are talking about the wail of Scarlett O'Hara: Where shall I go? What shall I do? It's the eternal human questioning after the meaning of life. It grows out of the very nature of humans as social animals seeking meaning in a world whose meaning is a mystery.

And now that liberalism has imploded, it's up to us: conservatives, moderates, recovering liberals. We are America, and this is our moment. Let us work to make sure that we deserve the heavy responsibilities that will be shortly ours.

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