‘The way I think about it,” Barack Obama told a TV station in Orlando, “is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft.”
He has a point. This is a great, great country that got so soft that 53 percent of electors voted for a ludicrously unqualified chief executive who would be regarded as a joke candidate in any serious nation. One should not begrudge a man who seizes his opportunity. But one should certainly hold in contempt those who allow him to seize it on the basis of such flaccid generalities as “hope” and “change”: That’s more than “a little” soft. “He’s probably the smartest guy ever to become president,” declared presidential historian Michael Beschloss the day after the 2008 election. But you don’t have to be that smart to put one over on all the smart guys. “I’m a sap, a specific kind of sap. I’m an Obama Sap,” admits David Brooks, the softest touch at the New York Times. Tina Brown, editor of Newsweek, now says of the president: “He wasn’t ready, it turns out, really.”
If you’re a tenured columnist at the New York Times, you can just about afford the consequences of your sappiness. But out there among the hundreds of thousands of your readers who didn’t know you were a sap until you told them three years later, soft choices have hard consequences. If you’re one of Obama’s core constituencies, the ones who looked so photogenic at all the hopeychangey rallies, things are really hard: “Young Becoming ‘Lost Generation’ Amid Recession” (CBS News). Tough luck, rubes. You got a bumper sticker; he got to make things worse.
But don’t worry, it’s not much better at the other end of the spectrum: “Obama’s Wall Street Donors Look Elsewhere” (UPI). Gee, aren’t you the fellows who, when you buy a company, do something called “due diligence”? But you sunk everything into stock in Obamania Inc. on the basis of his “perfectly creased pant leg” or whatever David Brooks was drooling about that day? You handed a multi-trillion-dollar economy to a community organizer and you’re surprised that it led to more taxes, more bureaucracy, more regulation, more barnacles on an already rusting hulk?
Hard statism is usually murmured in soft, soothing, beguiling terms: Regulation is about cleaner air, healthier restaurants, safer children’s toys. Sounds so nice. But federal regulation alone sucks up 10 percent of GDP. That’s to say, Americans take the equivalent of the Canadian economy and toss it down the toilet just in complying with federal paperwork. Obama and the great toxic alphabet soup of federal regulation — EPA, OSHA, SEC, DHSS — want to take that 10 percent and crank it up to 12, 14, 15 percent.
Who could have foreseen that? The most dismal thing about that David Brooks column conceding that “yes, I’m a sap . . . remember, I’m a sap . . . as you know, I’m a sap” was the headline his New York Times editors chose to append to it: “Obama Rejects Obamaism.”
In other words, even in a column remorselessly cataloguing how one of its smartest smart guys had been repeatedly suckered by Obama on jobs, on Medicare, on deficits, on tax reform, etc., the New York Times chose to insist that there is still something called “Obamaism” — prudent, centrist, responsible — that for some perverse reason the man for whom this political philosophy is named insists on betraying, 24/7, week in, month out, spring, summer, autumn, tax season. You can set your clock by Obama’s rejection of “Obamaism.”
That’s because there’s no such thing. There never was. “Obamaism” was the Emperor’s new centrism: To a fool such as your average talk-radio host, His Majesty appears to be a man of minimal accomplishments other than self-promotion marinated in a radical faculty-lounge view of the world and the role of government. But, to a wise man such as your average presidential historian or New York Times columnist, he is the smartest guy ever to become president.