Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bush's Third Term?

Weekend meme: Obama #1 is Bush #3.

It's a tempting thought as we watch our President morph into the Rodney King of American politics--savagely beaten around the head and shoulders, only to emerge with a plaintive "can't we all get along?" People said he'd come to hate it soon enough: the Presidency as long-term confinement.

There's certainly a degree to which he's brought it all on himself. He never quite warned us (though we might have noticed, if we'd had our eyes open) that he was a compulsive centrist at heart--we weren't really prepared for the shock. He might not have suspected himself how comfortable he would be with the experience of power once it was his hand on the lever. And he really does not seem to have mastered the knack of articulating his vision--meaning that he'll be burned in effigy at the tea-party convention, the same time he is being skinned alive by Glenn Greenwald.

In his (partial?) defense, you'd have to say also that what we are observing here also is a phenom of modern first-world politics: every modern leader takes office the prisoner of a larger agenda, and the agenda is eye-poppingly narrow. As the original proposer points out, it's not just Obama--Bill Clinton remained captive of Ronald Reagan, and Tony Blair, of Margaret Thatcher. People who do try to rewrite the script--Bush #2, Reagan--do succeed in breaking some crockery, but at the end of the day, they probably change a lot less than they wished.

So Obama's natural instincts play naturally into a larger framework which might serve to define him even if he wasn't so willing to be defined. The really successful ones (I suppose Reagan is the example again) are the ones who convince us they are bringing "change" when they're leaving no sacred cow unbloated. Still, at least once in a while you'd think he might reach for the crockery. I mean, is that too much to ask?


Toni said...

And here, I keep blaming the guys around him for the mess -- Axelrod, Emmanuel -- wondering why they can't the Prez to look better, to get people to see the things that HAVE worked in his Presidency. But, alas, the fault may just lay with the guy himself.

elrojo said...

obama inherited two wars -- one based on a bush lie -- one in a bribe seeking war lord area no foreigner has ever controlled -- a no (happy) solution possible economy devolving into serious job loss plus monster fraud, right wingers obsessed with a mixed race executive, freshman and second term congressmen haunted by the record showing how rough it is for them to get reelected, a gulf coast disaster with no real solution ... and obama is supposed to have done better than he did?

New York Crank said...

Obama walked eyes wide open into the two wars and the eonomic disaster. No pity for him there. And by being a "centerist" on offshore drilling, he ended up shooting himself in the foot once the inevitable happened — unfortunately for Obama, on his watch.

But there's a bigger issue here. Where is the center? I am a 1962 centerist. My politics have not budged a millimeter. Meanwhile, Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell's prophecy has come true: "This country is going to go so far to the right, you're not going to recognize it."

So Obama's "centerism" is actually reactivated 1960s Goldwater.

The truth is, Obama has been presented with several moments to seize, the BP disaster being only the most recent of them. Think of declaring a "National Emergency," Think of the equivalent of a Manhattan Project or a space program.

Nah, instead, he compromises with the right.

And each compromise brings the country further to the right, and further away from its true heritage.


Yours crankily,
The New York Crank