Saturday, 22 August 2009

Something Rotten in Obamaland

You know Obama is in trouble when a lefty stalwart like Paul Krugman finally says, enough! After months of reflexively promoting and defending the new US president, the Nobel laureate and NY Times columnist has thrown the gauntlet down, exhorting the erstwhile Kid Dynamite to take off the gloves, kid gloves though they be. For Mr. Krugman, it's a trust problem. Obama's need for compromise and consensus has cost him his progressive base and only whetted the appetite of his enemies on the implacable right. And the author is right as far as he goes. But as many of the posts on his article point out, it's not just a matter of trust. It's a matter of thrust. Writes Krugman: "The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it’s also a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach." The operative word here is fight. What the author doesn't see and what most of Obama's supporters never have seen is that the Kid never did have much of a punch in him. There's always been something strangely Hamletesque about the man. Is it his fatherless background? A marriage prone mother? His speeches have an almost soliloquizing air about them. He's "all abstractions," as Buchanan has noted. He comes across as someone for whom, "the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, /And enterprises of great pith and moment /With this regard their currents turn awry,/ And lose the name of action." "Present" became his signature style of casting a vote, rather than take a defining stand on the issues. I'm sure Hamlet would have approved.
Liberals always give the active man short shrift. That's why Hamlet is their favorite play. Forever extolling someone like Obama for his intelligence, his oratory and his cool, they overlook the need for some kind of animating fire underlying things. Since most lefties seem to worship ideas instead of deeds, it follows that they distrust leaders who emphasize force over theory. Most elections come down to a choice between candidates that evince either action or reflection, deed or word, fire or ice, in defining their character. Last time around McCain took a drubbing for being hot headed, while his cool opponent was portrayed as essence of suave. McCain had fight. Too much! Four years earlier, however, force was in and reflection, again, not too much, please. And in the primaries, even committee queen Clinton couldn't outdo the One when it came to emotional control, try as she might. Now the question starts to emerge: is there any emotion there to control? Hillary got another faceful last week when they began asking, "Still angry after all these years?" But Mr. Cool must be scratching that clever little cranium of his and wondering of late where he, too, might get hold of some of that exotic political elixir called anger. Not, he may be sure, out of a book. Much less off a policy statement. And never from a committee.
Nations on the rise or seeking to consolidate their empires will always favor forceful leaders. Those undergoing contraction will tend toward the reflective type, the better to rationalize their loss of heat and hegemony. Not for nothing have the Americans reversed the usual coloration of politics so that conservatives garnered the flaming red state designation while their opposites were assigned the passive and contemplative blue. Not for nothing have the former controlled the White House for the vast majority of the time since the last World War. And not for nothing does Obama now sit in that same White House contriving ways to control the climate, dispose of the sick, and get his mojo back.

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