September 29, 2009

Standard Fare

I checked out the Weekly Standard site to see how much of the current stellar issue they had made available online, and was glad to see much of it there.....Andrew Ferguson's observations on Obama "relinquishing any [American] claim to indispensability" at the U.N., P.J. O'Rourke pleading guilty to all the hatreds necessarily harbored by conservatives, Fred Barnes on why the Obama team is insistent on dismantling the Medicare Advantage program relied upon by over 10 million seniors, and Stephen Hayes on Obama's Iran policy of "speak timidly and don't carry a stick".

Three remembrances of Irving Kristol are keepers too...by his son Bill, one by Joseph Epstein, and an admiring tribute by Mary Eberstadt.

And leave it to Noemie Emery, long a favorite of this blog for, among other things, her insights on presidents and presidencies, to articulate nicely the source of much of my own unease with Obama in his first nine months. Set aside the hubris, political tone-deafness, insularity and condescension. For me, it's his unwillingness (inability?) to speak with pride in, much less affection for America that is most galling. Not only does he fail to acknowledge American exceptionalism, he unambiguously abdicates the traditional role of the President of the United States as the champion of freedom and democracy in the world. What's worse, he seems to think this makes his bona fides as a sophisticate...a man of the world. Ferguson hits it in his article (linked above), and Emery says a lot in these three paragraphs...

Barack Obama is often described as an inspiring figure, in the vaunted tradition of Reagan and Kennedy, who can arouse in his hearers a sense of great purpose, and set them to dreaming great dreams. He's a fine speaker, but Reagan and Kennedy inspired by their message: the idea that the country is unique among nations, has a singular mission to promote freedom everywhere; in effect, that the country is great. On this point, Obama is dumb. He stresses the country's faults, not its virtues; goes on apology tours, where he asks the forgiveness of nations with much grimmer histories; calls his country arrogant and dismissive of others, who deserve more respect. Cities on hills, beloved of Reagan and Kennedy, are not in his lexicon, and the idea of the "last best hope" of humanity has not crossed his lips. He finds the country exceptional only in its pretense to be so, and has been at pains to let England and Israel, who gave us our values, know that they're also not much. He doesn't seem to be moved by democracy either, as shown by his indifference to those fighting for it in Iran and Honduras, and his indulgence of oppressive regimes.

A normal candidate who struck most of these notes would quickly be tossed on the ash heap of history, but this isn't your average bloke. He is in himself a historical moment, whose breakthrough election was, as was the moon landing, a great giant step for mankind. While denying American greatness, he seems to embody it: No other country had ever atoned for its sins in so stunning a manner, or come quite so far quite so fast.

The candidate at once of the left and the center, of the hot and the cool, of the race conscious and colorblind, he is the candidate too of those who deny that their country is special, and those who believe that he proves that it is. The upside of this is that it allows him to run down the country and still seem aspirational; the downside is that public tolerance for his world view has always been limited (think Jimmy Carter), and sooner or later the truth will come through. If he becomes Carter II, then the glow will fade quickly. No president who hasn't stood up for American greatness has ever been loved for too long.

Read it all, of course. She concludes that the above Obama contradictions "have misled the public, without the intent to deceive." Chief among those contradictions is the moderate temperament of the man, contrasted with the radical agenda. Many who backed him were fooled...but so was Obama, says Emery. He misread the electoral mood. The main question now seems to be whether he will double back or double down.

Posted by dan at September 29, 2009 10:29 PM