Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ajami Sees Obama Starting to grow up

Fouad Ajami continues his astute and penetrating analysis of the American Dilemma which is becoming more balanced now that adults are running the House of Representatives.
A president steeped in history would have never pushed ObamaCare on so thin a reed of public approval. In the great movement of American history, Americans haven't worshipped at the altar of charismatic leadership. They have been the most skeptical of peoples. They may have trusted several of their presidents through wars and economic downturns, but they have insisted on the wisdom of the public and on the ability of this republic of laws and institutions—and precedent—to see its way out of great dangers.

Americans have given big mandates to presidents only to send them packing when they lost the contingent mandate given by the electorate. Woodrow Wilson led the country through the Great War, only to be rebuffed, and to die later a broken man when he tried to impose the League of Nations on a country and a Senate dubious of it. Wilson was an absolutist, which doomed his cause. Of "the League fight" he would say, "Dare we reject it and break the heart of the world?" But the opponents of the League were not intimidated.

In recent times, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and Richard Nixon in 1972, won huge popular mandates only to be shunted aside when the consensus around them cracked. Ronald Reagan lost only one state in 1984—Walter Mondale's home state of Minnesota, and only because his grace decreed that he not campaign on his opponent's turf—but Reagan was forever courting House Speaker and liberal Democrat Tip O'Neill.

We have never wanted our presidents to be above the political fray. The prerogatives of an "imperial presidency" may have grown, but the expectation of political argument and disputation and compromise has deeper resonance in the American tradition.

"As a student of history"—such is the way Mr. Obama described himself in his 2009 Cairo speech—our president would have known that a command economy is alien to the American temperament, that unfettered government spending was bound to arouse the antagonism of the American people. We were not all Keynesians after all, and the American people—to liberals' wonderment—cared about budget deficits.

The brain-challenged liberals rammed through an unaffordable healthcare monstrosity at the very moment the chief concern of the country was about getting itself back on its feet. It's as if a fighter in the ring who was knocked down was being persuaded to lie on the canvas for the ten-count and throw the fight. Big government is a sham, as even Bill Clinton admitted.
....there was panic in the midst of the recession of 2008. That anxiety helped carry Mr. Obama to office; it bridged the gap between Mr. Obama and the white working class in the rust belt states. But it did not last. In their infinite wisdom, ordinary Americans caught in the grip of a terrible economic malady still cared about the direction of the country and the debt burden their children would come to carry.

Mr. Obama had demonized the Bush tax cuts. They were, in the full length of his campaign, emblematic of the politics of greed and heartlessness. But he came around. There was no need to love or embrace them: It was enough that the president came down from on high to accept the logic of things and to step aside in the face of the popular revolt against big government and higher taxes.

The era of charisma, which began when Barack Obama was swept into office by delirium and enthusiasm, has drawn to a close. With the resounding repudiation of the midterm elections, the tax legislation, the ratification of a strategic arms pact with Russia and the end of "don't ask, don't tell" thanks to the support of Republican senators, the Obama presidency has just begun.

The ADD-afflicted Democrats will whine and moan and gnash their teeth, but their POTUS is growing up before their eyes and leaving them behind. For him, it's childhood's end---for them, eternity in the playpen.

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