Skip to comments.Obama’s Path Not Taken. What Might Have Happened [Victor Davis Hanson]
Posted on 07/24/2009 5:45:38 AM PDT by Tolik
What Might Have Happened
Remember Obamas initial signature speech (e.g., there is not a liberal America and a conservative America there is the United States of America), and all the subsequent conciliatory talk of no blue state, no red state America? Obama won, of course, because he captivated the tiny, but influential left, registered vast numbers of new minority voters, raised a billion dollars, and reconstituted the liberal base. But the key margin that got him from 45 to 53% were the independents and old Reagan Democrats. And what put them on board was not just their weariness with George Bush, but rather their flawed hunch that Obama was another Clinton rather than Carter, a realist and centrist rather than an ossified ideologue, who could talk well, bring factions together, and govern from the center.
Had Obama just continued his charade of the campaign in which he reassured centrists on taxes, defense, energy, and spending, he would now be in a far stronger position with Congress, and not falling in the polls.
Imagine not that in his first six months Obama had acted like a conservative (he could not since he won on a liberal agenda), but simply as a more moderate Clinton-like Democrat, albeit with more humility and skepticism:
1) Financial. Barack Obama rallies the nation in January to hang tough and await the natural upswing after the bust that followed an unusual boom period of a near decade. There is no wasted stimulus. There is no $2 trillion deficit. Instead, he promises to hold spending to an annual rise of 2%, and reassures the country that balanced budgets are on the way. Markets steady on news that we wont be adding another $11 trillion to the debt, and Obama gets credit for the natural cyclical upsurge.
2) Taxes. Obama says he ran on the Clinton-era tax ratesand so must keep his word. Top rates go to 39.5%, but there is no further talk of a healthcare surcharge, much less a lifting of the FICA caps on income over $106,000. In other words, Obama is a classically liberal tax-raiser, who salivates over a 50% state and federal combined rate but not one approaching 70% in some states. The public accepts that he is a Democrat of the tax and spend sort, but is assured he is no socialist.
3) Reconciliation. After the obligatory two to three weeks of throat-clearing and liberal trashing of his predecessor, Obama by March goes quiet on Bush. To the extent he mentions him, he praises the prior President for keeping us safe for seven years, but promises to do far better on the budget. He taps into independents and moderates dissatisfaction with the previous deficits, but wins points for magnanimity by not serially evoking he did it. In other words, he is not a they raised the bar on me / he did it, not me / his mess, not mine whiner.
4) No apologies. When abroad, Obama makes few apologies. He promises to listen anew, even suggests that there is a new era in American diplomacybut eschews all the reset button jargon. He never mentions all the past tropes about Native Americans, the atomic bomb, colonialism, racism, insensitivity to Muslims, and all the other ways in which he has apologized for an apparently embarrassing Americaconvinced that unapologetic Russians, Chinese, Germans, Japanese, and others have far more to atone for than does his own country. Instead, in his first six months we hear of things like Shiloh, Guadalcanal, Midway, Inchon, Chosin, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright Brothers, and lions like Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman, in addition to his de rigueur citations of slavery, racism, sexism, class strife and all the other sins of America.
5) Go slow. Obama regrets that the financial meltdown of autumn 2008 has slowed his agenda. He will reform but not reinvent health care; he will strive for more autonomous energy sourceswind, solar, biobut also more domestic natural gas, oil, shale, coal, and nuclear to improve our independence and balance sheet. He will encourage green power, but show hesitation about cap-and-trade, until issues of cost and international compliance are solved.
6) Race. As was the case of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Obama will let his own expertise and competence speak about his race. In other words, he will evolve beyond the constant referencing of his own diversity, non-traditional profile, post-racial heritage, transracial blah, blah, blah. When he speaks to African-American audiences it will be in the same cadence and accentuation that he employs when talking to white audiences or vice versa. He will make plenty of so-called diversity appointments but not the sort who constantly self-reference themselves as Latinas or dress down the nation as cowards on matters of race. Being part African will be incidental not essential to his public persona as he lets others, not himself, make of it what they wish.
7) The Democratic House. Obama quickly sizes up Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank as, well, crazy and polarizing, and in 1994-Clinton fashion begins to triangulate. Like Truman, he talks of social justice, but always juxtaposed with references to strong national defense, American exceptionalism and the need for fiscal sobriety. Those whom Frank and Pelosi turn off dont see Obama in quite the same league.
8) Low Profile. Instead of hourly appearing on television and engaged in non-stop travel, Obama is seen only weekly, and his speeches are unique and much anticipated in part due to their very rarity. The first person plural we is used instead of Ias in the unfortunate my team, as I have ordered, let me be perfectly clear, it isnt about me, etc.
9) Truth. Obama gains a reputation for honesty and consistency. If he says he will shut down Guantanamo, we know that he shuts down Guantanamo. If 95% of Americans are told that they will see no new taxes, they will not. If he promised during the campaign to drill offshore, explore for shale and natural gas, build nuclear, then he will. Obama really will have no earmarks, lobbyists, or ethically-compromised tax cheats in his cabinet. He gets the reputation of a stubborn ethicist, rather than a charismatic Chicagoan Blagoan. When he talks of history, Obama has his facts, and is accurate, and so cites its tragedy of bad and worse choices, rather than make it up as you go, in the therapeutic fashion of if we were not perfect then we were not good.
10) Allies. Obama is immune to third-world romance and sees nothing but thuggery in the Castros, Chavezes, Ortegas, and Ahmadinejads of the world. He is to the left of Bush, but understands that a Uribe, Maliki, and Netanyahu are closer to American values than the alternatives. As a liberal, he talks of empathy with those who support democracy in Iran, Iraq, and central America, and is an advocate for human rights without ambiguity.
I say all of the above not because it is at all believable, but only because that had he taken such a path he would have continued to mesmerize the country. In contrast, most of us (but not all) realized that the above is completely ridiculous and the real story is the rush to neo-socialism either to beat the impending popular backlash or in hopes of a massive-deficit-driven inflationary upsurge that gives us a year of recovery before the tab of stagflation comes due.
In 1968 a divided country elected Nixon to bring us together in the mistaken notion that he was a Reaganesque conservative rather than a vindictive partisan. So too forty years later, mutatis mutandis, the country wanted to go a notch left, and ended up instead with a European socialist nursed in the politics of Chicagoand like Nixon, unless he changes, doomed to implode.
Doomed to implode.
I hope VDH is correct.
Short summary: If Obama had governed like a Conservative, things would have gone better.
Then again, The Messiah has spent his entire adult life seeking out those who hate what makes this country great, and want to destroy it.
To expect him to do the things listed in the article is to expect the scorpion not to sting the turtle.
“I say all of the above not because it is at all believable, but only because that had he taken such a path he would have continued to mesmerize the country.”
VDH, if you’re going to keystroke a column like this, I hope you had the appropriate music playing in the background.
1. Obama’s rhetorical moderation during his campaign was that part of his speeches that people who wanted a Democrat moderate wanted to hear. That was not all he said. He was saying many different things to many different audiences. A complete list of what he said is an exercise in contradictions. Going from the speeches alone - you can’t make a reasonable prediction of what he was going to do, because it was everything to everybody, fill in the blanks, and would be impossible to fulfill even with the best intentions. So, people were eager to make a history with the first black President. They hoped he would do what they wanted him to do based on their own projections.
A better indication would’ve been a history of his actions, as limited as they are, and the company he kept. But the media that fell in love with Obama was quite successful in portraying skepticism about Obama as cookery, did no investigations on him (or kept it secret), and was very enthusiastic in creating an image of a wiser man than he is.
2. On Clinton’s moderation and pragmatism. He wanted to do many things that Obama is doing. but his and Hilary’s overreach was checked in 2 years by Gingrich republican revolution. Only then his pragmatism took over and he embraced Dick Morris’ triangulation. I think it was a wise move on his part, even it was forced. Whether Obama has as much pragmatism in him as Clinton remains to be seen, if Republicans can take Congress in 2010, or at least greatly reduce Polosi’s power.
If Clinton had a luxury of Pelosi’s congress and 60 senators, he would not be as pragmatic as he became. I still think Clinton’s grasp of policy details is vastly superior to Obama’s.
3. For now, conservative democrats and moderates can only dream. They are not quite home with GOP and the Dem party moved very much to the Left. They have no place to call their own.
Just a partial list. Much more at the link: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index
Big-Government Medicine The Psychology of Debt and Obamas Rendezvous with Political Reality On Shearing Sheep (relentless hostility to small business) The War Against the Producers Growing Worries about Our Pied Piper What is Wisdom?Sarah Palin and Her Critics Laugh or Cry? deconstructing Maureen Dowd A Thugs Primer - How to win liberal friends and oppress your people What Do these First Six Months Mean? Where Are We Going? The New Orwellianism Reflections on the Iranian Enigma. The World Turned Upside Down Still a Boor and a Coward [Victor Davis Hanson on Letterman, Wright + Thoughts on a Creepy Culture] A Boor and a Coward [Victor Davis Hanson tears apart the creep, a.k.a David Letterman] Our Historically Challenged President. A list of distortions I No Longer Quite Believe ... [Victor Davis Hanson on Orwellian media & science, race relations] The Reckoning. Obama Versus the Way of the Universe President Palins First 100 Days. Imagine if Sarah Palin had Obamas record Confessions of a Contrarian [deconstructing Obama, the Left and more] President Obamas First 70 Days. It really does all make sense Thoughts About Depressed Americans Bush Did It. What a difference an election makes [Brilliant Parody] Our Battered American [gets angrier - Must Read Rant]
Let me know if you want in or out.
Links: FR Index of his articles: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/keyword?k=victordavishanson
His website: http://victorhanson.com/
NRO archive: http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson-archive.asp
Obama can’t help but be what he is: a rank socialist. If I were Obama and held the same leftist convictions he does, I certainly wouldn’t be trying to cram all these socialist schemes down the throat of the American public so fast. He should have taken his time. Plus he’s lied so many times that even diehards Dems can’t fail to notice. Hey, where’s that tax cut for 95% of Americans? Now with his reflexive, racial agitator statements about the police and his anti-capitalist remarks directed at doctors Americans are finally seeing the real Obama.
Thanks, for the ping.
IF ‘bama was NOT so egocentric, he could (possibly) have brought this country together, as stated.
Thank God, he showed his true colors so quickly. We will overcome this evil. I just pray we can find and recover most of the money he has hidden away or squandered.
This is in the realm of VDH's truly great insight, that of "bad and worse choices."
An Obama implosion will involve very unpleasant consequences, both domestically and internationally; the only consolation is that a non-implosion have worse consequences.
No, not really ... the summary is, if Obama tempered his goals and desires with common sense, he would be successful, even if liberal.
But of course, Obama is spectacularly unsuited to the temperance of his goals and desires. First off, he is utterly inexperienced in the art of governance; he has no idea how to work within the system in the ways that an executive must do to be effective.
Plus which, he's lazy ... seriously lazy. It is easy to speak grand words, and Obama does that all the time. It is not nearly so easy to transform those grand words into results.
And, of course, Obama is a malignant narcissist; he really seems to believe that people exist only to absorb what he says. His mere words will be enough to transform the hearts and minds of his listeners, and they will put his words into action.
It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.
Surely, Obozo was given advice much as VDH outlined above.
I’m glad he didn’t take that advice, and I hope he never does.
He and his LIEberal/Marxist/Socialist policies must fail, and fail soon in a most spectacular fashion so Real Americans can reclaim America for themselves and their progeny.
We must all work diligently to ensure that VDH’s vision of the Obozo implosion comes to pass — the sooner the better!
Obozo will go into the historical record as the worst President ever to hold the office.
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have got to be glad this guy is President.
Shorter summary: Obama blew it!
“...doomed to implode.”
I absolutely believe this. He thought his job description consisted mainly of being the spokesman for the liberal Wish List of government control for everything. Reality has begun to intrude on his fantasy world, and he will not be strong enough to handle it.