Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Presidential Blame Game

As he completes a year in office today, Barack Obama deserves a gift from Americans--a moratorium on savaging him for everything that has gone wrong in their lives since last January 20th.

The man almost 70 million voted into the White House with hope and enthusiasm has been put through a wringer unlike any president in memory to come out shrunken in the polls, battered by a monolithic opposition offering nothing but toxic rage, beleaguered right and left for providing too much government and not enough to resurrect the economy and keep the country safe from terrorism.

Obama-bashing is flourishing across the political spectrum with enough viral strength to wipe out a half-century dynasty in Massachusetts and, only five months after bipartisan mourning for Ted Kennedy, replace him in the Senate with his polar opposite, a plastic figure out of a Tea Party Cracker Jack box.

The pontificating about Obama's downfall is dizzying in its diversity. Andrew Sullivan observes that the Radical Right has "successfully channeled all the rage at the massive debt and recession the president inherited on Obama after just one year. If they can do that already, against the massive evidence against them, they have the power to wield populism to destroy any attempt by government to address any actual problems.

"This is a nihilist moment, built from a nihilist strategy in order to regain power."

Other sane Conservatives offer alternate explanations, with Peggy Noonan seeing "a disconnect, a detachment, a distance between the president's preoccupations and the concerns of his people."

David Brooks concedes that the President is "no ideologue" but claims that "his has become a voracious pragmatism. Driven by circumstances and self-confidence, the president has made himself the star performer in the national drama. He has been ubiquitous, appearing everywhere, trying to overhaul most sectors of national life: finance, health, energy, automobiles and transportation, housing, and education, among others."

On the left, Kevin Drum marvels at "how fast the left has turned on him. Conservatives gave Bush five or six years...But the left? It took about ten months. And the depth of the revolt against Obama has been striking too...there's a small but significant minority who are so enraged that they'd be perfectly happy to see his presidency destroyed as a kind of warning to future Democrats. It's extraordinarily self-destructive behavior--and typically liberal, unfortunately. Just ask LBJ, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton."

The saddest part of this picture is the vehemence on all sides directed at an extremely competent figure of good will who towers above the self-promoting hustlers in both parties who are blocking his best moves (i.e., reform of the financial industry) and making a mess out of his questionable decision to overhaul health care all at once instead of curbing the worst abuses incrementally.

But as Barack Obama starts his second year next week with the State of the Union, Americans of all persuasions will be doing him--and themselves--a favor by taking a deep breath and starting to think positively about our shared future instead of playing a destructive blame game that makes TV's survivor shows look tame.

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