Has Obama Fizzled?
I haven't read one of Richard Cohen's columns in a long time, but yesterday a regular reader alerted me to his latest buffoonery. Apparently Obama's "moral clarity" has disappeared:
As president  he has tried so hard to be the un-George Bush that the former president's overweening moralism — his insistence on seeing things as either black or white — has become an Obama gray. Human rights in general has been treated as if it's a Republican idea. Obama should reread his Philadelphia speech. He'll find a good man there.
Blah blah blah. Obama the famously supple and nuanced campaigner saw things in black and white? WTF? [Oops. Sorry. Cohen is talking about George W. Bush here. I misread. But the general point stands: Cohen thinks Obama has lost his "moral clarity."] But apparently this has become a trend. Here's Michelle Cottle:
As its "Arena" question to pundits this morning, Politico has "Obama's Charisma: Where Did He Leave it?"
The implication seems to be — and I feel as though I've heard a variation on this question asked not infrequently of late — that Obama was such a dazzling, inspirational, transformational campaigner that it's hard to fathom where this wonky, chilly, pathologically measured grind of a president came from.
What? Are we all suffering from short-term memory loss?....Yes, Obama has the juice to thrill the globe with his from-the-pulpit-esque speeches. (Which he still delivers when occasion calls.) But it's not as though the guy has ever been known for his overwhelming warmth or charisma in the daily ebb and flow of things. He is as he has always presented himself to us.
Liberals are mad at Obama for sending more troops to Afghanistan. The gay community thinks they've been betrayed because he hasn't instantly repealing DADT. M.J. Rosenberg is unhappy because Obama has turned out to be a "conciliator," not a fighter. Conservatives are apoplectic because the guy who billed himself as a moderate is trying to push through healthcare reform and a climate change bill.
But this is all kind of crazy. Obama said repeatedly that he planned to shift resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. He made it as clear as any candidate could that he wanted to dial down the temperature on the culture wars and avoid big social issues early in his presidency. He spent an entire primary campaign selling himself as a post-partisan reach-across-the-aisle guy in contrast to the brawling Hillary Clinton. And healthcare reform and cap-and-trade were the main pillars of his presidential campaign.
Once you get elected, real life is messy, politics intrudes, and mistakes are made. Sure. And Obama has disappointed me in a bunch of respects. But nine times out of ten, when I actually think through the ways I'm disappointed, I find that things are actually going almost exactly the way I expected them too. That disappoints me sometimes, but it's not because Obama has turned out to be a fraud or a fizzle. It's because he hasn't.