America's just not that into Obama
The president believes his own bull****, but does America?

White House/Pete Souza

President Barack Obama pauses before moving to the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013.

  • Title:

    The Tyranny of Clichés
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    27.95
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    9781595230867
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‘You know, I actually believe my own bull****.”

That’s what President Obama once told a reporter. If the man ever uttered a statement that spoke more to his approach to politics, I haven’t heard it.

Whether it stems from a grandiose overconfidence in his own powers of persuasion, or the lessons he took from his years as a community organizer, or his own messianic conviction that he is on the right side of everything, including history itself, the president has always operated under the theory that he can move the American people to his causes. And he can’t. He just can’t.

Yes, he got elected and reelected, and that’s saying something. But whatever personal popularity the man has doesn’t transfer to domestic policy.

It’s as if the American people are saying, “Mr. President, we’re just not that into you.”

“What about health-care reform!?” his fans invariably respond.

Well, what about it? Sure, it passed. But the Affordable Care Act didn’t become law because Obama ignited a populist prairie fire in favor of it. He dedicated vast, vast swaths of his time and energy trying to sell the American people on Obamacare. He never made the sale (and still hasn’t). The misbegotten law’s passage is attributable entirely to the fact that Democrats rammed it through Congress — with a 60-vote majority in the Senate — using the sorts of backroom deals and corporate giveaways the American people despise.

Ironically, the only populist mass movement on domestic-policy issues Obama can claim credit for creating is the Tea Party, which I think we can all agree isn’t what he had in mind.

Indeed, if Obamacare had been popular, the Democrats wouldn’t have been dealt a “shellacking” — Obama’s word — in the 2010 midterm elections. But they were: Democrats suffered a defeat of biblical proportions, despite Obama’s relentless campaigning.

In 2012, after scoring an impressive reelection win, Obama apparently thought he solved the puzzle. He needed more organization, like he had in the election. Obviously everyone loves what he has to say, Obama reasoned, but he needed to translate that love into action. And so he rebranded his presidential campaign into his own personal grassroots operation, Organizing for Action. Action item No. 1? Gun control.

It’s worth remembering that when Obama took up gun control in his State of the Union address, he set the bar at shin level for himself and for Senate Democrats. He didn’t demand victory; he demanded a mere vote on the issue.

Running through a list of victims he was all too eager to politicize — “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote,” etc. — he brought the Democrats in the audience to their feet. Many in the press hailed it as one of the most moving moments of his presidency.

With the sort of willingness to politicize tragedy that is always denounced as the vilest cynicism when Republicans do anything of the sort, Obama and his paid OFA subalterns took to the streets and the airwaves waving the figurative bloody shirt of Newtown for months (with nary a peep of complaint from the same press corps that routinely denounced President Bush for politicizing 9/11).

But when it came time to clear the shin-level hurdle he set for himself and OFA, they face-planted in the ground, well short of the target.

And now the president is going to run the same play, again. “If this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters,” he said in one of several bitter promises to turn gun control into an issue to win back Congress in 2014.

As Josh Kraushaar of National Journal noted, Obama couldn’t misread the political environment heading into 2014 any worse. Why? Because the places where the Democrats need to win to take back the House — the South and mountain West — are precisely those areas where even many Democrats disagree with the president on gun control. Making it a central issue in 2014 is a boon to Republicans.

The upshot of this is that we will now endure nearly another two years of Obama haranguing us about how it’s him and “the people” against special interests and other evil forces who don’t care about murdered children. Washington will become more shrill and get even less done, all because Obama’s only play is a populist charade made possible by the fact he still believes his own bull****.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of the new book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can write to him at JonahsColumn@aol.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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About the Author

 

Jonah
Goldberg

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    A bestselling author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg's nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. He was named by the Atlantic magazine as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. In 2011 he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Prior to joining National Review, he was a founding producer for Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tyranny of Clichés (Sentinel HC, 2012) and Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2008).  At AEI, Mr. Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for American.com and the Enterprise Blog.

    Follow Jonah Goldberg on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-7165
    Email: jonah.goldberg@aei.org

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