What Do the Duped Think?
In one of the meaningful transitions that used to make me daydream about the possibilities now manifested in MP3 players that can put an entire music collection on shuffle, the Eagles’ “Hotel California” followed directly upon the “We Are the Ones” Obama-adulation song. “You can check out anytime you want,” sings Don Henley, “but you can never leave.”
For an exercise in empathy, it’s interesting to ponder the effect that the Obamanation movement had on the man himself. How would you respond to fawning on such a scale? It’s a scary question, and whatever else one is inclined to say about him, Barack Obama has handled himself admirably.
That’s not to say, “perfectly.” Rich Lowry devotes some imagination to an alternative course that the president could have plotted, over the past six months:
The Obama team is fiddling with his health-care talking points. But the verbiage is beside the point. What Obama needs is a little modesty. It’s easy to imagine an alternative history of a more cautious Obama administration that wouldn’t have stoked a voter backlash in all of six months.
It would have begun with the recognition that he won office sounding like a tax-cutting moderate devoted to paying for “every dime” of his program, against a terrible candidate in the middle of a recession blamed on the incumbent Republican president. Even Howard Dean might have won in these circumstances. Obama’s victory wasn’t as transformative as it appeared. He was given an opening — to address people’s economic anxieties, detoxify the Washington debate, and occupy the center.
Although we’re seeing it, to some extent, in dropping poll numbers and thinning bumper stickers, we haven’t heard much from those folks who were sure — so confident as to disregard evidence that many of us saw as red flags — that candidate Obama would govern in precisely that fashion. What have they learned from being burned?
I’d like to think that the majority have become wiser, and some surely have. Still, the elixir that Obama peddled may have been of the alluring sort that tempts even those who were sickened by it to take another sip when the packaging changes.