A President At Bay
Published on: November 6, 2010
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  • John Barker

    WRM needs to stop teaching school and write and travel full time. I wonder if there is a way his fans could make this happen.

  • Mike L

    “He selected a stimulus program large enough to frighten the country, but not large enough to assure recovery.”

    I’m curious as to why you would think a larger, debt-financed “stimulus” plan would have worked any better.

  • HappyAcres

    I’m utterly befuddled by your high estimation of the president. What earned your admiration?

  • nadine

    “Particularly overseas, I do not want this President to fail. I do not want him humiliated, frustrated, or in any way diminished–and neither should any American. ”

    Depends what he wants to do, doesn’t it? If Obama really believes that America is font of evil in the world because it’s too rich, too powerful, uses more than its “fair share” of the world’s resources — and he’s made many statements that would make you believe he thinks just that — than I absolutely do want him diminished and frustrated in his attempts to “correct” the situation by rendering America poorer and less powerful.

    “A significant chunk of the American liberal intelligentsia completely lost its head over Barack Obama. They mistook hopes and fantasies for reality. ”

    Truer words were never spoken. Not just the liberals either – moderate conservatives like Peggy Noonan and David Brooks were similarly affected. I could never understand Obama’s attraction. Can somebody tell me one memorable thing he ever said in all his speeches?

  • Mark H.

    I believe Obama’s ascendancy can best be explained by Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor. It was Kennedy’s bestowal of the Kennedy aegis of the New Camelot upon Obama at the Democratic National convention that turned the tide form a Hillary Clinton nomination to a Barack Obama nomination. It was an irrational decision from someone we had come to rely upon for mature judgment. We are all still paying the price today.

  • Richard F. Miller

    “The American economy is passing through a painful transition; there is no simple path to rising wages, rising house prices and declining budget deficits from where we now stand.”

    Mr. Mead, you are correct in part; there are no simple answers to the above–but there are answers. It is here that Mr. Obama’s true failure is clear: it was was not in misreading his mandate but in failing to understand his historical moment.

    What was that moment? To many (and thus, I speak not in hindsight) the answers were and remain clear–we must deleverage, and find the path of least political pain to do so.

    Least pain does not mean no pain. Quite the contrary, and it is here that Obama historical misread becomes so egregious. By January 20, 2009, the contours of overfunded housing markets, egged on by reckless GSE guarantees, facilitated by equally reckless Wall Street financing methods were well known. Indeed, recall that the initial theory behind TARP–remember its first (and under Obama immediately abandoned) purpose was to acquire “toxic assets,” in a reprise of remedies applied to the S&L bankruptcies of the early ’90s.

    Instead, Obama opted for debt financed stimulus spending and a dishonestly marketed (remember all the “cost savings?”) health care entitlement. In truth, we could not afford either, and by pursuing both, we have immensely added to aggregate debt.

    Consider a counterfactual. Suppose Obama had decided directly to meet the challenges of deleveraging? What might he have done?

    First, much as FDR did in his famous “Map Speech” of 1942, he might have immediately applied his considerable good will in defining for Americans the real problem–debt–and the risks it poses to our national security, current standard of living and that of future generations. Then, he might have begun to touch the supposedly untouchable Third Rails: freezing the growth of government wages and hiring at all levels, reductions in entitlement distributions, and creating a business friendly environment for the “green shoots” to become sturdier growths.

    Sound fantastic? Perhaps. He would have have been forced to abandon his left-wing base and immediately pitch the center and right on the absolute necessity of belt-tightening. Few presidents have the leadership skills or vision to undertake these things, which is one reason why our truly “great presidents” can be numbered on one hand.

    My occasional despair about achieving these goals is mitigated by remembering a few things about us and our history. Great presidents have introduced profound, wholly unimaginable changes when necessity arose. Think Lincoln and internal taxation, conscription, and handling the casualties of war. Think Roosevelt with rationing coupons, conscription, price controls and non-strike arrangements with labor.

    It is not sufficient to say that those were made necessary by war, and thus the population was more inclined to accept them. They were often enormously unpopular, and sometimes resulted in violent reactions. It was Obama’s moment to use the bully pulpit to persuade Americans that wildly excessive debt is war; that just as soldiers give the “last full measure” on battlefields, so must this generation accept the awful burdens of economic sacrifice to restore the American house to order; that in the end, it is a generational responsibility and a profound moral duty.

    That argument could have been made. Most clear-eyed people understand that eventually, that argument will have to made–we simply cannot pay back what we owe without considerable pain.

    Alas, it will be left to another woman or man to make that argument. Economic illiteracy is one of Obama’s intellectual deficits. It’s not that the president “didn’t get” the 2010 midterm results. Rather it’s that he “never got” the crisis that was well advanced by time he took the oath of office.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I have to say that the assumption that a larger stimulus would have worked where nearly a $Trillion failed is just plain wrong. The Japanese in the 90’s had 8 huge stimulus spending plans, none of which worked (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time), and now 2 decades of a deflationary depression have left them owing 200% of their GDP (they are so screwed). I suggest we not do the same insane thing.

  • Randy

    The wishes that Obama had gotten more seasoning are more true than Dr. Mead realizes. The man has arguably never faced serious political opposition in his life, rising in the ranks of the Chicago political machine and then walking easily into the Senate when his Republican opponent imploded. The Presidency is not a place to get on-the-job training.

  • Russell S.

    As usual, I agree with WRMs overall analysis. I do take issue however with one of his closing points. The sentence “This country still needs to stand behind our President when he faces the world” is problematic. The democrats clearly attempted to bring George Bush down by opposing his foreign policies and undermining him abroad through every means possible. The old phrase that party and policy disagreements should end “at the water’s edge” is now an anachronism, never to be seen again. Adopting the strategy that the democrats used against Bush – now against Obama – may seem repellent, but suggesting that republicans be bound by some sort of honor code not adhered to by the other side is too simplistic. Legitimate policy differences provide legitimate opportunity to express disagreement. The “water’s edge” is no longer a sacred boundary, and a President can no longer count on bi-partisan support (indeed, should expect opposition) for his/her foreign policy. This should not be seen as purely political opportunism, but a means of shaping, directing, and strengthening US policy when disagreements exist.

  • bear88

    I know there are Obama supporters who were caught up in the rhetoric and the symbolism of his candidacy. But as someone who voted for him in the primary and general election, my motivations were far different – and, I think, more shared by Democratic-oriented voters than is currently recognized.

    The Iraq War has been a disaster for the country. President Bush and the Republicans lied the country into a war that wasn’t in our national interest. The only beneficiary, as near as I can tell, has been Iran. But Bush had help from the neoliberals who control Democratic foreign policy, and one of those key political figures was Hillary Clinton. I voted for Obama for a simple reason. He was the only serious candidate for president who was not stupid about the Iraq War. Yes, he was only a candidate when the war vote took place, but he was still right. I believe hugely stupid and deadly policy decisions about war and peace should have consequences.

    That drove my vote then, not slogans about hope and change.

  • Will

    I agree pretty much with what “nadine” said so well in her comment. But I do begin to wonder if we can call David Brooks and Peggy Noonan “moderate conservatives.” These days Noonan, at least, doesn’t seem all THAT far from Maureen Dowd.

  • Mr Mead:

    I’ve gotten stuck staring at one of the trees in your densely packed forest…

    Neither neo-conservatism, liberal internationalism, neo-liberalism nor the Third Way worked as advertised.

    I believe that this is the first time, in the context of big-idea foreign-policy, that I’ve seen the Third Way given the same status as the two neos and liberal internationalism. I wonder if you’d consider expounding on this in a future article.

    (p.s. What happened to realism in the above list?)

    • Walter Russell Mead

      I was actually thinking as much about domestic as about foreign policy; that is why realism didn’t make the cut and the Third Way did.

  • Nick Reynolds

    Obama was always a pipe dream. Now the pipe’s broken, the smoke has cleared and America’s experiment [with what deleted — ed] is officially over. Step aside while we clean up the mess.

  • I think you have left out several of President Obama’s failings that are really at the core of his “communication problems”.

    1. He is arrogant and apparently believes that most Americans are uneducated, stupid rubes.

    2. He is incapable of speaking off the cuff. He takes his teleprompter everywhere. When he speaks, his head bobs back and forth as he looks from one prompter to the other like a marionette’s.

    3. His ego is way out of proportion to his abilities.

    4. His definition of compromise is that everyone else should change their opinions to match his. I have not yet seen him change his outlook on anything.

    5. He demonizes individual American citizens. He has done more to divide this country than any president in my lifetime; by calling people enemies that must be punished, by disparaging many of his fellow citizens who rightfully and honestly disagree with his decisions to take over privately owned companies,etc.

  • tm

    The “stimulus” was a complete failure. A bigger “stimulus” would have been a BIGGER FAILURE. This is not rocket science. Government is inefficient and ineffective at everything it does. The only thing government seems capable of doing is adding unless bureaucracy at an ever increasing pace.

  • MaxMBJ

    Sorry, but I don’t hope he succeeds. If he does, he will be setting himself — and worse, all of us — up for a bigger, colossal failure because Obama simply cannot unbecome the meglomaniac that he is. His best hope has always been that a wipeout in 2010 would force him to alter his course (nothing can humble him. Nothing.) But it is now becoming clear that the tsunami that has just hit has left him walking the beaches, oblivious to the destruction around him, anxious for the storm coverage to pass so that he can go on being His Highness.

    I’ll none of it.

  • brio

    bear88: Regarding your line: “Yes, he [Obama] was only a candidate when the war vote took place, but he was still right.
    I suggest you stop rewriting history and think back to the dates of the war vote, Obama’s candidacy, etc.
    As I recall, and I won’t bother looking it up, the war vote was in 2002, the war started in 2003, and Kerry was running for president in 2004. I don’t recall that Obama was a candidate for president in 2002, 2003, or 2004.

  • Laika’s Last Woof

    “I’m curious as to why you would think a larger, debt-financed “stimulus” plan would have worked any better.”
    Indeed. Given the skepticism he expresses toward the irrational belief in panaceas I would’ve never figured Mr. Mead for a Keynesian.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      There is a difference between short term and long term. Pumping money into the economy can give you a quick burst of energy whether by tax cuts, spending increases or even Fed style quantitative easing. But will it be sustainable?

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  • DaveP.

    Wouldn’t it have been nice, from a racial-healing persoective, if Obama had run as an American instead of as an African-american?
    Wouldn’t it also have been nice if he had subsequently eschewed blaming every last bit of criticism on ‘racism’?

    And wouldn’t it have been jsut great if the forst African-American President… had been at all competent or patriotic?

    Ah, Bear88- still on with the “Bush Lied” canard. Gee, I guess you must be apopoleptic about Obamacare, then… no?

  • Bozo

    Nixon? I guess BHO will love going down in history as his pair

  • stealthpundit

    And yet there were a lot of Americans who looked at the Junior Senator from Illinois, who looked past the soaring rhetoric, the faux grecian columns and saw – nothing. No accomplishments (other than getitng elected), no meaningful real world experience – nothing. Those of us in that group are neither shocked nor surprised that the man with no experience would so badly fail at what might be the hardest job in the world.

    The fact that the President continues to blame voters, or lack of communications, rather than his agenda shows that he continues to lack the maturity required for the job. I hope that he grows up soon but I believe the President fundamentally believes that he is so RIGHT that I don’t see a change in the offing.

  • ern

    Barack Obama wasn’t stupid about the Iraq war? What are you smoking? He was wrong about the surge, which he said would (and had) failed. And he has been wrong so far in insisting that increasing violence would not accompany his hasty retreat from that country (which, since the surge, had been on a solid path toward stability and prosperity). He has been a complete idiot about Iraq, wrong on *every* point.

  • A agree with John Barker’s comment (“WRM needs to stop teaching school and write and travel full time.”)

    FWIW, Edward Tufte left Yale so he could “spend more time teaching”. Why not WRM too?

    In Tufte’s words ( http://tinyurl.com/25u3rqo ):

    “It’s easier for me to write and teach on my own. There was no place for me or my work at Yale,” explains Tufte . . . “Teaching on the road eliminates the age segregation. It’s not just very smart 20-year-olds.”

  • USA

    “This country still needs to stand behind our President when he faces the world”

    You mean “if” he faces the world. If instead he continues to bow at the waist, I won’t necessarily stand behind him. The appearance is demeaning, both for him and for me.

  • Doug

    “President Bush and the Republicans lied the country into a war that wasn’t in our national interest. The only beneficiary, as near as I can tell, has been Iran. But Bush had help from the neoliberals who control Democratic foreign policy, and one of those key political figures was Hillary Clinton. I voted for Obama for a simple reason. He was the only serious candidate for president who was not stupid about the Iraq War. Yes, he was only a candidate when the war vote took place, but he was still right. I believe hugely stupid and deadly policy decisions about war and peace should have consequences.”

    Ahh, so you weren’t swayed by the phony hope and change rhetoric. You just got fooled by the phony “Bush lied, people died” tripe. Aren’t you the smart one. Congratulations on your superior intelligence.

    While your at it you might want to go back and watch what all the Democrats except Obama were saying at the time. Apparently they were “lying” also. You also might want to take a look at what exactly was found in Iraq.

  • Kim Kardashian

    Without assuaging voters’ concerns about the economy he embarked on a health care reform that has only become more unpopular as people have thought more about it.

    Um, no. Obamacare has become more unpopular as it has become ‘more implemented’. Short term effects have already cut services, raised costs, dropped patients, costed jobs, and left many wondering how to navigate it’s unbelievably complex series of agencies, rules, and regulations. THAT is why the Republicans won. THAT is why Obamacare must be repealed immediately and entirely.

  • Jim

    It’s been six years since the 2004 DNC speech. What objectively brilliant thoughts and actions hae emerged from the man during this period? What immense talents have been demonstrated? Apart from the ability to dazzle those who want to dazzled? Help this benighted soul from flyover country comprehend the mystery he does not see.

  • mac

    I resolved in 2002 that I would treat any future Democrat winning the White House with the same loving care and concern that the Democrats used for GWB. I disagreed with Bush over a number of things, but the outright derangement of the anti-Bush lefties, and the shrill, absolutely unmistakable partisan hatred for Bush from the MSM, was mind-boggling. The MSM and the lefties it represents have made it very clear they hate whites, heterosexuals, conservatives, and most of America. Well, that’s a two-way street. Let me say that their hatred is reciprocated even more deeply and strongly. I think Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Frank, Emanual, and a host of others are traitors who should be tried, convicted and jailed, if not shot. As far as I’m concerned, the lefties are no longer my fellow countrymen and I refuse to do business with them or even to have any social dealings with them. They’ve done their best to ruin the country and they have come very close to succeeding. They deserve to reap the consequences of what they’ve sown.

    I’d rather see a military coup than a reelection of the Kenyan cretin in 2012. I trust the U.S. military a great deal more than I do Bama and his accomplices.

  • hansong

    Re: african American and/or black president,etc.

    I thought Obama is a [old fashioned and poorly viewed word meaning ‘person of mixed racial ancestry’ omitted — ed]. Or do you subscribe to the “one drop” theory?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      As a general rule of thumb, it seems appropriate to identify people by race and ethnicity as they identify themselves. I don’t ask for a genealogical table, count freckles or look for red hair when somebody calls herself an ‘Irish-American’ — I take her at her word regardless of how many Italians or Germans are lurking somewhere in her family tree. In the same way President Obama refers to himself both as a black person and an African-American and I, like all sane and well intentioned people, follow suit without quibbling. I resent the implication in your comment that my entirely courteous and conventional references to the President’s background somehow mark me as adhering to the kind of racism that marked the ‘one drop of blood’ theory. I am letting the comment stand because it is the normal practice of this website to be somewhat more tolerant of insults directed at me than at other people. But it is not a nice comment.

  • Mike

    The author wishes McCain, the great progressive of the GOP had done better in ’99 and says the American public are not far removed from the ancients that sprinkled the kings blood on the field to ensure rain. McCain is just Obama lite. Yet, he wants us to believe his judgment and intelligence are superior, just as do the “elites” he falsely thinks he is attacking in his article. The author is as elitist, as unexercised in independent thought as the progressives he decries. I think he wishes to jump on the train after it’s left the station by declaring his new found belief in the judgment of the American People. It’s a rather cynical attempt on his part to conceal his lack of faith in the “Great Unwashed”. Shame on him!!

  • Carl Hardwick

    “I continue to wish that the immensely talented and driven figure now in the White House …”

    Obama is extremely good at knowing how to appear to know what he’s doing, but there is now ample evidence to the contrary.

    Anyone older than 40 ought to be able to detect the difference. I knew Obama was, what I call a “hidden screwup” the first time I saw him.

    I’m very disappointed that WRM not only didn’t realize it before 2008, but he _still_ doesn’t know it.

  • T

    “They mistook hopes and fantasies for reality.”

    “They were swept away by giddy euphoria even as they proclaimed the virtue of cool reason.”

    In his book Arrogance, Bernie Goldberg cites a study that shows patients rated physicians wearing white lab coats as better doctors than those who wear blue lab coats. He reasons that we are not competent to judge a physician’s performance so we look to any evidence at hand, even the superficial.

    The sad thing about Meade’s comments above is that not only was the punditry and ruling class taken in by Obama’s white lab coat, but they simultaneously had at their disposal all the means necessary to factually analyze and judge him prior to the 2008 elections. They chose to be fooled.

  • Hmmmm.

    “Adding to the President’s problems are the frankly irrational underpinnings of American political culture. The President of the United States is not actually an all powerful wizard who can make the economy rise by saying the right spells. The President is no more able to control the tides than King Canute. ”

    Amusing you should write that since Obama is on record admonishing all of us that, since he was nominated for President, that the: “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

    Vastly amusing in some respects.

    On the other hand the idea that the President doesn’t have an enormous amount of power to influence the economy and the country as a whole is frankly retarded. The biggest problem facing the country today is entirely the construct of Obama’s doing; extreme levels of uncertainty that has paralyzed businesses.

    From extrajudicial actions, demonizing of businesses and industries, regulatory takeovers and intimidation, etc etc etc. The environment in the USA is largely anti-business and wholely inimical to investment. In such a situation is it any wonder that the economy has stalled and investment is dead?

    All the doing of the “powerless” Obama.

  • Buck O’Fama

    In the days since the election, Obama has gone out of his way to show he’s learned nothing from the last two years. He is incapable of learning for he is sure he already knows everything. Forget about any improvement over the next two years.

  • Brad


    I think that bear88 guy was referring to Obama being a candidate for the Senate at the time of the Iraq vote, not a candidate for president. I do not agree with bear’s post or his thinking, but we should be fair on that point.

    As the other commenter noted, this bear guy didn’t fall for “Soap and Mange” but is in lockstep with “Bush Lied/People Died” nonsense. He’s a silly lib indeed.

  • cavan1

    As Jesse Jackson so clearly stated,”Who does Obama think he is…talking down to us [offensive expression omitted — it might work for the Reverend Mr. Jackson but is unsuitable for this comments section: ed]”.

  • rob

    so you’re implying that barack obama lied when he ran for president? independents and non-liberals who took him at his spoken word and supported him seem to be bitterly disappointed – that he didn’t turn out to be what he self-advertised. that, despite the track record of the most liberal member of the senate, he turned out to be… an extreme-left liberal.

    i blame the media for not painting a detailed picture (re: sarah palin) of the man so people could understand exactly what they were voting for. the info was out there, to be sure, but people really wanted to believe. (blind) hope springs eternal, i guess.

  • tom swift

    “The President’s problems are not all his fault.”

    The attempt to enact his very expensive agenda at a most inopportune time certainly is his fault. From the infamous “never waste a good crisis,” we know that this was a deliberate tactical maneuver by the White House.

    “This country still needs to stand behind our President when he faces the world.”

    I suspect that many of us are prepared to do that. We’re just waiting for Obama to stand up and actually face the world. He has yet to show that he even thinks that it’s his job to do so, let alone show that he’s able to do it.

    “The President of the United States is not actually an all powerful wizard who can make the economy rise by saying the right spells.”

    Quite true. But the generalization of that statement, that the President has very little effect on the economy, is certainly not true. The President has very little power to fix an ailing economy, but he can do any number of things to make a crisis far worse. As we have seen.

    What I see as Obama’s greatest liability is what appears to be an utter lack of imagination. This accounts for his stubbornness, his immediate “double-down” when stymied – he literally can’t see any alternate choices. I don’t believe he can even imagine what’s gone wrong with his dream of a federalized control-freak state. The idea that Americans just don’t want it is, literally, unimaginable. There’s no strong indication that he can imagine what it means to be President of the US – in outlook, he’s mired in the world of the Chicago ward-boss. We’re still waiting for Obama to grow into the job. All US Presidents must do this, and a few manage to do it during their tenures. For O, time is running out.

  • koblog

    “…when the crops don’t grow it obviously means we have the wrong king; we must kill the incumbent and sprinkle his blood on the cornfields. Once that is done the gods will be appeased and the crops will grow once again.”

    WRM thinks this is somehow quaintly wrong.

    I suppose he also believes that teams should hire and keep incompetent head coaches in the NFL and incompetent managers in MLB.

    Evil kings bring evil upon the land. They can and do stop the crops from growing.

    Politicians who — to protect a tiny fish — cut the water supply from California’s fertile and world-class-productive central valley bring very real economic disaster and higher food prices.

    Evil kings who steal public monies to subsidize taking corn from the food supply to make it into unneeded fuel alcohol actually cause starvation in countries as the price of corn rises.

    Evil kings debase the money through inflation. They steal from those who have saved for the rainy day and reward the profligate debtors who borrowed from the future and now cannot pay the debt.

    Evil kings are secretly out to destroy their own country because they don’t truly love the country and have never been proud of it.

    Evil kings seek to seize absolute control over private institutions and enlarge their own power.

    Evil kings spend public money flagrantly on their own whims, flitting from party to party, jetting internationally, spending hundreds of millions to buy out 800 five-star rooms in India for his toady entourage so they can all take in the Festival of Lights like tourists at the Bellagio. And his clueless wife Marie Antoinette, the same.

    Evil kings demonize the engines of prosperity that brought us the highest standard of living in history and seek to “spread the wealth” around to those who work the system fraudulently.

    Evil kings nag and attempt to shame us to believe we use too much energy, even as they themselves keep the White House at 80 degrees in the winter and burn hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel for date nights in New York.

    Evil kings say “rich” small businesses don’t pay “their fair share” in taxes and that increased taxes won’t hinder growth, even as they give Government Motors a sweetheart tax holiday on $45 billion dollars because they know those taxes will hinder GM’s growth.

    Evil kings are evil. The land prospers with their departure, and the sooner the better.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      I don’t say that the President has no responsibility for the economy, but I do say that regardless of what Washington does there are some structural factors that mean that the economy is in for a period of growth that is slower than we would like. Some of the President’s policies are making this worse, some have helped matters here and there, but there was no magic button he could push on Inauguration Day that would have meant that unemployment by the midterm would be under 7%.

  • apetra

    So long as the President continues to pursue misguided big government policies at home, approach the world as an effete apologist for an embarrassed declining superpower, and refuse to compromise on an outlandishly liberal agenda, I will indeed hope that this President “fails”. It’s the only way America “wins”.

  • hiscross

    He doesn’t come from heaven. Earth is bump up for Barry

  • Guydreaux

    President Obama is inexperienced, arrogant, pedantic and seems intellectually closed- only able to repeat three decade old liberal mantras (healthcare! energy taxes! green subsidies! more entitlements!). If those old ideas were magic fairy dust then Greece would be booming. He fails to persuade because he neither looks at or engages his audience while reading his speeches in public and he uses formulaic and dishonest straw man arguments (“some people say”) to demonise rather than convince opponents.

    I don’t think Obama has fallen to earth. He’s right where he belongs. He was a nobody as a US Senator and a nothing as a State pol. His campaign events were electric, though, and his campaign speeches were inspiring. It’s just that getting well-practiced at reading the Deval Patrick speeches that Axelrod re-hashed is nothing at all like being President. A clever advert does not a good product make. The aberration was Obama’s elevation- sadly his moment as an icon lasted about as long as Spud McKenzie’s.

  • Val

    Not sure if it has been mentioned… Why is it that everyone talks about him as ‘African-American’ as if that gives him some kind of commonality with the blacks and their descendants who have been in the US since the slave days? As if there were some shared history, that his life experience was as theirs and so he must have passed through the same fires and been worthy of their community and support? As if he were somehow even more authentic because his biological father was from Kenya? It seems that the ‘African American’ voting block that cares about those things was duped… Since he has no shared experience, is half white, and the portion of his genes most recently from Africa are from the part that didn’t play a significant role in the slave trade to the US. In fact, he IS the person they love to rail about: Upper middle class white person of born into the privilege who never had to want or work for anything. That he should pretend to be of their experience should outrage them. That it doesn’t is a sad, sad thing.

  • nohype

    In the 1990s we had the dot.com bubble. Early in the 21st century we had the housing bubble. And a couple of years ago we had the Obama bubble. Each was built on irrationality and the ignoring of reality, and each collapsed, though I suspect that we have not yet witnessed the complete deflation of the Obama bubble. Never have we elected a man as unqualified to be president as we did in 2008.

  • Walter, I’m curious. When you relentlessly cheerlead and apologize for this President, do you pick up pompoms?

    Sure, it would certainly have helped Obama to have had some miniscule amount of actual executive experience before he tried to run a country, but unless and until Obama abandons his radical leftist agenda and accepts economic, geopolitical and financial reality, his policies will continue to be one breathtaking disaster after another.

    One of the most concerning things about this President is that people like you, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, continue to believe the hype and lies of this man instead of recognizing the obvious and apparent truth that people like me have been warning you all about for three years now.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @ CosmicConservative

      I don’t think the White House characterizes my commentary as ‘relentlessly cheerleading and apologizing’.

      Back when George W. Bush was president, many liberals attacked me bitterly because instead of piling on the hate-Bush bandwagon, I continued to treat him with the respect due the President of the United States. While it was clear that not everything was going well on his watch, I felt (and feel) that it was more important to point to the elements of his presidency which reflected enduring American values and concerns and to keep criticism constructive. Moreover, there were many cases in which Bush’s critics failed to see him clearly — their hatred and their vitriol got in the way. I would walk the same line again, although this meant a certain prolonged coolness in my reception in many quarters.

      I intend to treat President Obama with the same courtesy and consideration. Whether one likes it or not he is the freely and duly elected President of the United States. While there are many aspects of his policies that are not working and possibly should not work, there are other areas in which the President’s leadership makes sense. And, overall, it remains the case in international affairs that it is hard to damage a sitting president without also damaging the country he leads.

      I don’t expect everyone to agree with me about my approach to President Obama, just as many people disagreed with me about President Bush. But until presidential misconduct poses a clear and present danger to the continued constitutional order, I will do my best to make my criticisms of this and all future presidents as constructive, as tightly focused and as well balanced as I possibly can. If I sometimes seem to go too far in my efforts to be respectful and fair — well, nobody’s perfect.

  • koblog

    President Obama promised us that if we gave him a trillion dollars, he would keep the unemployment rate at 7.9%. If we didn’t give him the money, it would rise to 9.1%.

    He got the money and more. We got 9.6% unemployment (and actually worse.) He failed. Or lied. Or is genuinely clueless and incompetent.

    Where did he spend the money? He gave it to the unions to prop up their unfunded Cadillac pensions or to postpone needed layoffs of public employees in the states. When Obama says “jobs saved” he means public employees that should have been laid off because state budgets are in the red. California is classic. It owes $500 billion (one half TRILLION dollars!) in unfunded public pension obligations and runs a perennial $20-$60 billion deficit, all due to public employees and feel-good welfare programs.

    Obama could have declared a trillion dollar tax holiday, as you reference, but he didn’t, because that would only benefit people who pay taxes. Obama has other well-documented goals: he wants to redistribute the wealth in a clearly socialist manner.

    We are going broke because the unaffordable chickens of socialist pipe dreams like Social Security, Medicare and hundreds of other Federal welfare programs have come home to roost. We know this. It is before our eyes. Welfare “entitlements” consume trillions and are manifestly unsustainable.

    So what does Obama do in this environment? Ram through the most expensive, most pie-in-the-sky promise of “free” universal health care in history, seize private companies, seize student loans, create unaccountable czars and grow the federal government. It can only add untold levels of inefficient bureaucracy and layered cost increases while simultaneously pushing us further into bankruptcy, which can only be the goal.

    Obama is the evil king that is hurting the land.

  • RJGatorEsq.

    “We must all hope he succeeds [in foreign affairs].”

    Succeeds at what?

    Insulting America’s allies, like the UK?

    Bowing to despots (literally and metaphorically)?

    Ignoring lunatics who are becoming nuclear powers?

    Sorry, I HOPE HE FAILS at all of those things.

  • Austin

    The simple fact is that Obama does not share American values nor does he understand how a free economy works.

    He cannot wake the beast nor summon it because he does not believe in the beast nor see it because he has not lived with the beast.

    Lets compare Obama to FDR and WC.

    Winston Churchill fought at Omdurman and reported from the Boer War. He fought in every major conflict of his time. He held various elected and non elected posts in the government with a career that Kipling would have blushed at. He had a large and broad coalition of friends. He had a speech impediment that caused him to develop empathy for others.

    Roosevelt was born into a leading business family in New York. He then joined a leading law firm and worked on many cases. He went into the legislature and then served as assistant navy secretary. He contracted Polio and fought against it, gaining empathy for others in the process. He was Governor of New York.

    Obama was born in Hawaii, which was an outpost of the US. He grew up in Indonesia and then went to a prep school in Hawaii. He has no military experience, did not serve a local or state executive post, and never created a major bill when he was an elected official. His literary works are ghost written.

    FDR and WC were insiders who could transform and lead because they had an intimate knowledge of the system.

    Obama is not FDR nor WC. There is no comparison.

    Obama has always been the outside from Hawaii, to Indonesia, to his days in Chicago. He has learned how to talk to blend in and he has a knack for taking what people want to hear and feeding it back to them, but he has not internalized what it means to be American nor how American systems work.

    He reminds me of a lot of people who did not grow up in the USA. Simple cultural stuff that we take for granted like throwing a ball he cannot do.

    He was doomed to fail from the start. The only thing he had was rhetoric.

    The nearest political figure to Obama I can find in history is James II, the Catholic King with a penchant for despotism who tried to rule a Protestant free England. James got voted out when the Royals, the merchants, and the local shires united against him. It was a done deal a year before William of Orange landed. The end result was that England got a better deal because James II helped create clarity and his abdication created a second crisis that allowed the real transformation to occur.

    And that is what is coming in 2012.

  • JadedByPolitics

    NO we do not need him to succeed. The Military and the CIA, FBI and NSA will continue to do their job protecting the Country and this President and his lazy foreign policy will hurt us much longer after he is sent home to Chicago if he succeeds and in such, I as a proud American DO NOT wish him success at all!

    However I suspect you think you are a little more high minded quite like the idiots who wrote such fantasy rhetoric upon his running and winning. He had no place to go but down and he and they deserve it, Peggy Noonan can now get up off of her knee pads and get on with her life!

  • There was a South Carolina primary in 1999? Who knew?

    This essay implies that Obama is descended from the black men who helped build the Capitol building, or men like them. Not true. Obama is an African-American only in the sense that his father was an African and his mother was an American. When we elect a decendant of slaves to the office, I’ll understand the “pride” business.

    Mr. “Immensely Talented,” having recently become the first president to address a class of school children with a teleprompter, will now become the first person ever to bring one to the lectern of the Indian Parliament. Great orator? Gimme a break.

    Anybody who admits that he overestimated Obama two years ago,but still thinks he’s immmensly talented now, well . . . baffles me.

  • Mkelley

    I have never understood the notion that increasing government spending would help the economy and decrease unemployment much. Giving government more money to spend leads to even more regulation and thus less growth in the private sector. We are already regulated to death. I laughed when I first heard the “shovel ready” jobs bs. Projects that used to be done in a couple years now take much longer than that to even start. With environmental impact studies, archeological reviews, environmentalist lawsuits, and strict and expensive engineering standards on everything, it is a wonder any projects are even undertaken, let alone finished. The only construction that has been done with “stimulus” money were jobs that were either fairly simple, such as road overlays, or stuff that was just about ready to start anyway. Increased disruption of business by the EPA, OSHA, MSHA, etc. has more than made up for mostly short-term government jobs, and the huge deficits have scared the hell out of everyone, including me.

  • Robert

    “this country still needs to stand behind our President when he faces the world.”

    Why should we stand behind our “immensely talented” “President” when he faces the world and renders apologies about us, refuting our exceptionalism, and bowing to the nearest dictator? Refers to us as “bitter clingers” and gushes over “the most beautiful sound on earth” emanating from minarets the world over? Dithered over Afghanistan for six months then announced a dated cut-and-run?

    Just today, and on foreign soil, he has failed to confront the ideological underpinnings of islamic terrorism. Instead, he has perpetuated the meme of a “great religion” being abused by “a few extremists.” By this ommission and distortion of his own, Obama in effect has granted apologetic absolution to Muslims on whose behalf the innocents’ lives are shattered.

    The “immensely talented and driven figure now in the White House” has been placed in time and circumstance where his background gives him a unique standing to challenge, and in specific fashion, those ideological justifications for the murder of non-Muslims. He could initiate a worldwide conversation with far-reaching ramifications that may even justify the granting of that Nobel Prize lavished upon the boy president. Instead, by avoiding this historic opportunity, Obama enables the status quo, to the detriment of millions.

  • Earl of Sandwich

    In the main, liberals did not misread the public’s enthusiasm for healthcare as WRM asserts. Rather, they thought that voters were so fickle that their actions would have no bearing on the election.

  • chris haynes

    Another rube self identifies

  • bear88

    On the Iraq War, Brad is correct in clarifying my assertion that Obama’s opposition was voiced when he was a U.S. Senate candidate in 2002/03. I thought that was clear enough, but people seemed confused about that.

    Three other points:

    1) On the Iraq War, I find it disheartening that people are still defending that, either by arguing about tactical maneuvers years after the war started (the surge) or complaining about my assertion that Bush lied about the presence of WMD in the country. I realize that gets people riled, but my point was to emphasize that the invasion wasn’t in the national interest, lies or no lies. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now.

    2) I remain puzzled by people’s determination that Obama “fail.” I realize this my be a question of definition. I hardly expect conservative Rebublicans who oppose the health insurance bill to be cheerleading for it. But we’ll have a presidential election soon enough. But we live in perilous times of widespread economic misery, and it’s not helping me. I want a better economy. If the Republicans want to take credit for it, I don’t care. I would like more money and a more secure future for my family and the country.

    3) Walter’s point about any president’s ability to press certain buttons to turn around the economy immediately ought be so obvious to not need defending. Obama’s short-term failure on that front (especially on jobs) was predetermined, before he took office.

  • @Walter – I appreciate your desire for “constructive criticism.” I simply disagree with your belief that it is effective or even desirable. You are arguing that you should be reasonable and polite in criticizing a man who describes his political opponents as “enemies” who must be “destroyed.” If Barack Obama were remotely a reasonable, rational, decent person in his own tactics in debate, I would gladly engage him that way. But since he is not, and since he relishes the idea of calling people like me “ignorant” and “greedy” and any number of other nasty derogatory terms, I feel no compulsion to treat him with kid gloves.

    Besides, he lies more than any human being I’ve ever encountered. He lies for strategic and tactical purposes. He lies so much and so easily that I have long ago determined that listening to anything he says is a complete waste of time. Everything he says is carefully scripted and designed to achieve a specific partisan political end. It is only when Obama is off-script and off-teleprompter that he remotely says anything close to what he actually believes. Which is why he has to carry the security blanket with him even to India.

    Defend him and baby him all you like. I treat him the way he treats me.

  • Marty

    “But some of the enthusiasm was less solidly based.”

    Less solidly based than the idiuot idea that the color of a person’s skin is a qualification for President????

    Maybe “less understandable,” but hardly “less solidly based.”

    And yes, Obama has never persuaded anyone of anything–and I live in his old IL State Senate district and have observed him since 1996. Listen to or read FDR’s fireside chats, Churchill’s speeches, JFK, Lincoln–they laid out a premise, supported it with facts and drew a logical thread through it so that the listener would be persuaded.

    I am not aware of any major speech Obama ever gave that did this. They are all nice-sounding empty vapors, or angry petulant personal attacks–often both in the same speech.

    And yes, it says volumes about our academic and pundit class that they fell (and many continue to fall) for it.

    If their brains were gunpowder, they couldn’t blow their noses. They are not educated in any meaningful sense, the best one can say is they vouch for each other’s credentials in a most incestuous way.

  • MikeT

    Sir: Why would you ignore in you write up the downsides of our first half white president? Where were the concerns during the 2008 election about the company this one term senator kept? Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright come to mind. Where were all the words written about this half black man wanting to redistribute wealth? Buried by members of the paper press like yourself. You only gave us gravey not the grisal underneath. MikeT

  • Dr.Dog

    “I continue to wish that the immensely talented and driven figure now in the White House…” — WRM

    That single fragment indicates you are still enthralled, and merely sipping the KoolAid rather than mainlining it. I challenge you Sir, what talent has Obama presented to warrant that observation? Provide us one instance where in the State of Ill or as US Senator he recognized, defined, crafted and brought to the floor significant legislation? You can’t. Nor could Obama lay claim to the Health Care bill, that was Pelosi’s doing as she did all the heavy lifting of getting it through the House.

    Obama is All Hat No Cattle.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @ Dr. Dog
      I truly fail to understand why one cannot perceive and even respect talent in a person whose beliefs are very different from one’s own. President Obama was extremely lucky in running for president when he did and against a candidate and a party as weak as the Republicans were in 2008. Nevertheless as a one term Senator or even as a governor you don’t get to be President and enjoy the adulation of the chattering classes unless you are good at something… Liberals got angry with me when I said that George W. Bush was smart and talented. He is both of those things. So is Sarah Palin.

  • Archaeopteryx

    The author seems to be one of the many who is incapable of discerning what is arrogance, and what is ability.
    Lots of arrogance, very little ability.

  • Kirk Parker


    Listen, _somebody_ has to do the difficult stuff, and other than an occasional, brief, limited sortie by the French, it basically comes down to the US or nobody. “Nobody” is not a choice I care to make: just imagine what a full-out nuclear race between Iran and Iraq would look like, with all the bystanders like Saudi Arabia trying to get on board to the best of their abilities, too.

    No thanks! And no thanks to your comparison between the difficult, messy, and only partially-competent performance of what actually happened in the real world, vs the untroubled ideal vision of What Should Have Been, either.

  • MarkJ

    I’d say a major source of Obama’s woes stems from an old showbiz problem: he peaked too soon. What Obama likely intended in 2007-2008 was to make a test run for 2012. Unfortunately for him, the electoral gods have a wicked sense of humor and they gave Lord Obama what he asked for–whether he was ready or not.

    I once predicted on another forum that, given the expectations even Obama himself raised, it would be all downhill for His Lordship once he finished taking the oath of office or, at latest, the first time he actually had to make a tough decision.

    Needless to say, my prediction was pretty much on the mark.

  • nadine

    “@ Dr. Dog, I truly fail to understand why one cannot perceive and even respect talent in a person whose beliefs are very different from one’s own. ” (WRM)

    I can’t speak for Dr. Dog, but speaking for myself, I can perceive only one talent in Barack Obama: the ability to sell the promise of Barack Obama. At that, he is a genius. At any other form of persuasion, or at governing, he is a failure.

    Obama couldn’t even keep control of his signature health-care bill, but let Congress run hog wild with it. Ditto for the Stimulus and Financial Reform. He couldn’t even sell any of these bills to the public; it was too obvious that he had no idea what was in them and was simply lying about them.

    The only people left who believe Obama is an ever-shrinking pool of liberals — and lots of the left is livid because he has broken his promises to them too! Obama just campaigned for dozens of candidates, and his endorsement was the kiss of death for most of them.

    So please explain to us, Mr. Mead, just what is the immense talent that we are supposed to recognize?

  • Peg C.

    Many, many of us were never fooled. His “great oratory” left so many not only unmoved but aghast. The prose emanating off the teleprompter was 100% b.s. He had done NOTHING to earn the office and was as unknown to the American electorate as the state-run media could make him, though New Media kept folks like me all-too informed on just what a truly dreadful choice for this country this narcissistic sociopath truly was. For millions of us there could be no true pride in the election of the first African-American when the choice was so abysmal.

    He has never once expressed sincerely his love for this country and its people; on the contrary he has repeatedly revealed his contempt for both. This was apparent long before the election – why were so many so blind? Mass hypnosis? Why were some of us wide awake?

    The puzzled fawning over Obama in this piece is so last year and really is laughable. There is no re-inflating this blow-up doll that the media kept upright for so long. He’s down and he’s staying down. The things people thought he embodied were all fake/fraudulent/phony. He has earned his place in the history books – I’ll give you that. Probably in a volume entitled “The Long American Nightmare.”

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  • huxley

    WRM: Marlon Brando gave an extraordinary performance as Don Corleone in The Godfather, but that is a very different talent from actually running a Mafia family.

    Likewise Obama. He has great presence and speaking ability. He can maneuver adroitly in lilberal, progressive, academic, and Democratic circles, but those are very different and limited talents compared to what it takes to lead the United States as President, and far below the intelligence and competence that he convinced voters to believe were in his possession during the 2008 campaign.

    I appreciate your stand to respect Obama. However, that should not prevent you or anyone from seeing Obama’s abilities and limitations accurately.

    Whether one agrees with Obama’s politics or not, it’s clear that Obama has consistently overreached, made hasty judgments, alienated others needlessly, and ignored warning signs.

    In essence Obama has mistaken his acting abilities for genuine competence, and that is the key to understanding all the advantages he has squandered in less than two years.

  • SamIam

    It’s not: “An administration elected with a mandate to stabilize the country misread the political situation and came to the belief that the country wanted the kinds of serious and deep changes that liberals have wanted for decades. It was 1933, and President Obama was the new FDR.”

    Whether they believed in a mandate or not, since they could, they would, and did. They saw the unhappiness in the country once they tried their agenda but it had no effect on them. They saw a Republican elected to Kennedy’s seat and they still didn’t care. That is enough evidence for me to prove that they were hell bent on their plans to irrevocably transform the nation no matter what. There was no “misreading of the mandate”. I ascribe their motives and I say they were bad.

  • RogC

    The idea that President Obama has ever had exceptionally high ratings is a myth. A comparison of his popularity since taking office with other presidents shows that his highest points are far behind the highs of either Bush and are right along with Clinton and Regan. Even Carter had briefly higher approvals than Obama has achieved.

    Both political parties like to pretend he started his term with super high popularity. In the republican’s case it’s only to appear his fall is even steeper than it really is and in the democrats case to hope his popularity might rise to the heights pretended.

  • Swen Swenson

    While we’re “exhuming these vaporous and embarrassing stupidities”, let’s take a look at the notion so often repeated that Obama is a brilliant intellect with great talents. Sure, even a genius makes the occasional mistake and misstep but, other than an obvious talent for reading a teleprompter in a mellifluous voice, what has Obama done to give anyone the idea that he possesses even slightly greater than average intelligence?

    I hate Gumpisms, but “stupid is as stupid does” applies here and Obama has done a whole lot of stupid [stuff — ed] since he was elected. What has he done that was actually smart?

  • MarkC

    In spite of the high-flown hysteria in these comments, Obama has been the most successful liberal President since Roosevelt. Despite the obstruction of the No Party, he and Congress passed many pieces of significant liberal legislation that will be difficult to reverse. Many people with good brains are happy to see a smart man in the White House, since your friend Mr. Bush created the mess from which President Obama is still trying to extract us. WRM’s call for, at the very least, supporting the President in the field of foreign affairs, and most commenters’ arrogant rejection of even that old tried-and-true staple of bipartisanship, illustrates that the idea of a blog based on the beginnings of the Civil War may not be all that anachronistic, after all.

  • smalblusinessowner

    Obama is dumber than rocks. It matters not whether we wish for him to fail or succeed. He simply lacks the intelligence it takes to govern the USA. Bush ran cirlces around him.

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  • A President who assumes the power to set CEO wages, assumes the power to fire CEOs at will, assumes the power to break contractual obligations, who can change bankruptcy proceedings to favor one group over another…seems like he’s got the power to change an economy pretty quickly.
    I don’t understand all this continued admiration of Obama’s intellect. Anyone can get darn near any bill passed through a cesspool like Congress with enough money handed out. That’s all he did to get his “signature legislation” passed. Handed out money, and it was our money to boot. There was no intellectual superiority to the Cornhusker Kickback or the Louisiana Purchase. There was no intellectual superiority to the charge of racism every time someone questioned his policies. There wasn’t even political superiority. There was graft and ad hominen attacks, at an unheard of level and scale. And he was able to pull it off because people like Mead still want to believe that they weren’t hoodwinked into voting into office a crass, effete, thin-skinned, Chicago thug.

  • There is still plenty of time before 2012 to get out of this recession. Bernanke’s QE2 will go a long way.

    Meanwhile our President needs to get back in touch with his Kansas side, like he sort of did in his great Philadelphia speech (needs to pull his grandmother back out from under the bus though — that was not fair).

  • RDG

    Obama has never demonstrated anything of brilliance. All his “qualities” are projections the observer has given him. He is whatever you want to see. All smoke and mirrors. The truth is the man is a small time communist from a corrupt political machine in one of the most corrupt cities in America chosen as a front man by people who intend to profit from the collapse of America. Yes indeed, America, you were that dumb Nov., 2008.

  • With glistening pectorals that induced tingling legs, Barack Obama became our first Pet Rock President, a man whose fifteen minutes were up even before the big hand hit three. Relying on ideologues and acquired sensitivities, the Pet Rock President dashed his own post-partisan and post-racial promises. “Passage at any cost” was his M.O., the pets who did his bidding be damned — Pelosi, the faux religious Cruella de Ville, Reid, the obtuse apotheosis of the Peter Principle, and Waxman, the bureaucrat who never read a bill he didn’t read. Together, these Pet Pebbles gave the Pet Rock President a wardrobe befitting an emperor; that is, everything to adorn his exalted sense of self and nothing the American people really wanted to see. And for that, the polls were bustling on November the second…

  • Tim

    “And, overall, it remains the case in international affairs that it is hard to damage a sitting president without also damaging the country he leads.”

    It’s interesting that one person who did not share this idea of supporting a sitting President in international affairs was Senator Obama who relentlessly tried to undermine President Bush’s administration of the Iraq war — suggesting ill motives on the part of the President (for oil/lied about WMD) and that a war in which U.S. troops were still in harms way was lost and unwinnable. If support for a president in international affairs is one of the most basic obligations one should expect from citizens, what does it say about President Obama that he himself willingly ignored such thinking in pursuit of his own ambitions as the senator from Illinois?

  • John

    “I continue to wish that the immensely talented and driven figure now in the White House…” — WRM

    Dr. Dog raised a perfectly good question which Mr. Meade choose to dismiss. But it is a fair question for such fawning praise: what is the “immense talent” that so impresses you in this President? He’s the “great communicator” who is almost never without his teleprompter, the owner of a stagnating foreign policy, an economic policy in disarray, and a domestic political scene most notable for being more polarized than ever, massive, unpopular legislation and the spontaneous widespread rise of grassroots opposition to President Obama’s agenda. He may be intelligent, but what is this talent you see that suggests he has the potential to be a good president? It does seem to be simply a light version of the delusions that gripped the electorate in 2008.

    Regarding your observation of the “irrational underpinnings of American political culture” and the President being no more in control of the economy than King Canute was of the tides, it’s an interesting analogy. Wasn’t it a presidential candidate from Illinois who in 2008 humbly declared of his own campaign “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

  • Evan Demia

    In his article Mead evinces an attitude which I’d always assumed Americans — like loyal citizens of any country — held: the desire that the country’s leader (like him or not) will do well at the helm. Behind such an attitude lies not just loyalty to our country, or respect for the office (though those are important), and generosity of spirit. In addition, and on the whole a more pressing concern for me, is the sense that in an increasingly dangerous and fragmenting world strong American leadership is essential both to preserve the world free from extremely destructive systemic conflict — for instance, global war of a very destructive kind — and also to preserve a semblance of liberty and respect for the human person.

    American strength will, I think, unravel fast if all that ends of the political spectrum can do is cavil and squabble: without a measure of national unity, we’re sunk.

    What seems to me to lie behind the fervid anti-Obama comments here, and behind equally unfortunate fervid anti-Bush comments earlier is not the faults of either man, but a deep and bitter rift developing between those on the relative left and relative right in the U.S., along with an ever-deepening loss of commitment to civility.

    The country is not going to come down whole hog on a lasting “conservative” tack any more than (despite foolish predictions) the 2008 election betokened a lasting “liberal” tack. There are serious differences of opinion in the country and unless we learn to work together for the common good of our country, and indeed the world, we will lose the chances we now have to shape a world closer to enduring common American values.

    This line of thought is not just a “stick to the middle” approach: I have strong concerns which better fit on one or another end of the spectrum. Rather it’s a recognition of the need to work cooperatively: a Franklinesque awareness that if we don’t hang together we shall surely hang separately.

  • KSmith

    Mr. Meade, in regard to Obama gaining more experience before running for president – he didn’t want to miss the timing of being a candidate when no incumbent or vice-president would be on the other ticket. He could not wait; more importantly, George Soros couldn’t wait. Understand that and you will understand Obama.And you seem too thoughtful,sincere and intelligent for him to deserve your respect. The office deserves it but the man occupying doesn’t even respect it himself.

  • The President is chopped liver.

  • Dave

    Sometimes we can’t ourselves of our pipe dreams and get stuff like this.

  • Greg

    I will be more then pleased to give President Obama the same level of support that President Bush received from the Democrats and their associates at Code Pink and A.N.S.W.E.R.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      I do not understand why a thinking person would want to stoop to that level. Or do we now think that two wrongs make a right?

  • Brad

    There is a much bigger game being played than sovereign political agendas; think global animal farm. Obama is too much of a narcissist to realize he is the sacrificial goat not the messiah. The post-WWII global infrastructure has struck the iceberg. What you’re witnessing now is the dash to the life boats of the 1st-class passengers.

  • vin tax

    More delusion from libs who just cannot see the truth of what happened. Obama is a Marxist. The American people now know it and utterly reject him and his policies. very simple.

  • Sam Spencer

    You mention the lack of a program to deal with our current economic condition. I believe a “back to basics” approach is what we need: whenever you find yourself in trouble, go back to the basics. And the basics in this country have been 1) hard work, and 2) living withing one’s means. It is hard to predict how the world economy will turn out, but without embracing these two goals, I son’t see how we can succeed. I believe this was the message of the “racist” Tea Partiers, and it is a tone-deaf press that cannot understand it.
    If there is a Republican administration in 2012, I hope you are a part of it.

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  • S P Dudley

    Oh, come on! The Media trumped up BHO like he was the Second Coming. They man had so much positive press that he was virtually untouchable in the election process.

    Many in the right complain that the mainstream media is hopelessly biased against them, and have been so for decades. The 2008 elections proved that correct beyond any doubt.

    The reason why the Tea Party exists is partly because of a feeling of “no fair play” among the Ivy League set that runs this country (from BOTH political parties) and has such outspoken disdain for those who live in “Flyunder Country” (or “Jesusland” for the more snarky). The reason why the TP was successful this time was because alternate media was now widespread enough for them to bypass the MSM and get their message out to voters who really wanted an alternative.

    Clearly the lesson hasn’t been learned yet by the legacy media that this whole Tea Party thing is not just a passing fad that can be vanquished with “reason.” Once you stop hurling insults and epitaphs and actually sit down to listen to your opponents will you slowly start to get it. You are not there yet.

  • E. Perry

    “He has had some painful and public lessons and beyond a doubt he is smarter, tougher, and more experienced now than he was two years ago.”

    The lessons have been presented, but what evidence have you that he has learned and profited thereby?

  • Paul M. Neville

    Obama is a fraud. He is a radical hiding in liberal’s clothing. He fooled the American people once. He said during the campaign that we should look at the people he surrounds himself with. Beck with the help of Horowitz has carefully shown that his “Tzars” are Marxists. He has hidden or lied about his past. If he really succeeds America will fail.

  • Paul in Colorado

    I find it difficult to believe that hard-nosed, trench-fighting Democrats were swept away by the fad of Obama. Surely the union bosses in Boston and Philadelphia couldn’t care less about global warming or Guantanamo, and correctly saw Obama as a means to their ends. Old-school hardball politics and not too pretty, but at least intellectually honest in a rough sort of way. Rather, it is the ease with which the Smart Set is gulled by every passing fad and enthusiasm that is both revealing and disturbing. They want to believe the nonsense, need to believe it and embrace it wholly, if only for a little while.

    H.L. Mencken summed it up nicely. It is one thing, he said, to believe wholeheartedly in an idea, and to commit oneself to that idea. It is quite another to believe wholeheartedly in a man, for his betrayal only awaits sufficient temptation.

    The sad point of this report is that many of our supposedly sophisticated opinion leaders are in fact emotional adolescents, and all too eager to throw themselves at the next fad – whatever or whoever that may be. Perhaps Obama understands this weakness and exploited it; perhaps he believes his own fairytales. The question is why so many intelligent and worldly-wise people fall so hard, and so often, for demonstrable nonsense.

    Let me suggest a new theme song for our friends in the Progressive Left, a classic by Cole Porter:

    It was just one of those things
    Just one of those crazy flings
    One of those bells that now and then rings
    Just one of those things

    It was just one of those nights
    Just one of those fabulous flights
    A trip to the moon on gossamer wings
    Just one of those things

    If we’d thought a bit about the end of it
    When we started painting the town
    We’d have been aware that our love affair
    Was too hot not to cool down

    So good-bye, dear, and amen
    Here’s hoping we meet now and then
    It was great fun
    But it was just one of those things

  • Stan Lippmann

    China is divesting from the US and buying up the PIGS countries (better cultural artifacts). Good luck trying to continue your CFR globalist pretensions for more than a few years. I could see that Obama was a Wall Street chump at first glance. This implies that you ruling class elitists are all a bunch of inbred spoiled brats. Good riddance when your Napoleonic fantasies die once and for all. I would recommend that you buy a farm in Paraguay for yourself before it is too late.

  • David

    “He selected a stimulus program large enough to frighten the country, but not large enough to assure recovery.”

    I find this incomprehensible. If the stimulus had been significantly larger — as Paul Krugman, for instance, insists it should have been — where would the money have come from? If we borrowed it, the resulting debt would have been even more damaging to the economy. If we taxed it from consumers, they would have had that much less to spend.

    Your assumption that a larger stimulus could have worked is, I think, demonstrably false.

  • J E Stoll, Stafford, VA

    Quote: Somehow, despite what is going to be an inevitably contentious contest between the two parties, this country still needs to stand behind our President when he faces the world. Unquote.

    President Obama has not missed an opportunity to drag our United States of America on an endless tour of self-abnegation and apology. He has never stood up for our contributions to world stability and peace.

    And WE should stand behind him when he is overseas? Why? He neither stands with us nor behind us.

    Thank you.

  • Kari Sauder

    “well credentialed’??? How many people in this country voted for a presidential candidate who had never even been re-elected to the federal government? This is the heigth of stupidity!

  • K2K

    mostly terrific comments.
    I spent seven months inside Obama’s campaign website before I had ample evidence that 1) the economy was not a valid issue, 2) the only policy Obama really seemed to believe in was nuclear non-proliferation, 3) there is no real spine, and thus, no ture leadership.

    The outcome has been far worse than I thought, and, all I now hope for is that he does no more damage to confidence both hat home and abroad.

    There are no do-overs on the economy, but it is wrong to start believing America is in some sort of destined slow growth, high unemployment phase. Two places to start? Try having a key advisor or Cabinet secretary who actually has experience successfully leading and managing a manufacturing corporation. Stop believing in the inevitability of the post-industrial economy.

    Yes, fewer lawyers in Congress will also help…

    Post-modern transnational multiculturalist in the White House? NEVER AGAIN.

  • Kevin

    “Somehow, despite what is going to be an inevitably contentious contest between the two parties, this country still needs to stand behind our President when he faces the world.”

    Yeah, like the 100% absolute complete opposition (oops I mean “support”) Dems gave President Bush on foreign policy starting about 2 days after 9/11 and lasting thru the last minute of the last hour of the last day of his 2nd term…Including particularly and personally harsh attacks from, just to pick one random example: BARACK OBAMA (and Hillary and Reid and Pelosi and …).

  • SamAdams25

    What I have learned from the past two years is the reliance of the left on deceptive “re-branding”, and a dependence on the ignorance of Americans to believe it. This confirms the notion that many on the left are arrogant elitists, and is insulting to many Americans.

    When it was revealed that the earth was not warming, but actually cooling, “global warming” became “climate change”. The climate naturally changes four times every year. Obamacare was labeled “The affordable Health Care Act”. Hardly. Premiums are already rising at an astounding rate as a result of it’s passage. Legislation to remove the right of workers to a secret ballot vote on unionization was called “The Employee Free Choice Act”. Free choice?

    After the term “Liberal” gained a negative connotation as too far left for most folks, it was re-branded to a more positive sounding term, “Progressive”. It didn’t take very long for most Americans to see that the “progress” that “progressive” suggests, is progress towards Obama’s “fundamental transformation of America” towards a European-style Social Democracy, which has proven disastrous.

    While true that many Americans don’t keep up with what’s going on in the political world as well as they should, that does not make them stupid or gullible. They fully understand the old saying “Fool me once – shame on you. Fool me twice- shame on me”. They are realizing that they have been fooled, and are in no mood to be fooled again. Obama’s credibility is now shot.

  • k. pablo

    “The President of the United States is not actually an all powerful wizard who can make the economy rise by saying the right spells. The President is no more able to control the tides than King Canute. ”

    The problem is, he himself believes he IS that “all powerful wizard”….

  • The King Canute analogy is apt but not as portrayed in this article.

    As I understand the Canute story, Canute wished his sycophantic advisers would stop deferring to his every saying and thought by giving him sound advice. Since they would not Canute made the absurd proclamation that he would stop the tide from rising and followed this by demanding that his advisers place his throne on the beach at low tide.
    He then commanded the tide to stay out, a thing that he knew was impossible, and when the tide enveloped his throne – admonished his advisers – that he needed dissenters and disagreement when his approach was wrong.

    It was a wonderful act of humility and it worked. He got sound advice and hence ruled a long a prosperous reign.

    Canute the politician

    “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey”.

    Many wish the sycophantic press would come to their senses and cease the love affair with Obama. It seems you have seen some tarnish begin to appear. Good for you.

    Mr. Obama on the other hand does not seem to have a sense of humility at all. His attitude seems to be one of condescension. He and is advisers continue to pursue the course that it was only the “economy” not really the policies that the electorate repudiated with the 2010 elections.

    Obama and his advisers adhere to the notion that the people really don’t know what he saved us from, that there are many things he has done that we just don’t know about. Really? I say. Why does it have to be a secret? When he presented this argument to Jon Stewart, Stewart missed the wise advisers moment to simply ask: Why keep it secret? Let us know it right now to prove those racist GOP critics wrong.

    But alas, the utter lack of humility and the elist attitude prevails. I am compelled to repeat what many on the thread have already eloquently spoken – but that Obama is an empty suit who never really says anything. He is the Adelai Stephenson and Warren Harding of the day.

    The problem is: He believes the hype. He is sold on L’etat, C’est Moi.

    From C. S. Lewis.
    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

  • Marcus

    I love these liberal pukes. They don’t want the President to fail. They don’t want him weakened or humiliated internationally. “That wouldn’t be good for the U.S.”

    But … for 8 full years they waged a mean, foul campaign of hate against President Bush, taking every opportunity to spew venom that they could. Whatever lie they puked up, it must have been true because it was repeated, happily, by the press (if not planted).

    Well, the worm has turned. This president was unqualified and inexperienced from the start, and now his “chickens are coming home to roost”. He looks the fool when he goes overseas, he looks the fool when he stands before a teleprompter in front of 4th graders, and he looked the jackass last Tuesday. I only hope people have enough long-term memory left to send him packing in two years so we can minimize the damage.

  • phantomorphan

    Barack (“The Shining One”) Obama is paying the wages of deception (he deliberately misrepresented, in collusion with the media, who he was) and epic arrogance. Unfortunately, this country may well pay a very high cost for its self-indulgent moment of madness in 2008. The sooner this delusional “king” is replaced, the better.

  • Walter,

    Thank you for for your wit, wisdom and insight. Reading your work helps make sense of a pretty crazy world.

    Fred Unger

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  • mike

    […] Globalization seems to be making too
    many Americans less well off […]

    This is not the Russel Mead I know – “seems”? Walter, what do you need to in order to change “seems” to “clearly does” ?
    God – walter has settled under the “man made disaster” sign –

  • tom swift

    “I do not understand why a thinking person would want to stoop to that level. Or do we now think that two wrongs make a right?”

    Given the situation, these admonishments are hardly apposite.

    The Helmsman is steering the Ship of State directly toward the rocks. Just how much compromise is practical? Perhaps we can choose which rock we’d rather he wreck the country upon? This seems a feeble way to conduct politics. Much better to do something more drastic, and perhaps avoid the wreckage altogether. Such is what I would expect of a thinking person. Those who have already been mentally defeated by the angst and futility of it all won’t be of much help; the rest of us will, as usual, just have to manage without them.


    Mr. Mead: When you allow your thought processes to engineer your article, you are one of our premier Commentators. When you allow your emotion to be woven into the fabric, the quality of your narrative suffers badly. If you re-read the last four paragraphs, you will see what i mean. Hoping and wishing do not provide sound policy.

  • Eddie Willers

    Handling President Token with kid gloves like this benefits no one. The independents who bought his snake oil in 2008 and then threw out his patsies in 2010–whether they reelect him in 2012 will probably depend on the economy he is working so hard to wreck with punitive tax increases and bottomless debt. The voters bear the ultimate responsibility for electing this man. Americans are giving democracy as bad a name as the Athenians once did.

  • Laughing AmeriKan

    The clown “president”, O’Icarus!

  • DavisJohn

    I hope America succeeds. To the extent Obama can work to make America greater, I hope he succeeds too. However, so far I think he has weakened the country (putting us deep in debt and with nothing to show for it). If he continues to push his liberal wealth re-distribution agenda, then his agenda is opposed to the success of America, and in that sense, I hope he fails.

  • Jamie

    WRM, I do understand and applaud your desire to continue to afford the office of the Presidency the respect it deserves. I share it. What I don’t share is an automatic conflation of the person and the office, by dint of the person’s having been elected (even freely and duly, or whatever your phrase was) to it. I try, always, to address the current President respectfully ad to confine my criticisms to the substantive, but (for instance) when President Clinton dishonored the office by his behavior in it (actually, for God’s sake, in it!), it was an occasion for horrified and full-throated dismay, not for defense of the person of the President. President Bush always remembered with the dignitiy of the office; his opponents had a hard time sniggering at him for anything like that, so they settled for mocking his accent, background and ears, and for creating boring and/or wild stories about his unique combination of malevolent brilliance and utter stupidity.

    President Obama needs to rein in the rhetoric, learn to function without Hollywood trappings (I consider the teleprompter and the fake columns and all to be an embarrassing weakness more than an active disgrace to the office), and DO something – but the reason so much of his political opposition wants him to fail is because the things he actually wants to do are antithetical to both what we believe works and to our philosophical position in support of individual, not collective, freedom (not collective “liberty,” not collective “equality”) and, to an increasing extent again these days, States’ rights.

  • KevinH

    The hyperbole here is ridiculous. Both in your portrayal of the hype and hope for Obama before the election, and for the size and severity of his fall.

    He came in with a ~63% approval rating, and now he’s at ~45%.

    Obama has withstood the greatest economic disaster since the great depression, and his approval ratings are still higher than Regan in 1982, and about equal to Clinton in 94.



    A lot of heat without any read light.

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  • Lindsey

    Such a shame that a well-written, balanced piece about the president can turn to scorched earth in the comments section. When your point of view of POTUS includes assumptions about his character that are not only speculative but could not possibly be known by private citizens not of his acquaintance, then we must face that reasonable, conservative discourse is simply shouting down an empty hall… pity that.

  • Blue Dog

    Couched in the simplest terms, Barack Obama (President Dude as he is called in some circles) was elected because of willful ignorance and cognitive dissonance.

  • If worlds were bathtubs and water was the lubication that enables us to compromise and get along then our bathtub is half full and the drain is open. As much as I wish it were not so, it is so and pretending otherwise will not help. Obama is [an unwanted object — ed] in the tub. And we are all in hot water.

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  • I hate to say I told you so,in my blog during primaries I did write any one promising utopian world will fail,
    History is full of such phenomena and Obama was not exception either.

  • Marty Smith

    “this country still needs to stand behind our President when he faces the world.”
    Sorry, no can do since this president went on his ‘apologize for America tour’. He’s on his own.
    He is not now and never will be my president.

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  • Jerry in Detroit

    I’m old enough to have learned a few things.

    First, never confuse credentials with knowledge or ability.

    Second, the average shyster will produce all manner of credentials to rob you blind.

    Third, if a politician from your political party is caught looting the public, never forget that they are taking money you paid in good faith to the government. They are robbing you.

    Finally, President Obama has not been subjected to anywhere near the level of vitriol directed at opposing politicians like George W. Bush. (Chimpy McBushitler for those benighted souls who don’t recognize the name.)

  • vanderleun

    “No president in my lifetime has fallen from heaven to earth as rapidly as President Obama.”

    True. To find someone who approximates his velocity you have to go back to Lucifer: “Fiery the angels fell. Deep thunder rolled about their shores… “

  • vanderleun

    “Some of this was a natural pride that virtually the entire country felt at the election of our first African-American President. ”

    See: “Thou shaft have no graven images.”

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  • Ray

    Mead says that Obama is more experienced than he was before. But remember this quote about experience:

    “Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.”

    So far, we have no evidence that Obama has learned a thing, especially from the midterm elections.

  • Endocelt

    “No president in my lifetime has fallen from heaven to earth as rapidly as President Obama.”
    Actually, using the number of house seats lost in a midterm as a metric, no president has fallen to earth as rapidly as President Obama in the history of the nation. More seats have been lost in midterms, but none in the first midterm election of any popularly elected president. Grant lost 96 seats in 1874, the midterm of his second term. Cleveland lost 125 seats in the midterm election of his second term of office, disconjugate from his first term. FDR lost 72 seats in the 1938 midterm, during his second term. The Republicans lost 78 seats in 1948 during Truman’s run for the Presidency on his own merits, after serving most of Roosevelt’s 4th term (in that case, the incumbent picked up seats in a Presidential election year). Harry Truman, in the 1946 midterm, serving FDR’s fourth term and not elected to the presidency at that point, lost 55 seats in the House. Hoover lost 52 seats in 1930, his first and only midterm, after the stock market crash in 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. Carter did not lose as many seats as Obama in his only midterm. Democrats may have lost control of the House in 1994 in Clinton’s first midterm, but they didn’t lose as many seats as Obama did this year. So, WRM is more than correct, and understates his case. Obama’s first mid-term losses are, as he is wont to say, unprecedented. Obama told the Democrats, in pushing his signature healthcare legislation, that the election outcome would be different than with Clinton in 1994, because of him; he just didn’t specify how the outcome would be different (e.g., worse). So we find that the only thing worse, electorally, than not passing healthcare reform, was passing healthcare reform.

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