Historians will look back at the 2008 campaign in the light of the 2010 midterm elections. Almost everything the president has done in the last two years is simply a continuance of that now strangely distant summer.
The only disconnects are (1) that the media are now embarrassed by Obama’s rapid decline in the polls and so suddenly, in catch-up fashion, have chosen to highlight his inexperience and hypocrisy in a way they did not in 2008. And (2) that governance requires concrete action in a way campaign rhetoric does not, and thus the American public can evaluate the consequences of deeds rather than the implications of mellifluent hope-and-change rhetoric.
Remember the 2008 claims of bipartisanship and an end to the old style of politics? Yet there was nothing in Obama’s prior career to substantiate those idealistic claims. In his first race, for the Illinois state senate in 1996, he sued to remove opponents from the ballot, and in his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2004, the divorce records of both his primary- and general-election opponents were mysteriously leaked. Subsequently, Obama compiled the most partisan record in the entire Senate, proving that he was the least willing senator to veer from a doctrinaire ideology. So if we are surprised that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Fox News, John Roberts, the tea parties, John Boehner, the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove, and Ed Gillespie have later become bogeymen of the week, we must remember that this is merely the logical continuance of Obama’s earlier hardball modus operandi.
Remember Obama’s praise for public campaign financing, with its attendant restrictions? Yet Obama was the first candidate in the history of publicly financed presidential campaigns to renounce such funding (after promising that he would accept it). His renunciation of the Carter-era program has probably wrecked the idea that presidential candidates will ever again be bound by public-financing protocols. In fact, Obama raised the largest pile of campaign cash in history, much of it from Wall Street, some of it from unnamed donors. So if we are surprised that he is now ritually attacking Wall Street financiers and alleging that his opponents are raising funds from unnamed sources, it is simply because he knows such landscapes firsthand only too well.
Remember the serial attacks on the Bush anti-terrorism protocols — questioning intercepts, wiretaps, and the Patriot Act, and decrying predator attacks in Afghanistan/Pakistan — and the promises to exit Iraq, close down Guantanamo, and end renditions and tribunals? Other than introducing some creative euphemisms (e.g., “man-made disasters,” “overseas contingency operations”), Obama either kept or vastly expanded the Bush protocols, apparently on the assumptions that (a) they were always needed and his prior opposition was simply acceptable campaign demagoguery, and (b) the Left’s opposition to the anti-terrorism efforts was always disingenuous and aimed only at sullying Bush, and therefore it would dissipate once Obama took them over intact.