Barack the Blameless, Uncle Joe, and Uncle Vanya

by Peter Kirsanow

Gasoline prices have set an all-time high of $3.75 for the month of February, but as opposed to the Bush years there’s an uncommon (uncommon for any time other than the last four years, that is) media reluctance to assign blame to anyone within a mile radius of the White House. When gas prices broke $3.00 in 2007 the media, fueled in part by daily Democratic press briefings regarding  Bush/Cheney/Big Oil rapaciousness, were in full cry.

Now gas prices, like so many other phenomena, have, at best, a tenuous relationship to who’s in the White House. But the current occupant gets a pass from the media and the public even when his policies have clearly unfavorable consequences. The payroll tax goes up and Obama supporters are stunned to find smaller paychecks, despite the president’s repeated assurances that they’d never see any of their taxes go up — not one dime. Obamacare is passed and not only does the cost of health-care coverage spike, but millions will lose their employer-based health coverage, despite Obama’s assurance that if you like your coverage — and your doctor — you can keep them. Obama spends nearly a trillion on shovel-ready jobs and four years later the effective unemployment rate is more than double what he promised when the stimulus passed.

At the outset of his administration, Obama’s ability to remain blameless wasn’t particularly surprising. But we’re more than four years on. Yet in the minds of a large swath of the public, any present maladies are completely detached from anything the administration has done or failed to do. The bad things are the fault of someone or something else, and will be rectified just as soon as Obama gets to it. Don’t know when, but soon.

There are few meaningful precedents in American history. But something similar occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1930s when some Russians, particularly the intelligentsia, steadfastly refused to assign blame for their (far more severe) travails to Stalin — the very architect of the travails. In fact, when thousands of their comrades began disappearing, the faithful felt certain that, if only Stalin knew, all would be remedied. When millions began to perish from manufactured famines, the believers maintained that all would be well once someone got word of the crisis to Uncle Joe. Surely, he would do something. If only he knew.

Before sensitive souls shriek in horror, this obviously is not to compare Obama to Stalin or 21st-century America to the Soviet Union of the thirties. But at some point remaining invincibly oblivious to decline, or worse, yawning in its presence, reminds one of the bleak prospects of another Russian, albeit a fictional one:

We’ll live through many long days, many long nights; we’ll patiently endure all the ordeals that God sends us. We’ll work for others, never knowing rest. And in our old age, when our time comes, we’ll humbly die.

It’s always more important to fix the problem, not the blame. Unfortunately, today we’re doing neither.

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