Politics & Policy

Dorsal Fins Surround White House

Liberals are frantically trying to explain away Obama’s problems.

You’ve got to wonder when White House political guru David Axelrod will look at the churning pools of poll data and, like Chief Brody in Jaws, say: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

The analogy isn’t quite right, because in the movie, the shark ultimately loses. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Barack Obama and Axelrod victoriously paddle away on the flotsam of their own political wreckage. But in one sense, the analogy works just fine: This White House is rudderlessly lost at sea and inadequate to the challenges it faces.

#ad#At the beginning of the year, retiring seven-term representative Marion Berry (D., Ark.) recounted a conversation he had with the president. Obama’s unrelenting push for health-care reform in the face of public opposition reminded Berry of the Clinton-era missteps that led to the Republican rout of the Democrats in 1994. “I began to preach last January that we had already seen this movie and we didn’t want to see it again because we know how it comes out,” Berry told a newspaper.

Or, to quote Brody in Jaws 2: “But I’m telling you, and I’m telling everybody at this table, that that’s a shark! And I know what a shark looks like, because I’ve seen one up close. And you’d better do something about this one, because I don’t intend to go through that hell again!”

Convinced that his popularity was eternal, Obama responded by saying, yes, but there’s a “big difference” between 1994 and 2010, and that big difference is, “you’ve got me.”

The funny thing is, Obama might have been right. Because things might be much worse for Democrats in 2010 than they were in 1994 — and the big difference might well be Barack Obama.

In fairness, the biggest difference is probably the economy, which in political terms should be fitted for a pine box. Of course, Mr. Credibility, Joe Biden, says it’s doing great, sounding a bit like the shopkeeper in the Monty Python “dead-parrot sketch” who insists the bird’s “just resting.”

In 1994, when the Contract with America Congress was elected, the jobless rate was 5.6 percent. Today it’s 9.5 percent and may well climb higher. More than 18 percent of people who want full-time work can find only part-time jobs. Consumer confidence is falling again, housing sales recently hit a 15-year low, and the stock market is off 11 percent since its April highs for the year.

While some people — such as yours truly — think Obama and the Democrats deserve much of the blame for the worsening economy, one can be agnostic on all that and recognize that voters have lost faith in the Democratic party (which is not quite the same thing as saying they have bottomless respect for the GOP). The congressional generic ballot — asking which party voters prefer — is as bad for Democrats today as it was in 1994. Stu Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Report — not exactly an RNC direct-mail operation — says Obama’s approval rating (already below 50 percent) will likely rival Clinton’s in November of 1994. Already, Democrats in tight races, including the Senate majority leader, are distancing themselves from the White House, and pretty much everyone has stopped trying to make lemonade out of the Obamacare lemon.

Moreover, Obama has lost his connection with the American people. He’s aloof without inspiring confidence. On issue after issue — terrorism, immigration, the oil spill, the environment, and the Ground Zero mosque — he seems determined to craft his responses in a way that will annoy the most people possible.

#page#Liberals are frantically trying to explain away Obama’s problems. Some want to protect their investment in Obama, and some want to protect their investment in liberalism. So some claim that his mistakes stem from not being progressive enough, while others insist that he’s played his cards right, but we need to wait a bit longer for the payoff.

#ad#I’m dubious on both counts. Obama has delivered massively for progressives, and it strikes me as idiotic to say that if he had only squeezed a bit more liberalism into his first two years, everything would be better. Moreover, I don’t think the payoff is coming, because I think the policies are wrong.

But, again, that’s an argument for a different day. What’s clear right now is that the president who claimed to be the personification of a world-historical moment has clearly misread his mandate, the mood, and the moment. He’s lost at sea, and not even a bigger boat will save him.

— Jonah Goldberg is an editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Most Popular

Immigration

Angela Rye Knows You’re Racist

The political philosopher Michael Oakeshott said that the “rationalist” is hopelessly lost in ideology, captivated by the world of self-contained coherence he has woven from strands of human experience. He concocts a narrative about narratives, a story about stories, and adheres to the “large outline which ... Read More
Immigration

What the Viral Border-Patrol Video Leaves Out

In an attempt to justify Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s absurd comparison of American detention facilities to Holocaust-era concentration camps, many figures within the media have shared a viral video clip of a legal hearing in which a Department of Justice attorney debates a panel of judges as to what constitutes ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Pro-Abortion Nonsense from John Irving

The novelist has put up a lot of easy targets in his New York Times op-ed. I am going to take aim at six of his points, starting with his strongest one. First: Irving asserts that abortion was legal in our country from Puritan times until the 1840s, at least before “quickening.” That’s an overstatement. ... Read More
Film & TV

Murder Mystery: An Old Comedy Genre Gets Polished Up

I  like Adam Sandler, and yet you may share the sense of trepidation I get when I see that another of his movies is out. He made some very funny manboy comedies (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy) followed by some not-so-funny manboy comedies, and when he went dark, in Reign over Me and Funny People, ... Read More