The Corner

The Trouble with Obama

I have been trying of late to come to grips with why I find the ideologist/conspiracist understandings of President Obama unsatisfying: Many thinkers are writing books saying the problem with Obama is he’s anti-colonialist, socialist, or what have you. My concern is not that these analyses are necessarily false — for all I know, Obama may have a secret plan to remodel America in accordance with the writings of Herbert Marcuse or Frantz Fanon (good luck with that) — as that even if some of them happen to be true, they don’t really explain the observed problem of Obama’s presidency, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, that he is a clueless bungler. Look at the utter gormlessness with which he has been able, over the past two years, to alienate virtually all groups of Americans, left, right, and center; to squander the massive good will of the people who elected him. What’s more likely — that he’s a hardened ideological “Manchurian president” deliberately laying the seeds of our future enslavement? or that he’s just a lucky working politician-magician who amazed us with a few magic tricks in 2008 but who long, long ago ran out of new ones? I mean, put yourself in Obama’s place. In 2008, the American people approached this young chap and said, “We find your set speeches very charming, and even though you have next to zero experience with national challenges and have accomplished nothing besides authoring a couple of books talking about what an impressive person you are, it would make us feel ever so good about ourselves if you consented to be President.” What was he supposed to say? What would you have said? “No” ?

And so, like the dog who chased the car and has — for once, per impossibile — caught it, he is flummoxed, completely overpowered by the situation in which he finds himself. His policies don’t work, and he has no others. It’s possible that this is all part of a deep Obama plan. But at this point, I can’t help thinking of him as the Colonel Kurtz character (Marlon Brando) trying to justify himself before his captive, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), in Apocalypse Now.

Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?

Willard: I don’t see any — method — at all . . .

Apocalypse Now fans could have great fun continuing with this idea; the Tea Partiers are errand boys sent by grocery clerks to collect the bill, etc. But back to the point. The most important thing to know about Obama in 2010 is not that he has some sort of hidden agenda, but that he is a dud as president — and everything we need to know about that is out in the open. (Lest anyone wish to dismiss my opinion as the partisan ravings of an Obama-hater, I suggest they click here. I didn’t vote for him, but I felt genuine patriotic pride in his election; and my strong wish for the first few months of his presidency was that he would accomplish something worthwhile, because the country’s in deep trouble and doesn’t have four years to waste in getting out of it.)

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