The Corner

Big, and Messy and Tough?

I don’t quite know what President Obama meant when he recently remarked, “Not, ‘Change we can believe in next week.’ We knew this was going to take time, because we’ve got this big, messy, tough democracy.” 

Did Obama mean to say that legislative opponents had obstructed his change agenda? But if so, how so? From January 2008 to January 2011 he had a substantial majority in the House, and he retained a comfortable majority in the Senate, to the point of enjoying a filibuster-proof majority until the election of Scott Brown in January 2010. When his supporters list his supposed accomplishments, they emphasize Obamacare, his stimuli, government take-overs, and radical changes in U.S. foreign policy. The House and Senate were behind his nearly $5 trillion in borrowing, and the Republicans impotent to stop him. Had he wished to ram through amnesty under the brand of “comprehensive immigration reform,” he had the partisan votes until January 2010 or perhaps even 2011 to so in the manner of the Obamacare passage.

Does “big” and “messy” and “tough” refer to the November 2010 election when the people weighed in and rejected his vision in the largest midterm rebuke since 1938? If so, did he think things were going great, at least until he lost the House? Did he asume that mellifluous assertion would suffice in the way it had at Columbia, Harvard or the University of Chicago?

I am afraid that his lament may be seen along the following lines: previously a senator and candidate Obama could soar with “hope and change,” “million of new green jobs,” and “this is our moment” refrains, which wowed partisan fainting crowds, earned him godlike epithets from the media, went unchallenged, and never were scrutinized, much less reified. Now, as President he must translate his mostly adolescent rhetoric into action, and after two years of that effort,  the public, though not his congressional allies or the media, simply said “enough is enough” — in a “big,” “messy,” and “tough way.”

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