The Corner

Obama vs. Obama

The president gave the sort of scare speech he not long ago warned against, and blasted the income-tax rates he not long ago agreed were necessary — in a context in which he has just presented a budget with a $1.6 trillion deficit of the sort he now says is unsustainable, and has warned about recklessly voting against raising the debt ceiling in a fashion that he himself had once done, in a larger landscape in which he had once damned attacking Middle East countries in optional wars, Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, intercepts, wiretaps, Predators, and leaving troops in Iraq, and then embraced or expanded all that and more (this list is infinite and includes everything from drilling to campaign financing to earmarks).

These weird about-faces raise interesting questions that transcend the current politics of the deficit:

a) Has Obama in his past careers never been called to account and so reached a point where simply being Obama means that we are not supposed to apply standards of accuracy, memory, and consistency to him in the way we do to all others?

b) Or does an absent-minded Obama carelessly make up things up ad hoc as he goes along, forgetting what he said earlier, but secure that his hope-and-change delivery of the moment will so mesmerize the audience that no one will remember or care if at times he ends up saying exactly the opposite of what he had said earlier?

c) Or is he so blatantly partisan a politician that he has no principles at all and knowingly says things that are aimed at appealing to 51 percent of the public at any given moment, and therefore will always change with public opinion?

d) Or is he so cynical that he understands campaign rhetoric has nothing to do with actual governance, and so he is allowed to say something that he knows in advance that he is not bound to follow?

e) Or is he so bored with the trying job that he feels no responsibility to offer reliable, consistent governance, and so rashly throws things out and then hastens back to the more enjoyable PR aspects of the office?

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