The Corner

Rhetorical Questions

Re my post on John Heilemann’s analysis of Barack’s post-coronation woes, many readers seemed to think I implicitly accepted his premise–that there were “five good reasons” why Obama should have enjoyed the world’s longest honeymoon. Not at all. I regard all “five good reasons” as bunk, beginning with the first, “the smoothness of his transition and the superstar-laden lineup he installed”. The former was due to his predecessor’s graciousness and the latter aren’t “superstars” but a Clinton-era boyband reformed in late middle age.

As for Obama’s “skills as a communicator”, I pass. He seems to be like one of those shower units where the merest nudge of the dial turns it from freezing to scalding. One minute, it’s the audacity of hope. Next, we’re on the brink of the abyss. But I don’t think any serious ”foe” (as Mr. Heilemann puts it) would compare his rhetorical skills to Reagan’s. Reagan was splendidly straightforward: “We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around”. “Government isn’t the solution to the problem, government is the problem.” No pretense at post-partisan hopeychangeyness there.

By contrast, Obama is skilled mainly at evading clarity, at wrapping hard questions in a generalized gaseous uplift of abstract nouns. His inaugural shtick–it’s not about big or small government, it’s about smart government–is a classic dodge Reagan would rightly have despised. To govern is to choose, and the new president isn’t very good at explaining his choices.

So, if Mr. Heilemann were to examine his “five good reasons” why the honeymoon should have lasted another six months, they in themselves are a pretty good explanation as to why the bride’s sobering up and calling her mom collect.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.


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