The Corner

When Reality Catches up to Rhetoric

The growing problem for the Obama administration is that the public has finally caught on that the president’s tough rhetoric and soaring oratory don’t match reality.

“Considering all options” and “wanting more information” essentially mean dithering and voting present on Afghanistan, even after announcing the adoption of a new bold strategy.

“Saving jobs” means conjecturing about the effects of massive borrowing and enhancing your figures through the creation of fictitious congressional districts and bogus employment reporting.

“Punishing KSM” means giving the liberal community a world platform for legal gymnastics designed to repudiate the past administration and demonstrate that community’s “tolerance” — without much worry about justice for KSM or the adverse effects of giving such a monster a public megaphone.

The health-care mess grows worse: The Chinese have caught on that Obama wants to borrow more billions for us, who are cash poor, to create entitlements that they, who are cash rich, would not create for their own people. The new government suggestion that women not begin receiving routine mammograms until age 50 comes at a bad time, given that critics of Obamacare have been arguing that it will lead to rationing of service.

Guantanamo is about to go the way of tribunals, renditions, intercepts, Predators, and wiretaps — damned in rhetoric, but kept intact in reality.

“Transparency” did not quite happen either: The Obama administration has offered more photo-ops and fewer press conferences (cf. Anita Dunn on that tact), and Washington has as many lobbyists as ever. Meanwhile, the administration has not fulfilled its promise to post pending legislation on the Internet; it has politicized the NEA; and it has declared war on Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, and the town-hall protesters. The president has even employed the sexual slur “tea-bagger” against his opposition.

Obama’s “reset button” foreign policy in just ten months has made the Middle East worse and has delighted European leftists as much as it has terrified Europe’s centrist leaders. In Latin America, the U.S. has gone from being an advocate of consensual government, human rights, and market capitalism to being an appeaser of Chávez, Zelaya, Ortega, the Castros, et al., inasmuch as these communist hardliners are now seen as problematic advocates for indigenous peoples and economic justice.

We are left with two conclusions. 1) A very inexperienced president has discovered that all the easy, Manichean campaign rhetoric of 2008 does not translate well into actual governance. 2) Obama is in a race to push a rather radical, polarizing agenda down the throat of a center-right country before the country wakes up and his approval ratings hit 40 percent.

We may see one of two things happen: Either the country will move more to the left in four years than it has in the last 50; or Obama will take down with him both the Democratic Congress and the very notion of responsible liberal governance, thereby achieving a Jimmy Carter–type legacy.

The next year will be one of the most interesting in memory.