Victor Davis Hanson: America's Obama Obsession

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College.]

For 30 months the nation has been in the grip of a certain Obama obsession, immune to countervailing facts, unwilling to face reality, and loath to break the spell. But like all trances, the fit is passing, and we the patient are beginning to appreciate how the stupor came upon us, why it lifted, and what its consequences have been.

How Obama Won

Barack Obama was elected rather easily because, in perfect-storm fashion, five separate trends coalesced last autumn.

1) Obama was eloquent, young, charismatic — and African-American. He thus offered voters a sense of personal and collective redemption, as well as appealing to the longing for another JFK-New Frontier figure. An image, not necessarily reality, trumped all.

2) After the normal weariness with eight years of an incumbent party and the particular unhappiness with Bush, the public was amenable to an antithesis. Bush was to be scapegoat, and Obama the beginning of the catharsis.

3) Obama ran as both a Clintonite centrist and a no-red-state/no-blue-state healer who had transcended bitter partisanship. That assurance allowed voters to believe that his occasional talk of big change was more cosmetic than radical.

4) John McCain ran a weak campaign that neither energized his base nor appealed to crossover independents. McCain turned off conservatives; many failed to give money, and some even stayed home on election day. Meanwhile, the media and centrists who used to idolize McCain’s non-conservative, maverick status found Obama the more endearing non-conservative maverick.

5) The September 2008 financial panic turned voters off Wall Street and the wealthy, and allowed them to connect unemployment and their depleted home equity and 401(k) retirement plans with incumbent Republicans. In contrast, they assumed that Obama, as the anti-Bush, would not do more bailouts, more stimuli, and more big borrowing.

Take away any one of those factors, and Obama might well have lost. Imagine what might have happened had Obama been a dreary old white guy like John Kerry; or had Bush’s approvals been over 50 percent; or had Obama run on the platform he is now governing on; or had McCain crafted a dynamic campaign; or had the panic occurred in January 2009 rather than September 2008. Then the trance would have passed, and Obama, the Chicago community organizer and three-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, would have probably lost his chance at remaking America...

... 4) “Bush did it” was the I.V. drip of the Obama campaign, always there to infuse a fresh life-saving excuse into every Obama fainting spell. But the problem now is that it has been more than nine months since Bush left office, and Obama’s “mop up” metaphors are getting stale. Worse still, the reasons the public soured on Bush are precisely the reasons it may well sour more on Obama, inasmuch as he took Bush’s problems like deficits, soaring federal spending, bailouts, and unemployment and made them far worse.

Yet Obama has given no credit for the good that Bush did, and therefore must remain mum about the other “Bush Did It”s, like quiet in Iraq; the homeland-security protocols, from renditions and tribunals to wiretaps and intercepts; AIDS relief for Africa; friendly governments in Britain, France, Germany, India, and Italy; and domestic safety since 9/11. If Bush is at least partly responsible for all these things as well, were they therefore bad?

Now What?

Obama very soon is going to have to make a tough choice, far tougher than his current “present” votes on the option of sending additional troops to Afghanistan.

As the midterm elections near, and his popularity bobs up and down around 50 percent, Obama can do one of two things.

He could imitate Bill Clinton’s 1995 Dick Morris remake. In Obama’s case, that would mean, abroad, cutting out the now laughable apologies for his country, ceasing to court thugs like Ahmadinejad, Chávez, and Putin, keeping some distance from the U.N., and paying closer attention to our allies like Britain and Israel. At home, he could declare victory on his sidetracked agenda and then start over by holding spending in line, curbing the deficit, stopping the lunatic Van Jones–style czar appointments, courting the opposition, and tabling cap-and-trade. I think there is very little chance of any of the above, whatever voters may have thought during the campaign.

Or, instead, Obama could hold the pedal to the floor on the theory that, as a proven ideologue, he must move the country far left before the voters catch on and stop him in his tracks in November 2010. That would mean more of the “gorge the beast” effort to spend and borrow so much that taxes have to soar, and thus redistribution of income will be institutionalized for a generation. He would push liberal proposals no matter how narrow the margin in the Senate. He would keep demonizing Fox News. In Nixonian fashion he might continue to hit the stump, ratcheting up his current “they’re lying” message and energizing his left-wing base by catering to the unions, gays, minorities — and liberal Wall Street special interests...

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Stephen Kislock - 11/1/2009

An Ally, the World, will War if Israel use the Lame Excuse to Attack Iran they may get a nuclear Weapon in two or three years.

Israel, is the Cancer, that cause so much Suffering and Death to the Owners of Palestine/Israel.

For Three Billion Dollars a year to Israel in Aid, America gets the Hatred that Israel should get alone.