Victor Davis Hanson: Obama’s Virtual Rose Garden

Roundup: Historians' Take

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of the just-released The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.

When Barack Obama went into hibernation in December and vacationed in Hawaii, we noted that his poll numbers edged back up some. His advisers probably noticed the anomaly too: that the less the people hear and see of Obama, the more they seem to like the abstract idea of Obama — a young, charismatic postracial president. The reality of Obama is something else again: a highly partisan, divisive statist, who cannot finish a speech without blaming his predecessor, mangling history, or creating yet another straw-man bogeyman. The difficulty, then, is to convince the loquacious and crowd-adoring Obama to focus instead on private fundraisers, photo-ops, sporting events, and teleprompted studio speeches. He looks a lot more presidential when he’s golfing than he does when he’s giving yet another whiny speech about why high gas prices are somebody else’s fault and not drilling is sound energy policy.
Similarly, Obama realizes that the legislation he pushed for and that passed in the two years the Democrats controlled Congress before the tea-party revolt grows increasingly more unpopular. In any case, Obama is not keen on running for reelection on Obamacare or his stimulus package, given that his sinking polls bottomed out once the Republicans won the House and stopped much of his agenda. Somehow Obama must square the circle of blaming the Republican House for derailing the unpopular agenda of his first two years in office, and thereby giving him a far better chance for reelection.
Obama now also realizes that such a run-out-the-clock passivity might be even wiser abroad. It is one of life’s real injustices that the White House Rose Garden cannot be ripped out for a putting green, from which the world could better be waved on. The controversial outreach and reset diplomacy of 2009 are passé. There will be no more laureate speeches and interviews about an arrogant America of the pre-Obama past not listening to the Muslim world. Cairo speeches are the stuff of 2009, not 2012. Apologies for genocide and Hiroshima are ancient history. Ahmadinejad and Assad were not just creations of George Bush’s unilateralism. There will be no more bows, no more exclusive interviews with Al-Arabiya. There will be no new deadlines to Iran to really, really stop enrichment — or else...

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