When Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, it was because voters believed that he was the herald of a new kind of politician, one that thrived on optimism, sensibility, and competence. Oops.
When President Obama promised to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay within the first year of presidency, it was because he believed that a combination of unprecedented compassion and his own irresistible personal magnetism would cause other countries to embrace the newly-freed alleged terrorists who had survived his predecessor’s “Gulag.”
When President Obama promised to hold direct talks with Iran in order to convince the Mullahs to abandon their nuclear program, he assumed that by bringing the rogue nation into the civilized international political community he would be addressing the root causes of its aggression, and would consequently win concessions.
And when President Obama proposed the feel-good legislation of the year in health care reform, he expected that lingering goodwill, overwhelming majorities in Congress, and people’s insatiable appetite for his personal brand of change would cause an irreversible leftward shift in this country’s political climate, destroying the wicked profit motive and helping the populace move forward into a new, more enlightened age.
Barack Obama’s first eight months in office have been a disappointment, to say the least. And with the battle over health care raging on even as other crises pile up, it’s hard to imagine it getting better anytime soon. Some of that is due to the realities of the times - even the most proactive presidents are beholden to circumstances. But the truth is that most of Obama’s biggest failures are not the result of uncontrollable, irrational forces (Nancy Pelosi excepted), but rather of the President’s own inability to see beyond the elaborate fantasies that decades of academia and activism have constructed in his mind.
President Obama genuinely believes that his words have the power to make the planet cool and the oceans recede, or to bring unruly dictators happily into the global community. He expects that people will accept his superior judgment on issues ranging from health care to industrial policy to climate change because, after all, they were wise enough to elect him in the first place. He doesn’t understand why people would see him as an increasingly negative, overexposed presence in their lives. He doesn’t understand why people seem to have stopped listening.
And when the unexpected occurs; when Iran announces the construction of a second nuclear facility; when Guantanamo can’t be closed; when radicals within the administration are exposed and expelled; when the agenda flounders; when public confidence drops; when legislation fails, it doesn’t make sense to President Obama because in the fantastic theoretical world in which he has spent his entire adult life, things like that just don’t happen.
But they have happened, and the fate of the Obama presidency rests on whether or not he can do something he has never been called on to do in the past – adapt. He needs to shift to the center because it was the center, not the radical left, that elected him president, and it is the center that will vote him out of office. He needs to work with Republicans on legislation instead of shutting them out of the legislative process. He needs to adjust his expectations so that they reflect reality, not the theoretical world in which his philosophy developed. He needs to scale back his goals, to stop trying to be a revolutionary presidency and settle for simply being a decent one. And most of all, he needs to get off TV, to get back into the Oval Office, and to do his job.
Simply put, the thing that needs changing most right now is Barack Obama. And if he can’t, then America is going to look back at November 4, 2008 with only thought: