A Unified Theory of Obama
The divergence of theories regarding who Obama is and what he is really up to is quite astonishing.
Obama the Wimp
This interpretation actually comes from the Democratic left who are disappointed that Obama won't adopt a vocal, combative stance for more taxes and stimulus spending.
James Carville: "If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he'd have two."
Paul Krugman: "It's hard to escape the impression that Republicans have taken Mr. Obama's measure -- that they're calling his bluff in the belief that he can be counted on to fold. And it's also hard to escape the impression that they're right. ... all indications are that the party will have to look elsewhere for the leadership it needs."
Obama the Clueless
Bret Stephens, WSJ: "Even when he's criticized, his failures are usually chalked up to his supposed brilliance. Liberals say he's too cerebral for the Beltway rough-and-tumble; conservatives often seem to think his blunders, foreign and domestic, are all part of a cunning scheme to turn the U.S. into a combination of Finland, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. I don't buy it. I just think the president isn't very bright."
Obama the Manchurian Candidate
Norman Podhoretz: "He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts for the richly deserved failure both at home and abroad of the policies stemming from that reprehensible cast of mind."
Obama the Tammany Hall Politician with Ivy League Veneer (and Soros as Boss Tweed)
Buzz Patterson: "Without Soros and the Shadow Party, Barack Obama would be, at best, a senator from Illinois attending social gatherings with domestic terrorists Bill Ayres, Bernardine Dohrn and sitting in the pews of black liberation theologist Reverend Jeremiah Wright. At worst he'd be an unremarkable and unheard of state senator. Instead, Barack Obama is President of the United States."
Bernie Goldberg: "Yes, that's right. You know, I think it's easy to forget that because of Barack Obama's great smile and easy-going personality, it's easy for a lot of people not to notice, especially a lot of independent voters, not to notice who Barack Obama really is. And who he really is is an old-fashioned, at times downright nasty Chicago politician who gives hypocrisy and cynicism a bad name."
But is it possible to put all these seemingly disparate Obama interpretations into one consistent picture? I think so. They are not as antithetical as they seem.
The Hypothesized Profile
Let us hypothesize, initially, that Obama is firmly convinced of the moral superiority of his ultimate vision for America -- whatever that may be. He is also firmly convinced that confrontational polemics is not the way to implement his vision. One way or another, we "folks" and our representatives are too mule-headed to see that his vision of what America should be is the right one. He needs to stealth-walk us along the path to our proper destination. Each step can be justified as being a step towards better schools, better health care, a better energy system, better diplomacy. Better this and that.
America must be stealth-walked to a destination it would otherwise reject. Obama will accomplish this with his considerable oratorical skills to justify each step. Each goal along the way will seem humane and high-minded. The justification offered will be little more than homilies, but in his hands they will be inspiring, epigrammatic certitudes. To oppose such would reveal the moral poverty of one's position.
Who can oppose affordable universal health care as a goal? Who can oppose moving to a sustainable non-polluting green energy-based economy? Who can oppose smart diplomacy in which nation states act in concert? Who can oppose improving the conditions of decaying inner cities? ...
It is all-important that he appear the pragmatic, high-minded statesman who is not blinded by an ideology or partisan politics. That means he must be willing to compromise for the "good of the country." If he appears the ideologue rather than the high-minded statesman, he cannot stealth-walk us to our proper destination.
In summary, the profile is of a man who is: (1) convinced that he knows what America should become and that his vision for America is morally superior; (2) convinced that his vision is unpalatable to the majority of Americans and that hence, Americans must be tricked into heading for the proper destination without being given a clear statement of just what that destination is; (3) convinced that he must appear the high-minded statesman rather than the combative ideologue in order to nudge America along its righteous path. Let us call this the X-Profile.
Now consider the Wimp Theory. What is seen as backing off from a fight is actually consistent with Obama's posture of appearing to be the high-minded statesman willing to compromise. He is not willing to go to the wire for increased taxes and spending and risk being seen as a strident partisan ideologue. Once he is seen as a strident ideologue, the stealth-walking is over.
Consider the Clueless Leader Theory. Just as any CEO of a corporation must do, Obama appointed "czars" to implement the grand design of his policies. A CEO cannot be an expert in finance, marketing, personnel, manufacturing, engineering, design, and so forth. The CEO must appoint experts who share his vision in those areas. But Obama's czars, for the most part, have been clueless. Some had to be thrown under the bus; others are hanging on and becoming an increasing embarrassment. Obama is not clueless as to where America should be going but his policy implementers have failed him -- in that sense he has himself failed. But failure is not inconsistent with the other three criticisms or with an ultimate goal set. Obama is chagrined that his stealth-walk has hit one pothole after another and is not above whining about it. (Now that is not statesman-like.)
Consider the Manchurian Candidate Theory. The belief is that behind the defense of specific policy objectives defended by high-minded rhetoric is a grand plan or vision for America that Americans find unacceptable. This directly supports the hypothesized profile advanced here. It adds to the profile by claiming that they know what the ultimate plan/destination is. They have marshaled a great deal of evidence to back their points. The profile hypothesized here, however, does not specify the plan -- only that is not announced and defended up front. Not only is the Manchurian Candidate position is consistent with the profile, but it adds substance to the profile.
Consider the Old Time Tammany Politician Theory. Obama's administrative successes have been rife with sweetheart deals, kickbacks, waivers, and paybacks (both positive and negative). But that is consistent with the necessity of the stealth-walk and step-by-step advance to his ultimate goals. If Obama thinks that it is futile to argue up front for his ultimate policy goals and appear the strident ideologue in the process, then his goals must be inched forward by behind-the-scenes backroom deals. The exception, of course, was ObamaCare, both publicly announced and backroom-jacked into existence. But Obama could still appear the patrician by having Reid do all the dirty work, which the man apparently loves. By contrast, the greening initiatives are by administrative or agency regulatory fiat -- the stealth-walk epitomized.
The profile remains intact. Whatever the means-induced destination may be (and I believe Podhoretz has it right), the profile is of a president who would stealth-walk us to that destination -- a president who is absolutely convinced of the moral superiority of his vision and is hence justified in using Machiavellian back-room tactics to nudge the unenlightened on the righteous path...and the potholes and bumbling Czars are not his fault.
A leader with the X-Profile both invites the four criticisms and is in his own mind impervious to them. A leader with the X-Profile can sustain his belief in himself as a noble leader taking a squabbling country, insofar as it is possible at all, to its proper destination. It is inevitable that (1) his leadership will be seen as weakness to the ideologues who think their vision is his and don't understand the necessity of statesmanship; (2) his leadership will be seen as clueless by those who cannot see the path of his leadership; (3) his leadership will be seen as diabolical by those who suspect his destination but fail to grasp its nobility; (4) his leadership will be seen as just plain old pay-go Chicago politics to those who fail to grasp the high purpose of his leadership.
The leader with the X-Profile may be failed by his constituency and his people, but he will still see himself as a great, high-mined, visionary leader ahead of his time. It is quite natural that such a man would resort to finger-wagging and scolding his squabbling, foot-dragging legislators while at the same time seeming aloof, narcissistic, and besotted with a sense of moral and personal superiority. Is that Obama?