Who Shrank The President?
President Obama has had lots of bad weeks in his tenure. None has been as bad as last week.
So, in one week, Mr. Obama got caught whispering promises to our enemy, incited a race war, raised serious questions about his understanding of the Constitution, and then got smacked down over his proposed budget that was so wildly reckless that even Democrats in Congress could not support it.
It was as if you lumped Hurricane Katrina and the Abu Ghraib abuses into one week for George W. Bush. And added on top of that the time he oddly groped German Chancellor Angela Merkel and got caught cursing on a hot mic.
Even then, it wouldn't be as bad as Mr. Obama's week. You would probably also have to toss in the time Mr. Bush's father threw up into the lap of Japan's prime minister. Only then might we be approaching how bad a week it was for Mr. Obama.
Not that you will see any trace of embarrassment in the face of Mr. Obama. He has mastered the high political art of shamelessness, wearing it smugly and cockily. Kind of like a hoodie.
The week brought to the forefront questions about Obama's loyalty, competence, coherence, and leadership. In an election year, concerns like these do not portend well.
Peggy Noonan described the goodwill that Obama came into office with. According to Ms. Noonan, that goodwill is ebbing away:
Something's happening to President Obama's relationship with those who are inclined not to like his policies. They are now inclined not to like him.
The ebbing process started right after Obama assumed office. The events of the last week merely brought the doubts and distrust to the surface again. Ms. Noonan is too kind in her assessment. The dislike for Obama among his opponents is greater than anything I have ever witnessed against a Democrat president. Believing he is evil and intentionally out to destroy America is vastly different from "inclined not to like him." Jimmy Carter was ridiculed but never described the way Obama is.
Obama entered office as little more than a complex Rorschach blot. Much of his past had been hidden. What was known had been carefully scrubbed and scripted. His campaign avoided specifics. His speeches sounded great but contained no substance. Nothing defined him except what observers chose to imagine. He was a master in allowing you to believe whatever was most important to you.
Obama was little different from a Hollywood façade that could serve any purpose. In a sense he was the perfect candidate, a political chameleon seen by voters as whatever they most wanted. He was a blank slate for voters.
As a political "newbie" and the first serious African-American candidate, he played well. He was an outsider who would clean up Washington. For many he was the great healer who would bring unity to Republicans and Democrats, blacks and whites, and America and its enemies. His kumbayah campaign was hailed by the media and a large naive segment of the electorate believed it.
Obama was attractive, charming, articulate (at least while on teleprompter), commanding, and charismatic. He dressed immaculately, with a perfect crease in his trousers, as noted by New York Times columnist David Brooks. He caused a tingle to run up the leg of a particularly excited media midget.
His background was irrelevant. He was The One, perfect for the job. Never mind that he had never accomplished anything of substance in his life, short of claiming degrees from two prestigious institutions.
The lack of familiarity, his "unknowness," was Obama's greatest asset. It enabled him to be all things to most people. It was marketed brilliantly. He disposed of what seemed to be the unbeatable Team Clinton magically. Then he easily defeated the hapless, shop-worn John McCain.
Mr. Obama's greatest attribute, his unfamiliarity, is now gone. He is no longer an unknown shaped by the wishes, wants, and imagination of the public. He is inconvenienced by reality. He is known and has a track record. Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, it is replete with stumbles. He is arrogant to a fault and a narcissist. These may be his good qualities.
Obama is seen as an elitist, above the people. His gaffes, broken promises, duplicity, and other imperfections are a matter of public record. Although still an inkblot in many respects, his positions on issues are known and generally not popular. Consider just a few of his self-inflicted liabilities:
- His ObamaCare legislation, despite all the state propaganda supporting it, remains unpopular and is viewed by more than half the country as unconstitutional. Recent hearings in front of the Supreme Court were embarrassing to the Administration. The legislation is wildly over-budget and threatens to accelerate the bankruptcy of the nation. Further, the more people begin to deal with its implementation, the more unworkable it is considered, and the more it is considered a mistake. Obama's trophy piece of legislation is increasingly viewed as an unworkable, unmitigated disaster.
- Relations between Republicans and Democrats and blacks and whites are worse than at any time in my lifetime. The former is on evidence every day. The latter has been emphasized with the circus surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.
- The country's foreign policy is a growing embarrassment. America has alienated many of its allies. America and its enemies are not doing so well, either. We don't have a Cold War, although we don't need one with what is happening. Russia is not our ally. China is exerting its newly developed muscle. Iran openly mocks the president as it proceeds to nuclear weaponry. North Korea plays Lucy with the football and Charlie Brown falls for the trick every time. The Middle East is in shambles with the Arab Spring being nothing more than the replacement of tyrants who were friendly to the U.S. with tyrants who are not. Israel looks like it will have to act alone against an existential threat.
- The economy has not improved despite record stimulus. Economic statistics are routinely massaged to make outcomes look better. Suffocating regulations, increasing debt levels and regime uncertainty prevent recovery. Capital and talent increasingly flee the U.S.
- Obama has mortgaged the country's future with his spending. By the time of the election, he will have added almost $6 trillion in new debt. There is no interest in cutting spending despite the doomsday warnings from multiple sources. Markets will eventually choose how and when the spending will cease. Likely this timing will not be favorable to the country.
- Gasoline prices are soaring. The so-called "green energy" initiative has been exposed as corrupt political payoffs that will not produce economic energy for decades, if ever. Coal is under attack, exploration for oil is unnecessarily restricted, pipelines are stymied, and power plants are closing. Politically correct politics moves us away from modernity toward the Stone Age.
- Obama is no longer seen as The One -- just another scheming Chicago politician. He is increasingly viewed as arrogant, dishonest, and incompetent. These are not messianic attributes. He is just another politician, although more flawed than most.
Obama's re-election problem is simple: too many people know him.
Obama was never presidential material. He had no experience and no accomplishments (just what does a "community organizer" do?). His primary attribute was newness. Also, he could make a teleprompter sound inspiring. As a result, we have a president with the managerial skills of a hippie, the integrity of a con man, and the lust for power normally associated with dictators. That he has been a disaster for the country should be obvious.
To suggest that he is unelectable should also be obvious; however, it would be incorrect. Despite the increasing recognition of our empty-suited president, the election cannot be called against him. No, it is not the admittedly weak Republican field. It is more complex than that, but that is a story for another day.
To answer the titular question of the article: no one shrank the president. His size has not changed at all. Only people's perceptions have changed. It was only the hopes and dreams of the public that saw him as oversized. He was and still is a small man. He always has been.
Monty Pelerin blogs at Monty Pelerin's World.