After telling the nation it was so urgent to pass the stimulus bill there was no time to even read it, President Obama took off for Chicago with wife Michelle, to dine at a fancy Chicago restaurant and spend the night at home in Hyde Park for Valentine's Day. The Bill will just have to wait for him to sign it next Tuesday. How to explain this odd behavior? Was this a calculated move? What could be the thinking behind it?
Obama and his advisors are no doubt counting on the press to avoid noticing the contradiction between the alleged urgency and taking time off. This neglect is a necessary precondition for all that follows.
To a critical eye, the hurry to pass the bill appears to have been a con, a legislative stampede. But to that portion of the press and public caught up in the romance of the messiah, no such comparison of rhetoric and behavior even enters their minds. They want a leader to take care of them, the way FDR supposedly did.
Dropping the affairs of state and rushing home to Chicago to take the Love of His Life out on Valentine's Day just proves to many of his female supporters that he really is the man of their dreams. A substantial portion of the American electorate does not bother to follow political news, offering support on the basis of emotion and image. They simply don't care about the details of the bill signing. If Obama is doing it, there must be a good reason for it.
So Obama and his advisors could reasonably calculate that his support would not soften very much. He has also learned that by going out and campaigning for the stimulus bill, he was able to move public opinion several points in the bill's favor. His personal charm and the favorable public atmosphere can be counted upon to smooth over any questions.
But what were the motives behind the seemingly sudden trip?
Alt 1: In your face
Could this just be Chicago style? A matter of personal arrogance. Awing the enemy with a breathtaking demonstration of power, and hearing the lamentations of his women? The Washington Post headlines today, "Obama Scores Early Victory of Historic Proportions." As the consequences unfold, we will understand better the truth of this headline. After such a sweeping victory, who wouldn't be tempted to celebrate?
Alt 2: Michelle's Valentine
I am one of many observers who believes Michelle Obama is accustomed to getting her way on certain issues. Obama himself acknowledges her as his most important advisor, and it appears this is not mere boilerplate. She is self-evidently a vigorous and opinionated woman, who appears to have anger as one source of energy and purpose.
If such a woman demands of her husband a Valentine's Day trip back to their old house in Hyde Park, and a trip to a favored restaurant in the city they began life together in, who could turn her down?
Alt 3: PSYOPS
The third, most speculative and intriguing possibility is that this is a psychological operation, part of a chess game intended to generate criticism from Obama's opposition. The criticism then will be used to discredit conservatives to the Obama base. Look at how mean they are, even when the President takes his First Lady on a sentimental Valentine's Day journey. These conservatves will criticize everything. The marginalization of critical voices is an ongoing project of the left, with organs such as Media Matters dedicated to discrediting conservative media voices.
A certain percentage of the American populace has what amounts to a fairy tale view of President Obama's life story, and now presidency. The Obamas, handsome, well educated, successful, and incidentally black, are heroes to a broad swath of America. Attacking the Obamas for a romantic weekend makes critics just seem downright mean. This plays right into the hearts of many opponents who consider conservatives heartless, mean, and unworthy political power.
Obama and his advisors know that a strong degree of identification of the public with their leader during troubled times has transformed other political systems. People living in fear look for a leader to take care of them, and make things better. Obama appears to be riding a wave of uncritical adulation from his supporters. Open dispute is toxic to uncritical adulation, so finding a means to persuade his followers to disregard his critics is a matter of maintaining his power base.Perhaps Alt 3 is overthinking a bit. It is always possible that this was a simple romantic gesture. But it certainly does appear that President Obama does not like his conservative critics to carry much weight, and that his is a political career full of excellent chess playing.
Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.