Asked by Oprah to grade his own performance during the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama did not hesitate to pat himself on the back: "a good, solid B-plus." The conservatives are genuinely puzzled by the president's blithe confidence. How can this man view his patently disastrous rule as near-perfect? Is he delusional? Not at all. It's just that Obama sees things differently. His performance can be judged as nothing short of calamitous only if he is seen as honestly trying to be true to his presidential oath of office "to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
But what in the world makes anyone believe that the president shares the traditionalist frame of reference? Barack Obama is a lifelong radical, and his ideology compels him to see the world through a revolutionary prism. In other words, from the While House, reality looks very different from the way it is seen on Main Street. Where Obama stands, he has indeed earned a solid grade for the first year of his presidency. Let's try to evaluate Obama's performance from the leftist perspective.
He has piled up trillions in new spending, saddling the generations to come with a crushing debt burden. While the Keynesian prescription of spending one's way out of the recession has been widely discredited, it is still gospel on the left. Besides, what is power for if not to reward friends and buy votes? Just call it "stimulus" and help yourself.
Obama has done nothing to help business, the only reliable job-generator, while bemoaning high unemployment and putting vast swathes of the U.S. economy under direct government control. For the left, capitalism is the ultimate enemy, its destruction by any means necessary the Holy Grail. Wealth must be taken away from the greedy plutocrats and redistributed to the "rightful owners" -- the poor.
All progressives worth their salt detest private property and view the government as the be-all and end-all. From their viewpoint, nationalizing everything in sight is the only solution to America's problems -- the only true path to secular salvation. Regrettably, it cannot be done in one fell swoop; the resistance is too stiff. So the ultimate goal will have to be reached step by painful step, and Obama deserves plaudits for his initial efforts.
When two-thirds of the U.S. auto industry, for years encumbered by unreasonable union demands, finally went belly up, President Obama put GM and Chrysler under direct government control. Big Labor is one of the president's most important and valuable allies deserving a handsome payoff. So he gave a piece of the action to the UAW in spite of its prominent role in steering both auto companies into the ditch.
The president has been trying to convert the country's energy sector to the "green" creed, which is sure to take the wrecking ball to the American way of life and dramatically reduce our standard of living. Obama's energy policy goes to the heart of the entire progressive agenda. After the downfall of communism, the left almost immediately embraced the next millenarian project -- environmentalism -- and concentrated its prodigious energies on a giant undertaking: to stampede the world and put the progressives in power, wielding the global warming scare as its latest cataclysm. By pushing the cap-and-trade legislation, Obama has done his part.
The same goes for the crown jewel of Obama's agenda: health care reform designed to give the government absolute control over one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Admittedly, Obama could not get everything he wanted, but even partial success would be a stupendous achievement, giving him hope to build on it in the fullness of time.
Obama's diplomacy essentially boils down to preening like a peacock on the world stage. Endlessly apologizing for America and appeasing her enemies looks like a joke -- but only to his critics. Obama appeases tyrants of all stripes and consistently tries to ingratiate himself with the Muslim ummah -- only to lose everyone's respect and turn himself into the butt of jokes. But it only looks like a foreign policy disaster to his enemies on the right. As far as the progressives are concerned, bowing down to the third-world despots is exactly the right and proper thing to do.
The left believes that there is no problem that cannot be solved through negotiations, provided the American leaders refrain from attempts to impose Pax Americana and promise to treat their third-world antagonists with respect. Who is better-suited to a policy of engaging America's enemies than Obama, with his rare rhetorical gifts? True, so far the president has not achieved much success, but it will undoubtedly come later, when the seeds he has sown sprout.
Obama's decision to prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court is bizarre, to say the least. Yet it has earned him a lot of brownie points on the left as a transparently obvious scheme to put George Bush on trial. The progressives are still hopping mad at Bush, and for them, a primal urge to take revenge on Obama's hated predecessor trumps any other considerations, including national security.
So for the left, Obama is almost without sin -- but not quite, because he has failed his ideological soulmates in some important respects. He has left in place many of the execrable vestiges of the previous regime, he promised to close down Guantánamo but hasn't yet, he has not withdrawn the American troops from Iraq, and he has expanded the war in Afghanistan. Still, the progressives realize it's not all Obama's fault; he is constrained by harsh reality, and they grudgingly reconcile themselves to the president's reluctant concessions.
Summing up, from the viewpoint of the progressives, while arguably deserving an "A" for effort and audacity, Obama's actual performance, even though not as good as it could be, certainly merits the grade he generously awarded himself: "a good, solid B-plus." From the conservative perspective, however, he has been an outright failure. So what is it: a qualified success, or an unqualified disaster? It all depends on where the observer stands. What's sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.