Watching the President from the Other Side

I’m clearly not alone in feeling as if Barack Obama is proving to be even more of a disaster as president than I feared when he was first inaugurated five long, long years ago.

Looking back at the 2008 campaign season, there were a great many people who simply didn’t believe either that he meant what he said or that his past (what little the media bothered to report about it) was indicative of his future. Maybe they thought he’d be a conventional politician, triangulating and such, or maybe they just figured he’d vote “present” for four to eight years and let more competent people run things.

Whether he’s actually running things remains an open question. (In some of the most decisive moments of current events, he seems curiously absent.) Be that as it may, many among the conservative commentariate have quickly gotten past their brief flirtation with “I told you so” and are moving toward a tone of slow, aching disconcertment.

Jeff Jacoby, of the Boston Globe, takes the aesthetic angle:

There was a time when presidents understood that their position demanded a certain gravity. That the nation’s chief executive was not just another celebrity, but the custodian of unique constitutional authority. That when you live in the White House and fly on Air Force One and everyone stands when you enter the room, it isn’t appropriate for you to pander to the lowest cultural denominator.

Mark Steyn notes the loss — nigh upon irrecoverable — of American credibility:

London, Washington and Moscow signed something called “the Budapest Agreement” in 1994, guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereignty in return for the newly independent nation giving up its nuclear weapons. … From Afghanistan to Egypt to Poland to Ukraine, why would any American ally ever again believe the United States Government? And, when you look at what Putin did to the Budapest Agreement, why would you expect either Syria or Iran to honor their own agreements with the US?

And Roger Kimball sums the frustrations up in one explosion of a paragraph (leading to other paragraphs that find some reason for hope):

It’s all starting to unravel, isn’t it? The preposterous and hideously expensive socialized medicine program you shoved down the throats of the American people with no Republican support and against the will of a majority of the people: Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass it to find out what’s in it. Well, you bribed, cajoled, and threatened to get it passed, and now the American people are indeed finding out what’s in it. “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period.” You said that over and over and over. You knew it wasn’t true. But you decided to lie to the American people in order to set about “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” That’s what you promised to do in 2008. And boy have you made good on that promise. For the first time in history, America’s credit rating was downgraded. You didn’t like that, and your secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, threatened Standard & Poor’s over the downgrade. Why didn’t the press howl over that abuse of government power? Because they’re slavishly devoted to you. But even that support is beginning to fray. Your deployment of the Internal Revenue Service to harass your political opponents: how long do suppose you can get away with that? Even the supine media is beginning to bristle. And now that the rest of the world is waking up to your weakness, and your incompetence, what will happen? You campaigned on a promise to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But you have gone out of your way to assure that it will. What then? China just unilaterally extended its air rights in the South China Sea. What are you going to do about that? And yesterday, Putin engineered a vote in which Russia takes back a large piece of Ukraine.

We’ve gotten to the point that one can only hope that all of this is attributable to incompetence, not malice.

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