Monday, February 1, 2010

Backing Away From Obama

The American people are taking a Churchillian stance toward President Obama these days. Having failed to catch the Bay State's body-politic language when, standing in for the country as a whole, they pulled away from the Democrats' attempt at a head-to-toe government embrace, Obama is now proposing the government supervision of college football. Stephen Bainbridge, a UCLA law professor, illustrates the popular response to all of this with a well known anecdote about Churchill and Clement Attlee.

One day shortly after the Second World War ended, Winston Churchill and Labour Party Prime Minister Clement Attlee encountered one another at the urinal trough in the House of Common's men's washroom. Attlee arrived first. When Churchill arrived, he stood as far away from him as possible. Attlee said, "Feeling standoffish today, are we, Winston?" Churchill said: "That's right. Every time you see something big, you want to nationalize it."

Bainbridge adds: "With the government already running the banks and the auto industry, and trying to take over the health care industry, however, one might have hoped that sports would escape the ravening maw of Leviathan."

Fouad Ajami gives an insightful account of how American has fallen out of love with the man Oprah Winfrey called "the One." Read "The Obama Spell is Broken" (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 1, 2010).

The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history. That moment began in the fall of 2008, with the great financial panic, and gave rise to the Barack Obama phenomenon. .. Gone was the empiricism in political life that had marked the American temper in politics. A charismatic leader had risen in a manner akin to the way politics plays out in distressed and Third World societies.

There is nothing surprising about where Mr. Obama finds himself today. He had been made by charisma, and political magic, and has been felled by it. If his rise had been spectacular, so, too, has been his fall. The speed with which some of his devotees have turned on him—and their unwillingness to own up to what their infatuation had wrought—is nothing short of astounding. But this is the bargain Mr. Obama had made with political fortune. ...

Mr. Obama's self-regard, and his reading of his mandate, overwhelmed all restraint. The age-old American balance between a relatively small government and a larger role for the agencies of civil society was suddenly turned on its head. Speed was of the essence to the Obama team and its allies, the powerful barons in Congress. Better ram down sweeping social programs—a big liberal agenda before the people stirred to life again. ...

Ajami is a poet-professor-columnist. Read the whole article for his account of Obama's hubris, self-delusion, and politically self-destructive embrace of European praise.

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