In 2008 Barack Obama ran for president as a transcendent figure come to redeem the time. He would bring the nation together. He would slow the oceans’ rise. He would heal the planet. He was something even nonbelievers — perhaps especially nonbelievers — could believe in, to paraphrase “Alfie.”
He would balance the budget. He would spur economic growth. He would improve relations with countries around the world. He would talk tough and carry a big stick.
He was cool. He was young. He made the women faint, like Sam Cooke. He was black. He was white. He was the author, sort of, of not one but two memoirs. He had a nice family, even if his wife seemed to have a helluva chip on her shoulder.
Obama attacked the hapless GOP presidential candidate both from the left and from the right. He made made it all stick, in part because the will to believe among the independents who decided the election was so strong. Exhaustion with eight years of the Bush administration combined with the financial crisis of 2008 made Obama’s victory inevitable.
We saw through him, of course. He was a man of the left schooled in the Alinskyite arts. He was the Democrats’ leftwardmost viable candidate. He was Jeremiah Wright’s faithful congregant. He was a socialist at heart. He was a carrier of the academic left’s hostility to the American idea. He was an artist, alright, but of the BS variety. When he talked about specifics, he really didn’t know what he was talking about.
Despite the pride and excitement that accompanies his taking office in 2009, the American people began to get Obama’s number within a matter of months. He was using the economic crisis for his own narrow purposes. He forced Obamacare down our throats despite its persistent unpopularity. His vaunted oratory fell flat. He has even made his successes — he got Osama bin Laden, didn’t he? — diminish him at least slightly.
Finishing out his first term in office, Obama is running for reelection as the incumbent with a weak record to defend. He is not all things to all people. He is interested in winning, but he is barely interested in governing. If things aren’t great, it’s not his fault!
Is he a false messiah then? What the hell was he talking about in that speech in St. Paul when he had secured the Democratic nomination. He is certainly a different man than the one who took the oath in January 2009. He is a far less appealing figure as the undisguised class warrior and whiner of 2012 than as the redeemer of 2008.
I have been walking around with the theme of Obama then and now in my head for the past few months. Today Dan Balz addresses it in the Washington Post. Jennifer Jacobs takes a look at the dawning of the light in Iowa, where Obama’s rise began in 2008. Salena Zito notes how Obama is adapting.
The “real” Obama can win in 2012, but will he? He should adopt the Alfred E. Newman motto as his campaign theme: “Viva la stupidity!”