Ben Rhodes couldn’t. . .I mean. . .process. . .I mean. . .just couldn’t. . .process Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. Fortunately, Barack Obama was available to process it for him. When you have the arc of history down cold, processing setbacks, even really bad ones, isn’t that hard.
Matthew Continetti writes a devastating piece on Barack Obama’s processing, as described in Rhodes’ new book. To assist Rhodes, Obama sent him this line: “There are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth.” This sounds like the message you’d find inside an especially pretentious fortune cookie, says Continetti.
Pretentiousness was the common thread as, in Rhodes’ telling, Obama went through multiple emotional stages following Trump’s victory. At one point, Obama told Rhodes, “Sometimes I wonder whether I was ten or 20 years too early.”
This is vintage Obama. As Continetti puts it:
Imagine carrying the burden of Barack Obama, of being too enlightened, sophisticated, mature for his time. In his conceit that historical progress is assured and irreversible, and that challenges to such progress are reducible to irrational prejudice, Obama is a paradigmatic liberal. Yet America’s frequent elections, tendency to rotate offices, decentralization of power, avenues for the expression of popular discontent, and multiple veto points continually frustrated his desires. By the end of his second term, he was expending a great deal of energy working around the constitutional structure established in 1789 and amended 27 times since.
Obama returned to an old theme of his, the “Clingers.” “Maybe we pushed too far,” he mused. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.” This from the master of identity politics.
It could be that Obama pushed too far, though. Continetti thinks so:
All you [Obama] did was troll Donald Trump into running for president in the first place, stand by while Ferguson and Baltimore rioted and burned, give Iran billions in exchange for empty promises, allow Russia to establish a beachhead in the Middle East for the first time in half a century, browbeat Israel at every opportunity, ram through Obamacare after Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts, preside over the mass migration of children across the southern border in 2014, expand the DACA amnesty despite saying 22 times you lacked authority to do so, use the permanent structure of government to devastate the Appalachian economy, convince half of America that liberals were ready to take their guns (this wasn’t hard to do), have your Education Department issue orders that led to the campus-assault craze and the deterioration of classroom discipline and that, months before a presidential election, mandated trans-bathrooms in schools, have your Justice Department preside over a sloppy (I’m being charitable) investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server that included, at one point, your attorney general secretly meeting with the husband of the subject of the investigation on an airport tarmac, muscle out Joe Biden, who might have won, from the race, and hand the party back to the less likable half of America’s most polarizing and corrupt political couple.
Not to mention the eight years of lecturing. Oh, the lecturing.
As Obama provided solace for Rhodes, the president may have received some from Angela Merkel. She said she felt more obliged to run for another term after Trump’s election in order to defend the liberal international order. (Either that or she didn’t want to give up power). According to Obama, when they parted for the final time, Merkel had a single tear in her eye. “She’s all alone,” Obama noted, touchingly.
It never seems to have dawned on either Obama or Merkel that the only people truly invested in defending the always vaguely defined “liberal international order” are the men and women who sit at the top of it. Certainly the voters are not as satisfied with current circumstances as they.
Indeed, Merkel herself suffered a significant degree of electoral repudiation in recent German elections.
Obama can afford to be philosophical about his repudiation. As Continetti concludes, he has “his $65 million book deal, his ‘high-eight-figure’ Netflix deal, and, above all, his vanity intact.” Plus, Ben Rhodes still worships him.