Is this how a presidency falls apart, not with a resounding thud but with a whine, a snivel and a whimper?
Repossession of homes proceeds at a record pace. The Federal Reserve projects only weaker growth and higher unemployment. The sheepish Europeans cool their schoolgirl crush on Barack Obama. Ditto the Muslims, who had expected Mr. Obama to lead wholesale conversions to Islam, with conversion of St. Patrick’s and National cathedrals to mosques soon to follow. The Pentagon warns that it can’t pay its bills. The war in Afghanistan, no longer on George W.’s watch, looks headed toward Kaput City. Everybody is as angry as ever about the health care reform, the wasteful and ineffective stimulus (and Son of Stimulus) and Al Gore’s scheme to require that naughty old sun to change its spots. Bill Clinton is called back to the White House and told to arrive with a big bottle of his magic “feeling your pain” pills.
There’s serious talk of a presidential primary challenge to Barack Obama by Hillary Clinton. The last time a Democratic challenger tried this, Teddy Kennedy took on Jimmy Carter. Mr. Carter famously predicted that “I’ll whip his ass,” and did, leaving Teddy as the only man who ever got his nether cheeks whipped by Jimmy Carter, who is rumored to still be alive. Together they gave us Ronald Reagan.
The Democratic panic augurs well for the November congressional elections, but we’re talking Republicans here, so you never know. If anybody can turn a sure thing into a humiliating disaster, the Grand Old Party knows how to do it. Bold consistency has not been a Republican trait since Abraham Lincoln visited war on the land, reluctantly freeing the slaves as a convenient afterthought. Nevertheless, for the Democrats, unhappy days are here again.
House Democrats are particularly incensed, sounding as if they want to write off the president as an irredeemable ingrate. Nancy Pelosi, who hadn’t been heard from in weeks, took on Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, for his perfectly obvious but wounding remark this week that the Republicans “could” take back the House in November unless the Democrats mount “a strong campaign.” Retorted Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey to The Washington Post: “What the hell do they think we’ve been doing the last 12 months? We’re the ones who have been taking the tough votes.”
It’s just now dawning on congressional Democrats that the president is prescribing more of the poison that has the president and his party a bilious shade of sick-room green. They’re finally figuring out that Mr. Obama is working on a plan to transform America into something that most Americans clearly don’t want, hence his spectacular fall from voter grace. This “new America” designed to a community activist’s specifications may not be exactly what a lot of Democratic congressmen want, either, but they’re being asked to swallow the president’s deadly potion, anyway.
Some of the remaining true believers among the Democrats look to the example of Ronald Reagan for comfort and consolation, noting, correctly, that his failure to clean up quickly Jimmy Carter’s malaise led to congressional losses midway in his first term. But the comparison is far-fetched. As anyone who knew Ronald Reagan would tell you, Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan. Mr. Obama, smooth and eloquent though he on occasion can be, reassuring us that “it’s morning in America” would be no reassurance at all. Actor or not, the Gipper believed his lines.
Mr. Reagan, a son of the heartland, celebrating America as a nation forged in the melting pot, understood America in a way that Barack Obama, who boasts that he is descended from “generations of Muslims” and seems puzzled that this evokes no applause at home, never could. Mr. Obama has never been more eloquent, or sounded more like his heart was in his message, than in Cairo where he apologized for America’s “sins” against the Muslims. Ronald Reagan never sounded more like his heart was in the message than in Europe singing a familiar hymn to America’s virtues and its sacrifices on behalf of others. Mr. Obama was raised in the third world and through no particular fault of his own never absorbed the words and music of “morning in America.”
Mr. Obama’s dilemma is that he can’t change the why and wherefore of his fall from voter grace. The coalition he put together two years ago would fall apart if he tried. The remnants of that coalition - the feminists, the naifs in the faculty lounges, the blacks - want him to be just as they imagined he was. His misfortune is that almost nobody else does
- Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.