Saturday, June 19, 2010

The great disillusionment

As we see liberals starting to bemoan the response of the Obama administration to the oil spill and his weak speech, we're seeing more than a growing fatigue with Obama, we're witnessing liberals coming into contact with reality. Contrary to their ideology, a government run by well-intentioned and bright people can't really set us on the road to a better, more perfectable world. Rich Lowry writes of this growing realization of the limits of government solutions to every problem.
Obama cited the production of planes and tanks during World War II and the Apollo mission to the moon as evidence of government's awesome proficiency. But those were relatively straightforward feats in manufacturing and rocketry from 70 and 40 years ago, respectively.

If landing a man on the moon proves government can do practically anything, what does it prove that it can't get the right kind of boom to the right places and deploy it properly in the Gulf? What does it say that the Environmental Protection Agency couldn't get its story straight on what kind of dispersant BP could use on the oil? What does it show that it took weeks for the government to approve the building of protective sand berms by Louisiana?

That there are indeed challenges, in Obama's words, "too big and too difficult to meet." The largest spill in US history was going to be a chaotic mess regardless of who was president, because it was unprecedented, vast and complex.

The liberal chest-thumping about declaring "war," or even a "holy crusade," on the spill speaks to an impatience with the inevitable delays and inefficiencies of a government operating -- in league with a hated company -- in confusing circumstances. As The New York Times reports, "From the beginning, the effort has been bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency and clear lines of authority among federal, state, and local officials, as well as BP."

Welcome to soggy reality. The great liberal disenchantment is the realization that it's beyond Obama's powers to turn back an oil spill, let along the tides. He's just a president, and not even a particularly good one.
It's not his fault that there is a massive, uncontainable oil spill in the Gulf. It's probably not even his fault that there have been so many false starts and incompetent moves made in the past two months. That is what happens when a massive government pivots to address an unprecedented crisis.

But Barack Obama had sold himself as being someone different. Someone who would fulfill the most optimistic and dreamy visions of the possibilities of a politician to heal our world. He was The One we'd been waiting for. He was going to be the new leader who would harvest all those bright people to make everything work much better than that nincompoop George W. Bush. And suddenly, we're seeing that he's just a mortal guy whose skill was giving a good speech that would feed people's idealistic dreams. But now he's in office and we need more than dreams to stop the spill. And the speech wasn't even good. Suddenly, they're sensing that Obama wasn't the transformative guy they'd believed him to be. And what is worse, government just isn't as competent and agile and able to do perform well all the responsibilities liberals keep heaping on it from managing car companies to health care to the environment to our waistlines.

If they can't put their faith in Obama and government action, what now do they have left?