Friday, March 30, 2012

Peggy Noonan wakes up to the Barack Obama the rest of us always saw

Peggy Noonan is really, truly fed up with President Obama. This is the same Noonan who found much to praise about him during the election of 2008. But now she purports to channel what the "nonradical, non-birther right" are thinking, by which she really means what she is thinking. And she is not pleased with what she's seen about him these past few weeks as she realizes that he actually hasn't been that serious about addressing the nation's problems and he's been, well, dishonest with the American people.
In terms of the broad electorate, I'm not sure he really has a relationship. A president only gets a year or two to forge real bonds with the American people. In that time a crucial thing he must establish is that what is on his mind is what is on their mind. This is especially true during a crisis.

From the day Mr. Obama was sworn in, what was on the mind of the American people was financial calamity—unemployment, declining home values, foreclosures. These issues came within a context of some overarching questions: Can America survive its spending, its taxing, its regulating, is America over, can we turn it around?

That's what the American people were thinking about.

But the new president wasn't thinking about that. All the books written about the creation of economic policy within his administration make clear the president and his aides didn't know it was so bad, didn't understand the depth of the crisis, didn't have a sense of how long it would last. They didn't have their mind on what the American people had their mind on.

The president had his mind on health care. And, to be fair-minded, health care was part of the economic story. But only a part! And not the most urgent part. Not the most frightening, distressing, immediate part. Not the 'Is America over?' part.

And so the relationship the president wanted never really knitted together. Health care was like the birth-control mandate: It came from his hermetically sealed inner circle, which operates with what seems an almost entirely abstract sense of America. They know Chicago, the machine, the ethnic realities. They know Democratic Party politics. They know the books they've read, largely written by people like them—bright, credentialed, intellectually cloistered. But there always seems a lack of lived experience among them, which is why they were so surprised by the town hall uprisings of August 2009 and the 2010 midterm elections.
Welcome aboard, Ms. Noonan. Now you can realize what so many of those on the "radical right" whom you so disdain have been saying the past four years. We didn't need to wait until the last year of his administration to conclude that he has been an awful president insulated from the true needs of the American people. Next David Brooks will find out that the crease in Obama's pants don't mean that he will be a great president. I'm glad to see the illusions drop from the eyes of those conservatives who were so impressed with the promise of Barack Obama that they neglected to notice the reality of the man. May the rest of the nation follow along.