If a neoconservative, as Irving Kristol said, is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality, perhaps “administration official” is what one might call a liberal who is in the process of being mugged by reality.
That conclusion seems all but inescapable as BP’s oil well continues flooding its contents into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also rather inevitable that something like this would have happened. After eight years of tarring the Bush administration as utterly ineffectual and to blame for natural disasters, job losses, and tarnishing America’s image abroad, Democrats’ former arguments about “competency” are now coming back to haunt them.
On the right, continual attacks on a Republican administration motivated a return to first principles. Since “the good guys” proved ineffectual in a number of areas, what faith in government conservatives had dried up to nothing. The failure of John McCain to retain the White House removed the final barrier to the creation of the massive grassroots movement that has become the Tea Parties.
Anti-Bush furor, meanwhile, had the exact opposite effect on liberals and moderates. Instead of shrinking their faith in government’s capabilities, it significantly expanded it. The only reason the U.S. economy had gone south or that other nations weren’t fans of America was because George W. Bush was the president.
It was a surprisingly simplistic argument that, unfortunately for President Obama, has become a nihilistic genie who cannot be put back into a bottle. Having let forth the argument that the president is literally responsible for anything bad that happens during his administration, it’s a bit hard now for the public to be persuaded that it’s really not Obama’s fault that oil is spewing into the ocean off American shores.
Instead of learning his lesson and scaling back his ambitions as Bill Clinton did after repeated electoral rebukes, our current president seems merely to have redoubled his efforts to speak the problem away. After all, that is what worked best in his previous highest “occupation,” candidate for president.
Unlike before, however, giving a speech declaiming an oil spill can’t make it disappear à la Jeremiah Wright. That’s a problem, especially since that spill has happened within federal waters.