Obama disappoints even lowered expectations

The second phase of the great American disillusionment with Barack Obama is complete.

The president fell to Earth a year ago after his stratospheric rise because Americans came to see that he was like other politicians.

But there was some solace to be taken for disenchanted voters from the fact that the largely unknown man thrust into the Oval Office by his graceful ways and an amazing concatenation of events was more or less like the other ambitious people with elastic relationships with the truth who seek high office.

The fall came when Obama proved to be rankly partisan and surprisingly graceless when dealing with his opponents.

As he famously told Republicans who asked why people who don't pay income taxes were to get income tax refunds under his stimulus plan: “I won.”

And so it went for the start of his term. Obama and his band of egghead pirates swashbuckled through Washington like a think tank empowered with letters of marque. Companies were seized, the government printed money so fast that it seemed we might run out of green ink and the government operated in a perpetual crisis mode.

This was the time when the phrase “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression” was used to explain everything from why we needed to prop up failing companies to why we needed to enact a system of socialized health insurance benefits.

Those wild days when the president was flexing his newfound muscles destroyed one of the important public myths that Obama had cultivated in his rapid rise: That he was as, Michael Knox Beran described him, a shamanistic healer and an “exhibitionist model of the Oprah matriarchy.”

Also destroyed in the opening chapter of the Obama era was the notion that he would not engage in the kind of grubby politics that hold America hostage to binary choices between lesser evils.

The unpleasant odor of petty partisanship that emanated from Obama's inner circle led Americans to see that there was nothing new about Obama's product except the packaging.

When the president tried to win a political mud-wrestling match with Dick Cheney over terrorist detainment and lost in embarrassing fashion, it was clear that there was no subject on which the president would not seek to score political points.

The nice guy who was so deferential to different points of view was gone, but at least he had been replaced with a familiar American figure: the power hungry politician.

Now he is disappointing even those lowered expectations by proving to be passive.

America reacted rather badly to the audacious overreach while the White House was flying the Jolly Roger. It is clear that the self-assured Obama team did not expect to get so badly burned by the outraged electorate.

You can call it the Tea Party movement if you like, but we're really talking about the political engagement of the productive class of the American society in an angry, swift fashion. The president may have eventually passed Obamacare, but it was hardly worth the cost — especially since much of the program may never be implemented.

There is good reason to think that in 2014 some enterprising writer will look back at all of the parts of the plan that never came to be and how Democrats wasted their greatest opportunity in a generation.

Singed by public outrage as manifested by a string of electoral defeats in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, the president lost his swashbuckling attitude.

Obama ended up accepting a health plan that resembled in no way what he espoused as a candidate. The financial reform package that has been extruded by Congress achieves hardly a whit of the grand designs for a new economic order promised during the heady days of “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”

On the Afghan war, the oil spill, immigration, global warming, and more, Obama seems a captive of events and other, more forceful individuals, like Gen. David Petraeus. Unwilling to act boldly, Obama looks for Goldilocks solutions that split the difference between diametrically opposed ideas. The result is lukewarm mush.

Obama may have surfed on the wave of history to get elected, but Obama now seems swamped by events.

Obama's second drop in public estimation has come from the understanding that not only is he an ordinary politician, but also not a very good one.

Chris Stirewalt is the political editor of The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at cstirewalt@washingtonexaminer.com.

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