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Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Great Dictator

For all his faults, and he certainly had many of them, Bill Clinton understood people. His politics were dirty, but they were a common sort of dirt. For all his egotism, venality and corruption; Bill Clinton understood what Obama does not, that power comes from the people. It was this more than anything else that gave him his teflon coating, that let him dodge scandal after scandal. The media was mostly on his side, but unlike Obama, Clinton knew better than to rely on them too much. The media might help shape his image, but in the end it was the public that would pass judgment on it.


This was what allowed him to survive the downturn in his own party's fortunes, to keep cutting deal after deal  long after his position seemed hopeless. When the polls turned on a policy, Clinton abandoned it. When the Republicans came out with a program, Clinton co-opted it. He had no shame, no morals and no principles. But despite his inflated self-image and grandiosity, he understood that he couldn't go it alone. That was why he never sacrificed popularity to politics.

By contrast Obama's first year has demonstrated all too well that he has no understanding of people. His quick rise to the top, his lack of real campaign experience, and the wild adulation that his backers cultivated for him insured that he wouldn't. Unlike Clinton's sense of invulnerability which came from poor judgment, Obama's sense of invulnerability comes from his failure to understand that every day there is a quiet public referendum in millions of American homes on his performance.

Like so many dictators, Obama has gone on leaning on his media crutch, certain that a constant stream of propaganda is all that's really needed to keep the public in line. And when it failed to work, his only response was bafflement. The product of a digital campaign, Obama and his people see the media as as the ultimate tool, failing to understand that it is only one of many channels to the voters. And while the media daze has made Obama seem omnipresent, it has also made him seem distant and out of touch.

But there is a reason that Obama is where he is, that a man and his staff who can only think in top down ways, who manipulate and scheme constantly, are where they are. The Democratic did not want another Clinton, they didn't want someone who would make compromises and cut deals. They wanted tyranny and they still want it.

The cry of the left against Obama is directed against his failure to go far enough. Why haven't US troops already withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan? Why wasn't Gitmo closed instantly? Why wasn't the public option passed? That these things weren't feasible is something they don't want to hear. Feasible is for democracies. The man they elected was just supposed to do everything they wanted, no matter what.

And so newspaper editorials demand that a public option. They demand cap and trade. They demand tyranny. The madness of the same people who denounced Bush as a tyrant clamoring for Obama to do whatever is necessary to push through measures that the public opposes and that would never get through the Senate is the sheerest hypocrisy. But their arrogance doesn't stop there. Andrew Sullivan wants Obama to bring peace to Israel by invading it. The New York Times wants Obama to bring on universal health care by taxing everyone to pay for it. There is no room for a middle ground. No room for humility or democracy. Just get it done, is the new motto.

And in retrospect, Obama was the perfect icon for the liberal will to power. The vague reality distorting haze surrounding him, the sense of the unreal pervading his public appearances. Liberals did not want an LBJ, who would get things done through horse trading and back room dealing. They wanted a resurrected JFK, a mythical figure to settle everything through diktat, not democracy.

Obama's unnaturalness, his two faced Janus routine, a fixed grin on one side of his head and a cool contemptuous facade on the other, and his great vagueness, made him the great dictator that liberals wanted so badly to overturn eight years of Bush. And for all that they had accused the Republicans of being irresponsible, arrogant and corrupt-- they couldn't wait to be irresponsible, arrogant and corrupt on a truly epic scale.


The unreality of Barack, his soaringly empty rhetoric and carefully calculated symbolism, cloaked their ambition and lust for power in borrowed grandiosity. But underneath it was the same old politics of Clinton's day, but completely unrestrained by political realities. Their health care project was not the work of a party that understood people anymore. It was the work of a party that blindly invited a wide backlash, without understanding how or why. And it was the doing of a leader who almost single-handedly helped revive Republican populism by his very presence.

And now the left is disappointed because Obama hasn't been quite the Great Dictator they imagined. Because as detached as he may be, he still needs to cut deals and adhere to some notion of political reality. Obama may not understand people. He may be arrogant beyond measure and contemptuous of democracy-- but even he has a firmer grasp on reality than many of his high profile supporters. Who want what amounts to a tyranny, right now... and throw childish tantrums when told that they have to wait a little longer.

For anyone who thought that the left had shown itself at its most deranged during 8 years of Bush, are now being treated to the dementia of a left in power, denied absolute power.

5 comments:

Lemon said...

Obama only has eyes for himself and his own agenda. He doesn't like America or it's people.

mikec said...

Obama is fascism without the 'brown shirts', he does not need the SA because he has a much more powerful media (television) than had the 20th century dictators. Socialism relies on hatred of 'whatsoever is pure lovely and of good report' to keep Joe public in an emotional malestrom of fear, the fascist dictators used brown/black shirts for this, but CNN is much better at it. But 'zero' is an unwilling fascist, he would rather be a marxist, however marxism does not work because it divides people by class, fascism unites people behind a nationalist cause and it is here that his failure is apparent.

Davod Yotham said...

If there were anything about Obama that I fear, it's that he may be learning. Prior to his election I considered him a 'potential tyrant"; after his election, a "tyrant-in-training". What does the future offer? Does Obama have the intellect and moxie to grasp the golden ring of absolute authority, or will it be his 'conservative' patriotic replacement who cries out "Peace, peace..."?

Morry Rotenberg said...

"...but even he has a firmer grasp on reality than many of his high profile supporters."
I disagree, Sultan. If he had a firmer grasp on reality he would not have pursued health care reform, cap and trade, manmade global warming, education reform, and many other destructive anti free market liberal ideas. Anything that he can do to hurt this nation he will do.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

I said firmer grasp relative to his supporters who wanted a public option, full withdrawal and cap and trade within a few months of coming to office.... regardless of whether they can even be passed

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