February 1, 2010

"We have had stylish presidents, none more so than JFK. But Kennedy was an ironist and never fell for his own mystique."

"Mr. Obama's self-regard comes without irony—he himself now owns up to the 'remoteness and detachment' of his governing style. We don't have in this republic the technocratic model of the European states, where a bureaucratic elite disposes of public policy with scant regard for the popular will. Mr. Obama was smitten with his own specialness."

Fouad Ajami analyzes the rise and fall of Obama. Are we ready to say the Obama has fallen? Is lack of irony the problem? Was it our unEuropeanness that defeated him?

51 comments:

Salamandyr said...

Fitzgerald was wrong, in America there are always second chances.

Obama has 3 more years of his term, and a number of strong points in his favor. He still has a majority in both houses of Congress (as good as Bush ever got), he has a compliant press, and he has a war on--and the public tends to rally round the flag during wartime, assuming it gets waved.

All he needs is one or two good wins and we'll all be talking about how strong and inevitable he is.

MadisonMan said...

Reports of his death are premature.

rhhardin said...

Being a dope has to figure in.

rhhardin said...

The WSJ is putting two of three editorials behind a pay wall now.

This turns out to be a real time-saver.

Sage said...

No, it was our un-Africanness. We ought not rush to slur the European political tradition, where charismatic dictatorship was the first to fall in favor of ordered liberty. We owe everything we have and everything we are to Europe--where the triumph of celebrity and its marriage with technocratic liberalism is far less advanced than in America.

Joan said...

This piece is not up to WSJ standards. It's rather jarring, for example, that Ajami seems to think that Scott Brown's election was before Christmas. I agree with MadisonMan that it's way too early to write Obama off.

Plus, this: He was a blank slate, and devotees projected onto him what they wanted or wished really, really annoys me. Obama was never a blank slate. To say that the press was compliant in burying his story is the understatement of the (previous) decade, but he had amassed sufficient record for anyone who was paying attention (and not deluding herself) to get a good idea of how he would behave in office. It wasn't so much that Obama was a blank canvas, it was the hope that people voted for: hope for pragmatism, hope for "racial healing", hope for a "new tone" in Washington. Obama's record contains not one thing to support those hopes, and many experiences in direct contradiction to them, but the people who tried to point that out during the long campaign were either ignored or shouted down.

Ann Althouse said...

"He was a blank slate, and devotees projected onto him what they wanted or wished..."

That annoyed me too, because it's a misused metaphor. You don't project stuff on a slate. You write.

Michael said...

Reports of his death are premature. Reports of the death of Obamamania, on the other hand, are incontrovertible.

I think he has another chance. It remains to be seen whether he wants it; Clinton was happy to become the king of small ball, I'm not sure Obama is satisfied to become an Eisenhower Republican. What I really suspect, though, is that at some point terrorism will decide for him what his presidency is about (as foreign affairs often do for presidents). If he reacts forcefully-- on some level, Bush-like-- he will experience a second rally. If something disastrous happens and the media story is how his administration was feckless and inattentive and potentially missed a chance to stop it while apologizing to dictators and releasing terrorists-- then he's the toastiest of toasts.

David said...

Did anyone else notice that Obama seemed to be more relaxed and competent when dealing with the republicans in Baltimore than in the SOTU speech or other venues? Could this be that with the GOP he could take on a realistic role (and he didn't have to get anything done anyway). In his dealings with real power brokering he seems to be controlled by his handlers/advisors

traditionalguy said...

The realism of Americans comes from lifetime of freedom to succeed or to fail, and their resulting ability to think about what did not work and try again until something does work (Pragmatism). That is a wisdom that favorite son Barry Obama has never had to learn, unless it came thru Michelle Obama. Barry is not yet ready to use irony to encourage himself and get back into life's surprise challenges. Instead he reverts to the easy job of a socialist organiser and attacks some weaker group that he can destroy and therefore CONTROL. Americans have no respect for jerks like that, except for the small number of Americans who have had their failures routinely fixed for them by sycophants surrounding Daddy's money.

SteveR said...

One thing for sure, in order to get re-elected he'll have to actually accomplish something. A number of people I know who voted for him, did so based entirely on image and a vague sense of his idealogy.

There's always the possibility (actualy quite a good possibility) that the republicans will repeat the self destructive nomination process of 2008 but with Bush fatigue fading, they might at least be able to run against a known quantity.

Peter V. Bella said...

He is dead wrong! A bureaucratic elite does dispose of public policy with scant regard for the popular will.

CatherineM said...

Agree with Joan on all.

David - I think he seemed more natural on Friday at the Republican retreat than at the SOTU was because he was off the teleprompter. People who defend him on the teleprompter like to say, "everyone does it," but few are so obvious about it. It really does look like he's watching a tennis match as he reads off it. Then it comes off as phoney.

He uses the teleprompter to intro his Ed Sec'y for pete's sake. To see him speak without the assistance of the teleprompter, he seems more human.

Michael said...

Someone said that the Republicans always nominate the guy whose turn it is next-- thus Dole and McCain-- but really, it's hard to see who that would be this time. I suppose Romney would be closest, but I still consider him relatively obscure on the national scene compared to McCain, say. So they have the tremendous advantage of not having an obvious legacy candidate, and thus, they may actually get a productive primary battle which allows someone to rise to the top.

Quayle said...

Let's face it: Obama is a prick.

And most Americans don't like pricks.

Case in point: Newt.

The Crack Emcee said...

Irony is A useless quack device which cannot perform any other function than separating naive persons from their money. It’s a fake, a scam, a swindle, and a blatant fraud. Prove me wrong and take the million dollars.

Stephen said...

That annoyed me too, because it's a misused metaphor. You don't project stuff on a slate.
Maybe not in Wayne but they did in Hackensack.

Roger J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger J. said...

Agree with the commenters who say it's far too early to write off Mr Obama--clearly much of the sychopantic mystique is gone, albeit not from the MSM, but he is still the president and as such still wields the power to persuade. And there is the whole issue of foreign affairs, which may present Mr Obama with both challenges and opportunities.

bottom line: a whole lot can happen in three years

bagoh20 said...

"Are we ready to say the Obama has fallen?"

Fallen to Earth perhaps, but many have succeeded just fine from there.

We love to build them up and knock them down and then watch them squirm a little and then build them up again. Our emotions are so locked into the standard story line that it's inevitable that he will recover. We want it, we need it, and we will make it happen regardless of the facts. The tiniest improvement will be seized upon to do so at this point.

Jana said...

Ajami is correct in that Obama cannot regain the dreamy optimism that marked his win. It's time to direct policy in the real world and deal with real issues that Obama would rather brush aside (such as foreign policy).

I know Althouse didn't vote for him on the basis of some misplaced optimism for what's possible, but I'm a 30-year-old woman, and the vast number of my acquaintance did. Many of them are now despondent at the turn of events in the last year, and express fatalistic nonsense about "ungovernability" and such things. They seem to have a limited understanding of the way our system works.

Peter V. Bella said...

bottom line: a whole lot can happen in three years...

He could start another war. That always boosts the patriot vote.

He could offer more and more social spending and reform welfare back to 1965 standards. That will always guarantee the poverty vote and the goo goo leftist vote.

Butter and guns worked for LBJ.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I think the Nobel Prize was a turning point, disillusioning many of his supporters. The prize made it unavoidably clear -- even to himself, apparently -- that he's been rewarded for no accomplishment. I say this as a Democrat who supports him for being a Democrat.

Jana said...

Furthermore, I believe that if Obama chooses to become more accepting that the Presidency is about more than just his policy preferences and his vision for America, he has the potential to right his administration. The right way to do this is to embrace pragmatism.

It is not unlikely that he'll do this, although his SOTU address didn't exactly bear many hallmarks of pragmatism.

danielle said...

oh, look ! another conservative tale painting obama as other, mischaracterizing his policies, somehow claiming that his steps into the financial markets were not required and that they didnt follow the previous REPUBLICAN administrations steps, using that farce to paint him as big government pushing a liberal agenda when in actuality is agenda is centrist and pragmatic .... and of course blaming Obama and not accounting for our dysfunctional congressional branch ...

*yawn*

that piece was nicely written though. it sort of sweeps you up like harry potter does. captivating the imagination, you know ?

Arturius said...

Agree with the commenters who say it's far too early to write off Mr Obama

His re-election fortunes will rise or fall on what the economy and unemployment numbers look like in two and a half years time. If we're still sitting at 8-10% unemployment he's done. And that's barring some major foreign policy incident or terrorist attack.

Arturius said...

I think the Nobel Prize was a turning point, disillusioning many of his supporters. The prize made it unavoidably clear -- even to himself, apparently -- that he's been rewarded for no accomplishment.

Well I contend that he had little in the way of accomplishments to prepare him for being President so in that vein being awarded that ridiculous prize was simply par for the course.

SH said...

"Fouad Ajami analyzes the rise and fall of Obama. Are we ready to say the Obama has fallen? Is lack of irony the problem? Was it our unEuropeanness that defeated him?"

It has seemed for some time that the democrats have been pushing for a rule by elites. It has a long history (back to the progressives demanding that experts be put in charge of things... like administrative agencies that could regulate things)... and it’s not always wrong… from building codes to food safety, its probably the best way to go… But it definitely seemed to accelerate and/or go overboard during the Bush admin when their reaction to him was to close ranks and declare themselves the smart ones and the rest of us idiots who need to just be told what to do… in regards to all areas…

On the other hand, the Europeans seem more willing to accept a rule by elites…

Der Hahn said...

I think the Nobel Prize was a turning point, disillusioning many of his supporters. The prize made it unavoidably clear -- even to himself, apparently -- that he's been rewarded for no accomplishment.

He was going to win the Nobel for exactly the same accomplishment that he has been rewarded for all his life, being Barak Obama. Without the juxstaposition of his failure to capture the Olympic Games for Chicago only a week before, the bubble wouldn’t have been punctured.

Joe said...

But Kennedy was an ironist and never fell for his own mystique.

What is this based on? I suspect wishful thinking since Kennedy has always struck me as being completely full of shit and totally believing he was as talented and smart as everyone claimed he was.

Fen said...

Its been a whole year and he *still* hasn't found Osama.

;)


Seriously, I don't think he's fallen all the way yet. The little girl has just spoken, the audience is *starting* to see that, indeed, the Emporer has no clothes.

Fen said...

Danielle: somehow claiming that his steps into the financial markets were not required and that they didnt follow the previous REPUBLICAN administrations steps

You're very funny.

You're saying that since Bush invaded Iraq and Afganistan, an Obama invasion of Pakistan and N Korea would just be "following the previous REPUBLCIAN administration's steps"

Roger J. said...

I suspect Mr Obama has a long way to fall--I would rather that not be the case, but the man is a genuine lightweight. He is woefully ignorant of basic economic concepts and has surrounded himself with the same type of people that richard nixon did (cue cedarford)

time will tell--in the interim, i am going with TIPS and the s and p 500 in my ira.

we do reap the whirlwind that a majority of idiots voted for.

former law student said...

Fouad Ajami analyzes the rise and fall of Obama

Has Fouad Ajami improved his analytical skills since he predicted that the streets in Basra and Bagdad would "erupt in joy" upon being invaded, as Dick Cheney quoted his saying?

Further, when did Fouad Ajami extend his expertise from the Middle East to the US and Europe?


"As for the reaction of the Arab 'street,' the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are 'sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans," Cheney had said.

Michael said...

"What is this based on? I suspect wishful thinking since Kennedy has always struck me as being completely full of shit and totally believing he was as talented and smart as everyone claimed he was."

All the Kennedys were prey to the notion that they could do anything and get away with anything-- and it's not like the world didn't agree with them many times-- but if you read accounts of his private conversation, Jack had a sardonic self-awareness and a willingness to recognize when he'd f'd up and try to do better that was substantially missing in his father or two younger brothers.

Try to find something sanctimonious Bobby ever said that was droll, for instance.

Roger J. said...

the kennedy's were not the best and brightest--they are long gone and good riddance to bad garbage.

Number Six said...

Big O looked more relaxed in front of the Republicans . . not because he was without his TOTUS. But because he could fall back into his old job as a lecturer, preaching the law to a class of disobedient smart alecks, daring them to be a bigger smart aleck than he is. But that skill doesn't do much to help him govern. It doesn't negotiate compromise or build coalitions. Doing that requires first that you have some respect for the people you're negotiating with and that is where Obama fails.

Obama will continue to flail ineffectively until he realizes that his words don't change reality. A narcissist can't do that.

Men who spend their whole lives working with words seem to believe that mistakes don't matter when you can cover it with more words. He's never had a job where he had to work with real things. In short, he can talk the talk but he can't walk the walk.

Trooper York said...

"Try to find something sanctimonious Bobby ever said that was droll, for instance"

"Jack, ehhh why don't we have Teddy drive Marilyn home?"

Fen said...

Has Fouad Ajami improved his analytical skills since he predicted that the streets in Basra and Bagdad would "erupt in joy" upon being invaded, as Dick Cheney quoted his saying?

But the streets did erupt in joy. Your information brokers [CNN, NYTs] just thought you didn't need to hear about it.

Much the same way they have decided what you need to know re Edwards, O'Keefe, Acorn, Climategate, etc.

danielle said...

no Fen, what I'm saying is that Obama propping up Wall Street cant be honestly called liberal entreat for bigger government since the steps were necessary, and even the previous administration agreed that those steps were necessary as they initiated TARP.

perhaps my writing was a but unclear before.

M. Report said...

There has been a lot of cultural
change since Camelot came out of
the closet; JFK was no Knight in
Shining Armor, and he knew it.
He also knew he got a lot of votes
for being such a handsome man. :)
and for being the Hero of PT-109,
tho one wonders how he let a PT boat get run over by a destroyer.
What will Obama do, when faced with
the equivalent of the Cuban Missile
Crisis; Not well, I expect.

Iapetus said...

The only thing that will "save" Obama's presidency is a blow-out win by the Republicans in November. With the Democrats in charge of Congress, Obama's agenda is going nowhere fast. If the Republicans win big in the mid-term elections, Obama will be able to campaign in 2012 by blaming the Republicans for obstructing him. If the Democrats maintain control for another two years, Obama will have no one else to blame for accomplishing nothing except his own party.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Fouad Ajami, irony, Obama and irony

Irony, irony, Fouad Ajamai, and irony; irony, Spam, Barack Obama, irony, and Spam...

edutcher said...

The old KGB said that a POTUS had 2 years to get his agenda through and, after that, the people generally rebel. Bambi has it down to 1 year.

Most of his initiatives have stalled in Congress (or incongruous, if you prefer) and the ones that did go - stimulus I and Clunkers - flopped badly. His proposals amount to stimulus II, and nobody I've read is expecting huge job growth, and that's what the public will us as its barometer, not some calculation of "recovery" that only benefits Goldman Sachs.

The other part of the equation, as Michael noted correctly, is terror. Whatever else would have or will happen, a major terror attack, since he has made such a show of being the anti-Dubya, would end his Presidency on the spot. Michael says, "If he reacts forcefully-- on some level,", and that ain't gonna happen any more than Willie ever did.

Has he fallen? Technically, not yet, but he's losing altitude and the ME-109s are closing in.

Roger J. said...

the kennedy's were not the best and brightest--they are long gone and good riddance to bad garbage.

Amen, brother.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Has Fouad Ajami improved his analytical skills since he predicted that the streets in Basra and Bagdad would "erupt in joy" upon being invaded, as Dick Cheney quoted his saying?

Well I have to admit, I didn't think they'd be cheerng us on but I also didn't think they'd be blowing each other up on a daily basis either.

I'll be the first to admit removing Saddam from power was a mistake. The Iraqis seem to deserve him.

William said...

I think JFK's irony and detachment came from his realization that he was acting out his father's ambitions and not his own. Obama is acting out the pretty fantasies of liberals like his mother and the jagged angers of men like his preacher. Obama has poise, but it is the poise of a graceful tightrope walker. He has to concentrate very hard to maintain his balance.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Obama reminds me of some old Stevie Wonder/Paul McCartney song.
Now what was it called? Oh yeah, I think it was "Ebony and Irony".

Ralph L said...

perhaps my writing was a but unclear before
That's what happens when you talk out of your ass.

former law student said...

It has seemed for some time that the democrats have been pushing for a rule by elites.

Like electing the son of a President/UN Ambassador/CIA director? Who was himself the son of a US Senator? Who was himself the son of an industrialist/FRB band director? Who was himself the son of a lawyer/Episcopal priest, the first Bush to study at Yale?

The Walker family tree is replete with bankers.

Barbara's dad published women's magazines, notably Redbook and McCall's.

And you think Democrats want more of this?

Obama is a self-made man. Like Clinton, he had no father to smooth his way in life.

raf said...

How one becomes an "elite" is less important than thinking "elites" should rule (almost) everything. The Bushes included.

JAL said...

Just heard today (2/4) about all the pictures in the West Wing now being Obama pictures. Obama doing this. Obama doing that. Obama the center of the universe.

Maybe that's because he's a self-made man?

Somehow it seems his grandfather and Frank Marshall Davis helped make him. And forgot to tell him it wasn't about him.