The cult mystique of Barack Obama continues while his fawning supporters blindly accept every move he makes, proving their support for him in the general election was not based as much on policy as personality. This could play right into Obama’s hands if, as I believe, he does have major change on his mind.
From a policy standpoint, Obama’s campaign was fueled — initially, at least — by his unequivocal stance against the Iraq war. He was the only credible candidate (excluding such buffoons as Dennis Kucinich) who maintained from the outset that he opposed the war.
Apart from his charisma and superior organizational operation, especially in the caucus states, his opposition to the war might have been the single most important factor contributing to his defeat of Hillary Clinton. Clinton, thinking she was the inevitable nominee, presumably believed she could sporadically assume the role of hawk with impunity looking to the general election. By the time Hillary was done posturing back and forth on the war, no one could be sure what her position really was, other than that she would say what she needed to say, consistency be damned, to best preserve her presidential viability.
Obama shrewdly capitalized on Hillary’s ambivalence, parlaying his opposition to the war to his maximum advantage. Given the nation’s Bush fatigue — no matter how unjustified from a broad historical perspective — and Bush’s very low approval ratings, it only made sense for Democratic presidential aspirants to make themselves the anti-Bush.
Because the Iraq war was perceived as Bush’s greatest sin and almost all other sins flowed from Iraq or were somehow conflated with it — Abu Ghraib, rendition, waterboarding, “unilateralism,” NSA surveillance, Halliburton, Gitmo, etc. — Obama was uniquely positioned to be the anti-Bush.
Obama seized on all this specifically — condemning the entire laundry list of “sins” and expressly promising to reverse the whole lot of them, beginning with Iraq. As an added bonus, he was also the anti-Bush in terms of personality. He was smooth, articulate, calm (the anti-cowboy) and possessed the trappings of intellectualism and elitism.
Obama also assured us that he would put an end to the alleged inequities of Bush’s tax policy, which was falsely billed as skewed toward the wealthy and against the sainted “middle class.” And, like most Democrats of the modern era, Obama pretended he could pull off the magic trick of balancing the budget while punitively taxing the producers and increasing spending on every imaginable item on the Democratic welfare wish list.
Liberals complained when conservatives invoked Obama’s alliances with unsavory characters and demanded we focus on policy. But when we tried to pin Obama down on how he could balance the budget while stifling growth and increasing spending exponentially or how he could avoid the disastrous consequences of a precipitous withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, we got nothing but media-enabled stonewalling.
Although Obama certainly articulated policies that were contrary to the status quo under President Bush, many of his supporters didn’t care or weren’t the slightest bit informed about the specifics of his policies. They were just swept up in his personality cult and nebulous promises of hope and change.
So it should be no surprise that Obama’s series of head-spinning reversals so far have been met not with outrage from his supporters (fringe leftists excepted), but with glib rationalizations.
His newfound vacillation about Gitmo and NSA surveillance, his flip-flop on withdrawing from Iraq in 16 months, and his announced Cabinet appointments — particularly Gates and Clinton — are not being criticized as betrayals, but lauded as evidence that he is open-minded, adaptable, wise and, of course, presidential.
He’s facing nary a shred of accountability for his anticipatory breaches of campaign promises. His flock is just happy that he will be implementing these policies — not President Bush.
All of this says so many things about our electorate and the coming climate for the Obama presidency, but I’ll just leave you with two quick ones. First, it shows that most of the hatred for Bush was not based on his policies, but on the eight-year hate-filled propaganda campaign against him.
It also shows that there’s no telling what Obama might be able to get away with in office, especially now that he has the cover of a few “moderate” appointments.
There’s a method to Obama’s madness of continuing Bush’s policies that are designed to bring the war to a peaceful and honorable conclusion, even if Obama is revealing his campaign deceit in the process. This will help create the climate for him to usher in his radical domestic agenda, from a new New Deal — on steroids — to nationalized health care to the Fairness Doctrine.
Conservatives and moderates better snap out of their complacency, and the grass roots better gear up for war, or this whirlwind will come and go before we know what hit us.