Commentary Magazine


Commentary of the Day

Ahithophel, on Peter Wehner:

Apparently Washington is the new Chicago. All the rationalizations that liberals gave for supporting someone so manifestly unqualified and inexperienced–his judgment, his “temperament,” was there anything else?–are ringing pretty hollow right now. Turns out experience does make a difference, and the simple fact is that Obama has no experience managing a production of this size. I have a few provisos for my fellow conservatives, though.

First, the Obama administration will certainly not be as ethical and effective as its supporters hoped, but it will probably not be as unethical and ineffective as it presently appears. Obama and the people around him are intelligent, and they will learn from their mistakes (even when they deny having made any).

Second, we should beware of relishing our opponents’ mistakes. True, if the circumstances were reversed and this were a Republican administration, Democrats and their friends in the media would waste no time branding the new administration as feckless and in over its head. For better or worse, Republicans have no such sway over popular media, and cannot count on Obama to keep fumbling the ball. Republicans need to show that they are more professional, more effective, and have better ideas. This is not the time for a Paul Wellstone Memorial Moment, trying so hard to exploit a political benefit that it becomes an unsightly detriment.

Third, assuming that this is just the leading edge of an administration that will continue to fall short of its promises, there *is* a truly unfortunate element in all of this. The story has been over-played, but it is true that many young people entered into political activity because they bought into the Obamanic rhetoric. Unfortunately I think we’re going to see a split among them as Obama continues to disappoint expectations that were set far too high. There will be those who become further and further detached from reality, insisting that Obama’s record is pure as the wind-driven snow when it is clearly tarnished. Then there will be those who become jaded and disengage from politics, concluding (quite reasonably) that its all a cauldron of corruption and greed. Obama and the Democrats have led them to believe that the other side is irredeemably corrupt and they are the only hope for a restoration of noble governance. To the extent that he located all his followers’ hopes in himself, Obama is to be blamed for manipulating their hopes in order to be elected–when those hopes would inevitably be disappointed, and that disappointment will inevitably turn to disillusionment. What happens when “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and it turns out that “we” were not worth the wait? What happens when the last best hope for “hope and change” turns out to bring more of the depressing same?

Some of the young people who supported Obama with such idealism will mature, we can hope, and some will come to see the world more clearly and more soberly. But many, I’m afraid, will just despair of politics altogether.