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Not New, but Worse

Reviewing Obama’s flip-floppery on his promise to have health-care negotiations televised on CSPAN, Rich Lowry observes:

This is one of the starkest paradoxes of American politics: that George W. Bush – whatever his other flaws – was ingenuous to a fault, while the herald of a new politics, Barack Obama, was insincere to the point of cynicism, especially about the process issues that were so central to his new-politics appeal. He punked voters into believing he represented a new way of doing business, before immediately embracing the old practices on behalf of a very old agenda of state aggrandizement.

Obama’s overabundance of broken campaign promises, the hyper-partisan style of his communication, the long list of declared enemies of the administration, the incessant Bush bashing and blaming, and the penchant for secrecy (e.g., refusing to let Congress in on the details of the Fort Hood inquiry, claiming executive privilege for the White House social secretary, preventing Justice Department lawyers from testifying on the New Black Panther Party case) are a far cry from the messianic portrait his supporters painted during the campaign. He was going to be the new JFK. Then it was the new FDR. And now he’s turned out to be vaguely Nixonesque. From day one, Obama and his team asserted that they “won,” the others lost, and no explanations were needed. And the formula was the same: limit release of  the facts, don’t admit error, attack foes as being insincere or biased, and double down on the agenda, no matter how unpopular it may be with the voters.

Part of that behavior — decidedly nontransparent and contemptuous of the public — has been aided and abetted by the Democratic-controlled Congress which has no interest in exercising any oversight. That sense that there won’t be hard questions to answer in public or any requests for incriminating documents  has likely encouraged the Obami to be tight-lipped and frankly arrogant. Who’s going to make them come clean? Not Democratic committee chairman and not, at least up until now, the media which was at first syncophantic and then gentle and then distracted whenever bad news appeared on the radar screen.

But Obama’s performance in the wake of the  Christmas Day bombing has drawn catcalls and as his agenda has proven to be increasingly unpopular the Obama approach is becoming harder and harder to maintain. Everyone could see how badly he handled the terrorist attack. It isn’t merely the doing of radio talk show hosts.  And the critical news is popping up more frequently on cable news stations other than Fox. It’s one thing to launch a vendetta against Fox News; it is another to add Gallup, Rasmussen, CSPAN and every other outlet to the list. After a while, you look paranoid and a bit loony claiming all your critics are illegitimate.

None of this would rile the public or draw so much notice had not Obama run against the Clinton machine and promised to in essence re-invent Washington. We’d expect all of this — and more — had Hillary Clinton been elected. But hopes among young voters, the chattering class and much of the general public were high that Obama would at least offer some improvement over business as usual in Washington. That he has taken partisanship, cynicism and secrecy to new levels is a bitter pill to his supporters and spinners. It is small consolation to his critics that they had him pegged correctly.



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