Commentary Magazine


The Public Recoils

Obama sold himself as the image of moderation and superior temperament. But there has been nothing moderate about his first year, and his temperament has turned crabby, irritable, and condescending. Perhaps that was always his disposition, but only on occasion did the mask slip (“Can’t I eat my waffle?” and his crack about Bible-clutching Americans, being two vivid examples). Some cling fast to the campaign persona. David Brooks insists that Obama “has created a thoughtful, pragmatic administration marked by a culture of honest and vigorous debate.” That would come as a shock to those whom he has vilified (the list includes Fox News and Gallup, remember) and the voters, who see an attempted government takeover of health care and a mound of debt. Indeed Brooks himself concedes:

Driven by circumstances and self-confidence, the president has made himself the star performer in the national drama. He has been ubiquitous, appearing everywhere, trying to overhaul most sectors of national life: finance, health, energy, automobiles and transportation, housing, and education, among others.

So perhaps Obama’s not so moderate after all. But the unveiling of Obama’s personality and of his policy goals has stirred the public, which, as Brooks concedes, recoils from “any effort to centralize authority or increase the role of government.” Unfortunately for Obama and his faithful pundits, that gives voters plenty to recoil from. Unlike Brooks, they no longer consider him “temperate, thoughtful and pragmatic.” His actions tell a different story; his policies reveal a radicalism and arrogance born of the belief that the federal government has nearly unlimited capacity to take over more and more decision-making authority and aggrandize more and more power.

There was an alternative for Obama, an alternative to this narcissism and aggressive statism. He could have governed as he campaigned. But he made a choice, and unless he reverses course, he’ll be judged on the results.