In his interview on Sunday with President Obama, Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” said, “You’re being judged now on your performance. To which Obama snapped back, “No, no, no. I’m being judged against the ideal. And, you know, Joe Biden has a good expression. He says – ‘Don’t judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative.’”
This answer is quite telling, beginning with Obama’s compulsive need to refute an invented claim.
No one I know is judging Obama against a Platonic Ideal. They are simply judging him against his administration’s own words and promises (like unemployment would not exceed 8 percent if his stimulus package was passed, he would bend the health care cost curve down, and he would cut the deficit and the debt) and a reasonable expectation of what kind of economic growth and unemployment we could expect if the right policies had been put in place.
But what makes the president’s “no, no, no” denial particularly comical is that Obama once declared that generations from now we would look to his election as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” He would undo cynicism and doubt and “repair this world” (I would have settled for reducing unemployment and restoring prosperity, none of which Obama has done.) It was also the Obama campaign that encouraged a cult of personality unlike anything I have ever witnessed.
Think back, if you can, to the 2008 campaign. “We were the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Obama said at stop after stop. He would begin the “next great chapter in the American story.” Hope and Change. Yes We Can. The Fierce Urgency of Now.
Today Obama’s words look foolish and vain. His promises lie in ashes and ruin. His presidency is a failure. And he has been reduced to complaining that he shouldn’t be judged against “the ideal.” The problem for Barack Obama is not that he fails when measured against the ideal; it’s that he fails even when judged against mediocrity.