Commentary Magazine


Contentions

“Where There Is No Vision, the People Perish”

In the Book of Proverbs we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I was reminded of those words in reading this story from Politico, which begins this way:

Take this quiz: If President Barack Obama wins a second term, he has promised that he will do … what exactly? There are people who follow the president closely who couldn’t answer that question. And even those who try would surely find themselves disagreeing with one another. As he stands before the nation Tuesday evening to present his State of the Union address, Obama is a president whose positions may be well-known but whose agenda — what he actually intends and can reasonably expect to achieve if voters give him four more years — is blurry. …Obama has yet to outline in a concrete way what he will do, said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian with Princeton University.“He is an enigma,” Zelizer said. “He is not a politician with a clear set of ideas.”

Traditionally, an incumbent president runs, at least in large measure, on his record and his vision for the future. But Obama can do neither. His record is more or less indefensible, and even the people who follow the president closely cannot even begin to sketch out what a second term would look like or what his presidency would be devoted to.

The only thing Obama can rely on in this election is to carpet bomb his opponent, which is exactly what he will try. It’s unclear whether or not this strategy will succeed – but it’s not too early to declare the Obama presidency to have been, by any objective standard, a failure. His presidency is out of energy and out of ideas. And Obama himself appears to be, at least right now, a shrunken figure who does best with the public when he’s out of sight and out of mind.

The heady days of 2008 – when Obama promised to repair not just America but the world — seems like a lifetime ago. He’ll deliver his State of the Union address and no one of either party will really care. His words are increasingly unserious, empty and partisan, and very nearly meaningless. Even the president’s strongest supporters must realize, at least in their quiet, honest moments, that the hope and promise of his presidency lies in ruins.