Commentary Magazine


Topic: leader of global climate initiative

Expectations

For some time, the Wayne and Garth school of Obama punditry (“We’re not worthy!”) was in fashion to explain why Obama was apparently not living up to expectations. He was too intellectual for us and wouldn’t play the usual partisan games. He was beyond our base nationalistic allegiances. “A sort of a god” was, like the real one, shrouded in mystery and beyond the ability of mere mortals to fully appreciate.

Now along comes a Politico column by Lisa Lerer explaining that the real issue is that we expect too much from the One. At Copenhagen:

But it will be almost impossible for Obama not to disappoint the world when he arrives here next week — in large part because the world keeps ratcheting up the expectations on him. When Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it was declaring global warming a danger to human health, the administration might have hoped it was merely providing a catalyst — a sense of U.S. commitment — on the first day of two weeks of talks here. But leaders from the United Nations and the European Union insist that the EPA endangerment finding is something bigger — proof positive that Obama must have another rabbit to pull from his hat.

“Another rabbit”? I must have missed the Middle East peace accord, the agreement by Iran to give up its nukes, or some other small-mammal miracle. For Obama, of course, has yet to accomplish much of anything, either internationally or domestically (which is why, regarding the latter, we see Son of Stimulus in the works, which now brings guffaws from Jon Stewart).

But the American media and international elites are, if nothing else, dogged in their desire to help Obama succeed — both have invested so much in raising expectations to the dizzying heights they now decry. So now those expectations must be lowered:

Of course, no one expects this round of talks to lead directly to an actual treaty — a more realistic goal is a political agreement that might lead to a treaty down the road. But even that goal seems elusive, with a draft text from Danish negotiators sparking a minirevolt Tuesday from developing nations who say it would give too much power to rich countries. Some experts attributed the draft to a desire to accommodate the United States in the talks. “My sense is that the Danish text is an expression of a tactical mistake; they tried to make an agreement or a proposal that fit with what they believed was the American position,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of World Wildlife Fund’s global climate initiative.

The American people are slowly figuring out that there is no there there. He is, as Lisa Schiffren aptly describes, an “inexperienced, excessively ideological, and weak man who is naïve about the world and uncomfortable exercising American power during a time of war.” And while it is becoming increasingly obvious that he is “not an exceptional, or even particularly competent, leader … because so many politicians, interest groups and factions have an interest in his continued presence, no one is ready to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet.”

Far better, then, to decry the “expectations” of mere mortals than to hold Obama to account for his own actions and failures. Instead, he seems to be making the expectations game worse (“instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante”) and has done nothing to “restore science to its rightful place.” Well, that would entail restoring him to his rightful place within the cosmic order. And there’s no sign that he or his followers are ready for that.

For some time, the Wayne and Garth school of Obama punditry (“We’re not worthy!”) was in fashion to explain why Obama was apparently not living up to expectations. He was too intellectual for us and wouldn’t play the usual partisan games. He was beyond our base nationalistic allegiances. “A sort of a god” was, like the real one, shrouded in mystery and beyond the ability of mere mortals to fully appreciate.

Now along comes a Politico column by Lisa Lerer explaining that the real issue is that we expect too much from the One. At Copenhagen:

But it will be almost impossible for Obama not to disappoint the world when he arrives here next week — in large part because the world keeps ratcheting up the expectations on him. When Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it was declaring global warming a danger to human health, the administration might have hoped it was merely providing a catalyst — a sense of U.S. commitment — on the first day of two weeks of talks here. But leaders from the United Nations and the European Union insist that the EPA endangerment finding is something bigger — proof positive that Obama must have another rabbit to pull from his hat.

“Another rabbit”? I must have missed the Middle East peace accord, the agreement by Iran to give up its nukes, or some other small-mammal miracle. For Obama, of course, has yet to accomplish much of anything, either internationally or domestically (which is why, regarding the latter, we see Son of Stimulus in the works, which now brings guffaws from Jon Stewart).

But the American media and international elites are, if nothing else, dogged in their desire to help Obama succeed — both have invested so much in raising expectations to the dizzying heights they now decry. So now those expectations must be lowered:

Of course, no one expects this round of talks to lead directly to an actual treaty — a more realistic goal is a political agreement that might lead to a treaty down the road. But even that goal seems elusive, with a draft text from Danish negotiators sparking a minirevolt Tuesday from developing nations who say it would give too much power to rich countries. Some experts attributed the draft to a desire to accommodate the United States in the talks. “My sense is that the Danish text is an expression of a tactical mistake; they tried to make an agreement or a proposal that fit with what they believed was the American position,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of World Wildlife Fund’s global climate initiative.

The American people are slowly figuring out that there is no there there. He is, as Lisa Schiffren aptly describes, an “inexperienced, excessively ideological, and weak man who is naïve about the world and uncomfortable exercising American power during a time of war.” And while it is becoming increasingly obvious that he is “not an exceptional, or even particularly competent, leader … because so many politicians, interest groups and factions have an interest in his continued presence, no one is ready to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet.”

Far better, then, to decry the “expectations” of mere mortals than to hold Obama to account for his own actions and failures. Instead, he seems to be making the expectations game worse (“instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante”) and has done nothing to “restore science to its rightful place.” Well, that would entail restoring him to his rightful place within the cosmic order. And there’s no sign that he or his followers are ready for that.

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