Liberals may be disappointed, but conservatives are shocked. Among conservatives taken aback by the Obama semi-meltdown you hear the buzz: “Did you think it would happen this quickly?” “Aren’t you surprised how fast it happened?” The “it” is the undoing of the pretense that Obama has near-magical political powers.
Instead, what is setting in is the realization that this administration might be as bad, indeed worse, than recent ones on a basic level of competency and political dexterity. The Obama team is resorting to crass fear mongering (“Gotta pass the stimulus, gotta pass it — no time to wait!”) and has suffered from a run of incompetent personnel blunders, an atrocious press secretary, and a startling drop in support for his signature piece of legislation.
President Obama seems to have an exceedingly low tolerance for criticism and adversity. At a Democratic retreat (which, come to think of it, is a timely idea) he dropped all pretense of bipartisanship and went rip-roaring negative on the Republicans and anyone who would question the wonderfulness of the pork-a-thon. (Senators Snowe and Specter, that must mean you guys too.) Even the New York Times thought he sounded “irritated.” Just when he needs some moderate Republican help he chooses the “blunt derision” route. Well, so much for the superior temperament.
Few imagined, after a very effective campaign and a mostly skillful transition, that the first couple of weeks would be so cringe-inducing. As Charles Krauthammer summed up:
After Obama’s miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell — and that this president told better than anyone. I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.
You didn’t think it was possible for them to offend the White House press corp, at least so quickly. It didn’t seem possible they’d really let the mask of bipartisanship slip so fast. But they did –in record time. We can mull over the reasons — arrogance, inexperience, and lack of a distinct vision (“I won” doesn’t count) all factor in. But they better get their act together, and quickly. Because one thing we know: once the president has lost the mystique of power, the political high ground and the respect of the Congress, press, and public, it’s darned hard to get it all back.