We were going to put away childish things. We were not going to engage in needless partisanship. We were done with Red America and Blue America. These were the sentiments of candidate Barack Obama. But President Obama didn’t get through his Inaugural Address without making sure the battle lines were drawn. You were warned: if you disagreed with him you’d be be labeled small-minded or cynical:
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.
There is no room for principled opposition. To criticize or oppose is to be a naysayer and stuck in the past.
And that attitude has intensified with each passing day. If you opposed the stimulus you wanted to “do nothing.” If you questioned the efficacy of the mortgage bailout, you were uniformed. And if you said what we all know to be true — that Obama is pushing a model of government that is more like western European social welfare states than anything that has proceeded it — you are just nuts.
So, too, are businesses and the executives who find fault with Obama’s policies. Michael Goodwin writes:
Less than half-way through what should be a 100-day honeymoon, the Obama administration is on a war footing. Make that a class-war footing.
Sometimes the targets are critics, including two TV commentators singled out by press secretary Robert Gibbs for faulting the President’s bailout plans.
Sometimes the targets are Republicans, like conservative talker Rush Limbaugh, the focus of a plan led by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to divide the GOP and score points with the Democratic base.
But the tone of the President’s own attacks on industry and his spending and tax policies are increasingly worrying Wall Street and much of the business world. With the stock market reaching lows not seen in more than a decade, including a 20% drop since Inauguration Day, headlines like “Obama’s bear market” are suddenly routine.
And the Rush Limbaugh gambit? Newt Gingrich nails it:
It reminds me of the Nixon White House. And I think that as long as Rahm Emanuel’s there, he’s sort of the Haldeman of this administration. . . I think what they did with the whole Rush Limbaugh thing–they can’t defend signing the 9,000 earmarks, they can’t defend an energy tax increase, they can’t defend Geithner’s failure to pay his income–his taxes, so they decide, “Let’s have a fight over Rahm Emanuel”–I mean, “over Rush Limbaugh.” It is the exact opposite of what the president promised. The president promised to focus on large things, not small things; he promised to bring us together, not divide us.
If you were looking for less divisive times and an era in which politicians showed respect for opposing views, you might be disappointed. But if you suspected that all that talk about “unity” and “respect” was a campaign ploy to remind people of the acrimony of the Bush years, you’re not surprised a bit.