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Barack Obama: Embattled Moderate?

September 8, 2009

Who’d have thunk it? President Obama, for all his reformist zeal and lefty street cred, seems to be suffering from the Moderate’s Curse: he can’t please anybody.

He’s catching flak from the right, naturally. We expected that much. As he prepared to address the nation’s schoolchildren, exhorting them to study hard and propel themselves through the gnarly thicket of academia, conservative parents everywhere dissolved in quivering mounds of gelatinous white terror.

I’ve never seen such utter hysteria over a sitting president, unless you count the left’s hysteria over George W. Bush. But the left’s hysteria was mingled with sniggering contempt for an out-of-control, semi-literate frat boy who lucked his way into the White House. What we’re witnessing in response to Obama is pure, unadulterated, pants-wetting fear — aided, of course, by the alarmist diatribes of right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who benefit from generating precisely this sort of hysteria among the faithful. Their audience catches the message all too readily, and runs with it: “That radical African NEGRO… he’s going to corrupt our fair-haired babies and turn them into state-worshiping socialists!!! We’re losing our country to foreigners!! HELP!!!” 

Even more moderate and liberal spokespeople are questioning Obama’s right to lecture our kids on the cultivation of scholarly habits. They claim that the government has no place in the classroom, and that our president has no business dispensing moral uplift over a TV screen.

I disagree. I suppose I’ll always be a child of the 1950s: I miss the noble and kindly public virtues that shaped my first decade on this perplexing planet. Why SHOULDN’T our president be a role model for young people? Teddy Roosevelt was hailed as a hero by the American youth of his day, and nobody castigated him for his superstar status. 

I know we’ve had precious few inspiring presidents during my lifetime, but I can’t fault Obama for trying. God knows our young people could use a little inspiration. Would those hysterical parents rather have their offspring listening to the rapper du jour?

So much for the right and its discontents. What puzzles me is the surging animosity of the left toward their Chosen One.

On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be so puzzled. The left is a mindboggling patchwork of special interests: pro-choicers, blacks, Hispanics, gays, milquetoast liberals, hard-line socialists, Hollywood stars, environmentalists, preppie progressives and hardscrabble working stiffs. How can anyone — even someone as smart and personable as Obama — possibly satisfy them all? Whenever he veers toward the center, the left feels betrayed. Let him waffle on holy causes like nationalized healthcare or gay marriage, and he immediately hears about it. (“He’s our Negro… why isn’t he tap-dancing for us?”) 

I feel Obama’s pain. The right lives in fear of his otherness; the left smacks him upside the head for not sticking to the official playbook. We embattled moderates need to give the president a hearty welcome to our ranks. He might not realize it, but he’s one of us now.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2009 10:42 am

    Great post, Rick. It doesn’t seem that anybody is happy with Obama at this point in time, does it? I just don’t understand how people can expect to see immediate change when we have problems that are so big. It takes time to fix things and I think that if people took the time to be a little more patient and perhaps a little more helpful instead of flinging stones things would be a lot easier for everyone and perhaps we might see the fruits of our efforts.

    I am also absolutely disgusted with the anger and fear over his speech to our kids. It’s completely ridiculous. We allowed W. to read to the kids and that guy can’t even form an entire sentence without someone there to help him. Why can’t we let our current president speak to the kids about doing homework and staying on track? What’s so wrong with that? That’s not politics, it’s just good common sense. Even if it is coming from a politician.

  2. September 11, 2009 7:41 am

    Most people aren’t at their best when they’re scared. I think that’s what we’re seeing with the right-wing anti-Obama crazies. As for the leftists who have written him off… well, they expected him to stick to the script, and he’s sort of ad-libbing.

  3. October 9, 2009 5:02 pm

    It’s not his fault and he should be a little (lot?) embarrassed over getting the Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps he should donate the money to the Norman Borlaug fund to help feed the world’s hungry. This prize might be an albatross around his neck as the crazy righties and the night time shows will have a field day pointing to his liberal supporters.
    It’s too bad, because although I don’t agree with most of his positions because of the law of “unintended consequences”, he is still my president and I like some of his goals. I just wish he had better advisers and fewer and more selective goals given a decimated economy.

    • October 9, 2009 9:29 pm

      dduck: I was going to write a post on this very subject, but I’m hosting a party tomorrow (and busy with preparations tonight) so I’ll let your comment speak for me.

      I agree: we can’t blame Obama for copping the Nobel Prize too soon; he did’t award it to himself and I’m sure he’s a little embarrassed, as you noted. What really disturbs me (all right, it amuses me a little, too) is that not only the right is jumping down Obama’s throat over this prize; even his fellow liberals are berating the poor man for not deserving it yet. On top of it all, the prize will have the effect of tying Obama’s hands in Afghanistan (or Pakistan, where the war is almost certainly headed).

      I don’t know what the folks in Oslo were thinking. It could be that they issued the prize with the intention of tying Obama’s hands. Or they awarded it because he managed to set the right tone even before he was inaugurated. (The deadline for the prize nominations was less than a month after he took office.) Or it just might be a case of Obamamania in Europe: the left-leaning Nobel committee members worked themselves into a state of rapture over the prospect of an Obama presidency… got themselves so excited, in fact, that they… oh God… PREMATURE PRIZE!

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