The “Where’s Waldo” presidency

March 7, 2011

Jack Kelly had a scathing piece at Real Clear Politics yesterday that lays bare just what an empty suit President Obama turned out to be:

“Obama’s appeal comes not from the things he says, but from who is saying them,” wrote columnist Froma Harrop during the campaign. Though mostly a fan, Ms. Harrop noted that in “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama wrote “my treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete.” Ms. Harrop said, “It takes some doing for a politician to write a 364-page book, his second volume, and skate past all controversy.”

Being a “blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views” is a good way to be elected president … especially when the incumbent is saddled with an unpopular war and the stock market melts down two months before the election. But after two years in office, that blank screen can look more like an empty suit.

“For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president,” wrote Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus last week. She generally supports him but says “there are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action — unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful. The dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ presidency.”

Kelly cites Shelby Steele’s observation that Obama’s popularity during the 2008 campaign was due to his embodiment of the nation’s racial idealism, the search for absolution for the sins of our past, and not from his policies (which were mostly identical to Hillary Clinton’s). Even Obama, as Kelly relates, has written of himself:

“I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

Kelly then goes on to recount Obama’s passivity (“voting present”) in foreign and domestic affairs, and points out how otherwise sensible people weren’t just taken in by Obama’s act, but reveled in it in a moment reminiscent of the poster in Fox Mulder’s office that read, “I want to believe.”

Not all of us fell for the pretense, of course. Some saw through him from the start, and many of us sounded the alarm. But it was of no avail; with a complicit mainstream press that acted more as a media arm of the Obama campaign than as responsible journalists in a free society, it wasn’t until almost two years after the election that we finally learned anything solid about his political beliefs and education. And by then… ?

Now we’re stuck with the man who heads arguably the worst administration in my lifetime, which is saying a lot, since I remember Carter.  And there is still over a year-and-a-half to go before we can be rid of him.

Keep your fingers crossed nothing truly bad happens and we have to ask “Where’s Waldo?” again.