During the course of last year’s presidential campaign, I found it hard to fathom the enthusiasm Barack Obama maintained among so many of his followers over the course of the very long campaign. Yes, I appreciated his rhetorical skill and presence. He carried himself like a leader, someone who commands respect. Early on, I too found him a compelling figure and plausible president. Yet, it baffled me how a man who had previously accomplished so little survived the scrutiny of an extended campaign.
He put himself forward as some new kind of politician, able to transcend politics, yet while he had developed a few friendships with his Republiccan Senate colleagues, he hadn’t been at the forefront of any major bipartisan efforts at reform. Just as he hadn’t challenged the Chicago political machine when involved in Illinois politics, he didn’t challenge the partisan grandstanding and opportunistic obstructionism of his party’s leadership when serving in the U.S. Senate. He had no record of being a new kind of politician. Despite his pretensions to the contrary, he was a go-along get-along kind of guy, never making waves, never standing out on particular issues, always blending in.
The only thing which distinguished him was his powerful presence and his ability to deliver a speech.
His record, however, didn’t match the rhetoric he used to describe himself. It’s one reason I wrote my challenge to our critics, asking them to find examples where President George W. Bush (43) criticized Democratic legislators in the same manner Obama criticized their Republican counterparts for their votes against a legislative initiative he supported. In the example I offered the supposedly post-partisan Democrat excoriated Republicans for voting against him on Waxman-Markey while excusing Democratic legislators who the same way as those “fear-mongering” Republicans. (more…)