William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE END OF THE BEGINNING - AT 9:54 A.M. ET:  A funny thing happened to Barack Obama on the way to immortality.  He ran into facts and reality, those two curses of fast-hustling politicians.

A hard-hitting op-ed piece in the Washington Post, by two guys from Reason magazine, tells the story very well, and delightfully grim it is:

Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike. According to a July 13 CBS News poll, the once-unassailable president's approval rating now stands at 57 percent, down 11 points from April. Half of Americans think the recession will last an additional two years or more, 52 percent think Obama is trying to "accomplish too much," and 57 percent think the country is on the "wrong track."

Hey, you can't say that about a messiah, can you?

So far, he seems to be skipping the chapter on Bill Clinton and his generally free-market economic policies and instead flipping back to the themes and comportment of Jimmy Carter...

...And perhaps most important, as with Carter, his specific policies are genuinely unpopular. The auto bailout -- which, incidentally, is illegal, springing as it has from a fund specifically earmarked for financial institutions -- has been reviled from the get-go, with opposition consistently polling north of 60 percent. Majorities have said no to bank bailouts and to cap and trade if it would make electricity significantly more expensive.

But the Obama crowd, inspired by previous messiah Al Gore, wants electricity to be more expensive.  It's good for us, don't you understand?  If you can't pay for A/C, you'll turn to wind.

Such is the extent of Obama's magical realism that he can promise to post all bills on the Internet five days before signing them, serially break that promise and then, when announcing that he wouldn't even try anymore, have a spokesman present the move as yet another example of "providing the American people more transparency in government."

By the way, these guys were just as rough on George W. Bush, a man we generally like here, so they have some street cred. 

What the new president has not quite grasped is that the American people understand both irony and cognitive dissonance. Instead, Obama has mistaken his personal popularity for a national predilection toward emergency-driven central planning. He doesn't get that Americans prefer the slower process of building political consensus based on reality, and at least a semblance of rational deliberation rather than one sky-is-falling legislative session after another.

Finally, on Obama:

As a political animal, he has always resembled Clinton more than Carter. This might help him avoid the Carteresque pileup he's driving into. Far more important, it just might help the rest of us.

Problem is,Obama is a creature of his party's left wing, which is absolutely unyielding in its fanaticism, has contempt for the very people it claims to care about, and wants it all done in ten minutes.

Welcome to the real White House, Mr. Obama.

July 18, 2009