Noonan Sees It: Obama Past Caring. Happy Independence Day!

Peggy Noonan has written an excellent, some might say worrisome piece re Barack Obama’s historically rather perverse presidency. You’ll want to read it.

I have for a while, now, wondered if the president’s disengaged “check-out”, and the “so, sue me” smugness — the absolute lack of concern for anything, including his own legacy or the “future of the party” — has less to do with a conceit that he possesses the ethereal, above-merely-human-detachment of a godling, and more to do with an observation that America may feel dissatisfied but (thanks to dependable assists from the press, distractions from pop-culture and new media enterprises in love with experimentation and control) she has neither the attention span nor the will, nor the energy, to come back from a “new normal” of overarching, and overreaching government control. The president doesn’t have to care about legacy because legacy, like history, doesn’t actually matter, anymore. Narratives are only relevant for as long as they are useful and one doesn’t even need a Winston Smith to shift their direction; often a dizzying spin is all it takes.

Back when Benghazi happened, I suggested that if the administration could successfully divert attention from that event — and it did — it would mean the end of accountability; the end of having to answer for governmental actions (or inaction); the end of needing to explain anything, even to Congress; the end of needing to care about what the public thought, or wanted, or perhaps even (given media willingness to ignore any story that might prove troublesome) how they voted.

Obama has “checked out” because his job is done, and nothing that crosses his desk matters to him any longer. His job was not to lead, not to repair relationships damaged by American hegemony or Dubya, not to re-unite the nation. His job was to entrench members in-good-standing of “the party” (not the Democrats, by the way; he’s done nothing for them) while rendering politics, and political offices themselves, irrelevant of meaning.

So meaningless, in fact, that for the Democrats it doesn’t really matter who ends up being their nominee in 2016. If Hillary wants to be president, fine; if the even-less-artfully evasive Elizabeth Warren wants it, all the better because her narrative is still forming and maleable. All that matters is that the top of the ticket be a woman, because that is the easiest way to ignite the masses — again, for or against is irrelevant — and convince them that they’re still involved in an important process. Whether the “First Female President” is a waspy, befuddled Clinton or a waspy, befuddled Warren will matter very little, because the Office of the President has been successfully transformed both in power and perception; it is no longer a place of vision or risk-taking enterprise or reassurance; it is simply a set for theatricals.

Obama has demonstrated to Americans that they can muddle through with a paralyzed and therefore impotent government — that the bureaucratic mechanisms are so fully in place at this point that governance is no longer about propositions (nor does it need to be) but about maintenance. American is more than coping with the “new normal”. Give them two more years of adjustment-time and Revolution will be a cakewalk.

Hillary, in 2008, could not be counted upon to bring this about, by the way, which is why she was abandoned, back then; she was still too middle-class, too willing to work within existing frameworks; still naively thinking it would be enough to lead, when the time to actually rule was at hand.

I’m not sure why I am pondering all of this, because I really have lost all interest in the illusions of politics. I guess I feel like Noonan touched on it, though, or even hinted at all of this, when she wrote, “He thinks he’s done his work, set America on a leftward course…”.

Yes, exactly, but I think Obama (or whoever guides him, because he doesn’t seem to terribly interested in this stuff) has also taken the measure of the press, and new media, and the American people, themselves, and has realized that we are more than set on a course; we are all-but conquered.

Happy Independence Day? Well, don’t despair; to despair is to sin against hope. But what shall we hope for? That somehow a golden past may be recaptured? That is an unrealistic hope; even if the past is prologue, the thrust of narrative is always, relentlessly, forward. The forces in power have begun as they mean to continue, and even if genies could be put back into bottles we are too divided, too distracted and too self-interested to chase and subdue them.

A more realistic hope: that our focus may move beyond the fakery of politics and headlines and pundit gas-baggery; that we may stop attributing to America the inviolable traits and virtues that cannot belong to a nation (for a nation is only an idea) but only to a people, and then only imperfectly, and we have surely been imperfect. If a cult of personality helped to bring us to this point, it could only occur in a nation that had become comfortable with ideas evolving into idols.

The good news is, since politics has become pointless, we will now get to talk about human conscience, and philosophy and the stuff of the soul, and to fight for what is True — the Reality beyond all of these overwhelming illusions — and to therefore begin to bring on Apocalypse; not an end, but an uncovering; a revelation. And then the winning begins.

The things of the spirit foment and grow a most subversive freedom. So, Happy Independence Day, indeed.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • oregon nurse

    There is ONE thing the people of America can do to take back this country. They can vote against the incumbant in EVERY election. If there isn’t an opponent, write one in. It will get messy but it will get messy the way the kitchen gets messy while cooking a fantastic 7 course meal from scratch. It’s that or the same old miserable unsatisfying leftovers we’ve been eating for years that fail to nourish us but gives us constant indigestion.

  • captcrisis

    I wonder how much of your Catholicism is bound up in Hating Obama. A good deal I think. There’s no substance to this post at all except Obama Hatred.

  • Dymphna

    It is difficult to hope sometimes. Are you saying that this oligarchic non-democracy will cause people to turn back to Christ? I do hope so, but so far I have seen the opposite in my own family. :(

    I still see lots of posts on social media (especially today) attributing lots of virtues that, as you so aptly say, cannot be a nation but only to a people. I’m not sure most folks will take the time to ascertain the difference.

    The fact that a cult of personality has gotten us to this point worries me greatly. This did not bode well for Germany in the 1930s. Media and propaganda are far more sophisticated now than they were then and we’ve got lots more distractions now. It has gotten to the point where, when we read something (in this case, about a president, or candidate or government) we don’t really know what is true and what isn’t.

    Also, have you come to the conclusion that voting is no longer worthwhile?

  • Kevin O’Mahony

    Be very careful about Valerie Jarrett, too. She’s behind the Obama administration’s social engineering agenda.

  • Gail Finke

    “members in-good-standing of “the party” (not the Democrats, by the way; he’s done nothing for them) while rendering politics, and political offices themselves, irrelevant” — not sure exactly what you mean by that, do you mind clarifying? I think I know but I don’t want to assume.

    He’s never seemed to me to be in charge. At first I thought he was just a puppet — “Do what we tell you and we’ll make sure you win” — but pretty soon that didn’t seem to be true. Maybe it is just a big Chicago Machine coup, or some combination of that withe some high-level Democrats. But this guy doesn’t seem to DO anything. How could anyone who is on TV, plays golf, goes on vacation, and fund-raises as much as he does actually govern the country?

  • MeanLizzie

    In fact, I don’t hate him at all, and remember him in my prayers frequently. My Catholicism informs me that things on earth are passing, even nations, and teaches me not to make idols of ideology.

  • Dymphna

    I’ve been doing that for most of my voting life.

  • Dymphna

    I can’t access the Noonan piece without subscribing. What do you mean by “Revolution will be a cakewalk”? What sort of revolution are you talking about?

  • fondatorey

    I agree completely. The nice thing is that all the masks seem to be coming off at once.

  • RufusChoate

    All you needed to know about Barack H. Obama was on display when he debated Alan Keyes in the 2006 Senate race. Smug and arrogant without justification. .

  • RightyFeep

    “It has gotten to the point where, when we read something (in this case, about a president, or candidate or government) we don’t really know what is true and what isn’t.”

    It’s all untrue. Particularly if you are inclined to believe it. We can’t even trust ourselves anymore.

  • L.B.

    @Dymphna, If you do a google search for the name of the article “The Daydream and the Nightmare” the search results will give you a link to the full article.

  • Slocum Moe

    Obama makes many old white reactionaries and Southern racists completely unhinged. They call him a Kenyan born, communist, Islamist, Manchurian candidate, the illegitimate son of Angela Davis and a Mau-Mau prince. They believe he will set up concentration camps and herd them into boxcars, to be mercilessly genocided by foreign UN Troops of color.

    The president wastes no time trying to appease these people. Why should he? He’s not apathetic to them, just pragmatic.

    Republicans can’t retake the presidency unless they get somebody more moderate, contemporary, morally relativist and secular humanist than Romney or McCain. The only Guy I can think of that might win on a Republican presidential ticket is ex New York mayor, Micheal Bloomberg. Never going to happen. It’s likely to be somebody economically Laissez faire, libertarian, Tea Party ethnocentric racist and a rabidly anti reproductive rights toady to fundamentalist Christian patriarchal culture (read Paul Ryan or someone similar here). Moderates, even Right leaners will never go for it. Even if Obama went for a third term, he’d win easily.

  • L.B.

    Elizabeth, thank you for your wonderful book Strange Gods. I read your book as part of my Lenten reading and since you had comments turned off and I have such a bad memory I kept forgetting to write and thank you! Ouch.. a few of those strange gods really hit home and pushed my Lent to be even better. Thank you. I highly recommend to everyone – get yourself a copy and read it!

    I also recommend “School of Darkness” by Bella Dodd (a revert to Catholicism under the guidance of Archbishop Sheen), published in 1954 – copies can be found online for free. I just finished this book and I cannot tell you how crucial it is to understanding everything that is going on with Obama and the “Progressive” agenda that we are experiencing today. It will blow your mind when you see how so much of the Statist/Progressive agenda was set into motion in the early 1900′s – If anything, they are a patient people…

  • Joel Stephen Gehrke

    Well: I hate Barack Obama. And I don’t know how it’s possible to be sincerely “alleig[ed] to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands,” and not hate him. I hate him because because my most lurid visions were understatements of what he actually is; and for what his reelection says about the capacity of the American people to govern ourselves. I hate him because I love my country and he is destroying it while CNN and MSNBC run interference and demonize anybody who says “boo.”

  • Dymphna

    Thanks, L.B. Got it!

  • FW Ken

    Given the level of respect Pres. Obama usually shows for the Constitution, a third term would not be beyond his ambitions.

  • radiofreerome

    When exactly were presidents accountable? The war in Iraq was justified by fabricated evidence. The war in Vietnam was justified by fabricated history. Accountability is for the other party’s presidents.