Peggy Noonan and the President as Visionary and Victim

Peggy Noonan and the President as Visionary and Victim January 18, 2013

Peggy Noonan has a good, insightful column this week touching on how very hostile our president seems to be toward about half the country, as evidenced by the “final press conference” of his first term:

[Speaking of evil, dastardly Republicans] “And yet, “when I’m over here at the congressional picnic and folks are coming up and taking pictures with their family, I promise you, Michelle and I are very nice to them.”

You’re NICE to them? To people who’d take food from the mouths of babes?

Then, grimly: “But it doesn’t prevent them from going onto the floor of the House and blasting me for being a big-spending socialist.” Conservative media outlets “demonize” the president, he complained, and so Republican legislators fear standing near him.

If Richard Nixon talked like that, they’d have called him paranoid and self-pitying. Oh wait . . .
There was a logical inconsistency to his argument. A government shutdown would be so disastrous to the economy that he won’t negotiate with Republicans if that’s what it takes to avert it.

Beyond these inconsistencies of thought, we see this grousing, put-upon president prince who will not negotiate with anyone (because no one’s ideas are as correct as his) and who is annoyed that his subjects won’t just do as they’re bid.

Well, the grousings are an Obama standard that no one in the press likes to call him on, but beyond that is this conceit that Obama and only Obama is ever dealing with anyone in good faith; everyone else is devious and letting him down:

Two days later, unveiling his gun-control plan at a White House event, it wasn’t only Republicans in Congress who lie: “There will be pundits and politicians and special-interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty, not because that’s true but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.”

No one has good faith but him. No one is sincere but him. Doesn’t this get boring, even to him?”

This is the narrative for the next four years: the president as visionary and victim. Obama will attempt to utterly solidify that image on his inaugural day when he takes the oath of office, while using not one but two bibles — because if a little symbolism is good, a little more is better.

The point of the bibles is not their content but their character. One belonged to Abraham Lincoln, the great Emancipator. The other belonged to The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, the great Civil Rights leader. Both were visionaries and victims. The message of this startlingly illiberal president, whose second terms appears geared toward the narrowing of our rights, is: “I’m one of these guys; I am their standardbearer and their culmination, the third person of the trinity of American freedom.”

Whoo boy. We’re in for quite a ride on that ego. Obama may well be a visionary of sorts — he is certainly a cunning campaigner who effective lays waste to his opposition while he pursues his intent to “fundamentally changes” America — but a president operating with the full-on assistance of an unquestioning and complicit press, one that has become more of a Ministry of Information than anything else, is hardly a victim, except perhaps of his own personal demons.

We all have personal demons, and the president does too — they’re always connected to our childhood stories. The press likes to say that Obama has a “great” story, but in truth, I’ve always found his a bit sad. A longed-for, distant father. A loved, distant mother who moved him about or left him with grandparents. Perhaps that story is at the root of our president’s own habits of isolation; perhaps they are at the root of his resentment against any-and-all who do not adore and affirm him. In which case, I feel kind of bad for the child Obama. But I feel worse for the rest of us.

Speaking of “good faith” I was really pleased to see Noonan mention it, because it’s something I’ve written about before, myself, while wondering if, politically any of us may assume it, anymore:

I would like to believe that Obama spoke to Dolan in good faith. In fact, a progressive friend insists that Obama did mean it, but that he was swayed against his own best instincts by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and others.

I want to make that good faith assumption of the president—I want to believe that he meant what he said to Dolan, back in November—but it’s difficult to reconcile the man who coolly said “I won” to the GOP the very first time he met them, with a president unable to tell his cabinet secretary and advisors that his own opinions and words have weight and meaning; a president all-too willing to play along with a malicious lie, and a spitefully dishonest and destructive game.

If good-faith assumptions cannot be well-founded, what does “civility” serve beyond the preservation of polite fiction?

One more thought on good faith: I fully anticipate the first comment in the combox to be something along the lines of “Oh, Noonan is finally figuring out this president, eh? Well too bad, too little, too late. She liked him once, and that’s enough to discredit her forever in my perfectly calibrated eyes.”

Why not give up the satisfaction of saying that, and take Noonan in good faith? If you give the back of your hand to someone who has altered their thinking, you do not strengthen the hand, you just further weaken the fibers that may need to be connected.

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