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June 12, 2013

The Two Faces of Barack Obama


A simple observation by Jonah Goldberg.

The contradictions at the heart of the Obama presidency are finally out in the open. As a result, a man who came into office hell-bent on restoring faith in government is on the verge of inspiring a libertarian revival.There have always been (at least) two Barack Obamas. There is the man who claims to be a nonideological problem-solver, keen on working with anybody to fix things. And there is “The One”: the partisan, left-leaning progressive redeemer.

As E. J. Dionne, a columnist who can usually be counted on to make the case for Obama better than Obama can, recently wrote, the president “has been a master, as good politicians are, at presenting different sides of himself to different constituencies. In 2008, he was the man who would bring us together by overcoming the deep mistrust between red and blue America and the champion of progressive change, the liberal answer to Ronald Reagan.”

Doc Zero discusses it further.

Obama critics have long marveled at his ability to flip from the bitterly divisive hyper-partisan who tosses chunks of bloody meat to the left-wing faithful, casually demonizing his opponents as subversives (or, on issues like gun control, outright monsters)... into the bridge building reach-across-the-aisle seeker of good ideas that the media loves to swoon over. Naturally, every politician would love to be able to do this, but only Democrats are allowed to. Bill Clinton still gets all sorts of undeserved praise for his alleged "centrism" - he's the father of welfare reform, don't you know! - but he was also a pioneer in modern dark art of personal destruction.


Some of the dichotomy between Obama's two faces can be resolved by remembering that to the President and his personality cult, expunging those evil conservative insurgents from policy discussions is "non-ideological." There is no ideology but theirs, and it takes whatever shape the Great Leader assigns at the current moment.

Actually, of course, that's inaptly phrased; he means there's no "ideology" but that of "extremists" who "seek to impose their agenda-fueled ideology on the ideology-free Rationalists and Problem-Solvers.

Obama can only do this, as Zero says, thanks to the media. That's how Barack Obama could be, in 2008, both a peacenik who wanted to end wars and a Dogged Terrorist-Fighter who wanted to bring the war to terrorists like it had never been brought before; that's how he could be a man who both wanted to raise taxes and raise spending but could also challenge McCain from the right on deficit reduction.

None of this made any sense at the time. It still doesn't.

But the media knows it's hard to beat someone who is on all sides of an issue. It may be difficult to beat someone who promises to give out free government goodies; it's impossible to beat someone who promises to give out free government goodies and also cut government spending, too.

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posted by Ace at 02:17 PM

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