From hope to doomsday

The way things are going, we can expect to wake up one morning to find the president of the United States wandering the streets of Washington in sack cloth with a placard predicting, well, the end.

He’s already given us everything but the exact date on which the world will end as he leads a chorus of his supporters demanding that Congress adopt his every nostrum lest our economic crisis transform itself into a “catastrophe,” as Mr. Obama put it, or “absolute collapse,” as Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) warned, or even “Armageddon,” in the words of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.).

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It’s almost as if our new “transformational” president is himself being transformed into a character from a New Yorker cartoon or, worse, into Jimmy Carter. The optimistic campaign has been replaced almost overnight by a sort of whining pessimism that is, well, unbecoming of a president. Obama keeps reminding those who disagree with him that it was he who won in November. This political defeat has convinced the president that those who oppose his views should simply abandon their views and principles as unpopular, unworkable and destined for the scrap heap of history.

Maybe. But ideas have a funny way of surviving elections. Democrats and liberals didn’t give up their belief that government and those who wander the halls of its bureaucracy know best because voters disagreed with them. On the contrary, Democrats fought to preserve the programs they had initiated while in the majority and to simply repackage them in attempt after attempt to sell bigger government to a doubting public. To give them their due, Democrats did so because they honestly believe people should put their faith in government rather than in markets and personal judgment.

Even those who disagree strongly with their views have to admire the tenacity with which Democrats have fought for government solutions over the years. They’ve ignored the evidence of what works and doesn’t work as well as the views of mere voters. Liberals have explained away every excess of government and every boneheaded result of the policies they espouse. When the regulations they’ve championed distort markets and create unintended problems, Democrats blame the markets themselves and seek even more regulation. When foreign leaders act like the thugs and criminals most of us believe them to be, liberals excuse their behavior as a natural human reaction to us.

Now, finding themselves in power, liberals (or progressives, as they now call themselves) seem to believe Republicans and conservatives should conclude from the result of one historically rather close national election that they should abandon their beliefs. Many of them, like Mr. Obama himself, are angry that this isn’t happening. What is happening is that Mr. Obama’s idea of a “bipartisan,” “post-partisan” or “trans-partisan” America is becoming clearer every day; it’s an America in which everyone, regardless of party, agrees with him.

Mr. Obama’s anger was on display last week as he attacked those who dared disagree with him, blaming them for the nation’s current problems and suggesting that if things get worse, as he sadly predicts they will, it will be their fault and not his. It was on display when he attacked radio host Rush Limbaugh, of all people, for being critical of what he and his administration want to do for us, and it is on display as his supporters in and out of Congress suggest that people like Limbaugh must be denied access to the airwaves because they have the temerity to actually continue to disagree with President Obama.

The president whined last week that he and his team have had to work long into the night since the Inaugural as they wrestle with the nation’s economic problems. And by week’s end, Obama surrogates began to argue that since Republicans over-spent while in power, they have no right to complain as the new administration takes spending to an entirely new level.

There is no denying the seriousness of the current recession, but the specter of a still-popular president on television night after night to predict that things are going to get much, much worse is not something one would call confidence-inspiring. One can lead by inspiring or by trying to scare the heck out of people. In our country, at least, successful presidents have used the inspirational approach — the approach that Mr. Obama took during his campaign, but which he seems to have abandoned.

Perhaps as he goes forward, the president should ask his speechwriters to study the Reagan rather than the Carter leadership model.

Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com.