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1,361 Days

April 30, 2009

Whew, the first 100 days of the Obama presidency are over. Brace yourself for the remaining 1,361.

Polls show Monsieur Obama as a person to be more popular than his specific policies. You can believe that this is because, no matter his policies, Obama’s just so awesomely handsome and charming, but the French Cowboy thinks that it is because what the president has done so far was to straddle issues until he had to make a decision on them. Dan Henninger makes the point with a typical example. On the prosecution of the authors of the enhanced-interrogation memos, Obama said this:

“With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.”

The left is hearing: “Don’t worry, I will have Eric Holder find a way to prosecute those scoundrels.” But wait, Obama goes on:

“As a general deal, I think that we should be looking forward and not backwards. I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively, and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations.”

The right is hearing: “I’m really against those prosecutions, so I totally agree with you.” Both sides have been given a rhetorical morsel of sympathy, or ‘Hope’ if you want. Both sides like Monsieur Obama for that.

The Wall Street Journal has a second story that includes another fine example of this ‘say one thing and say the other’ strategy:

Mr. Obama said at a news conference Wednesday that “I don’t think that we should micromanage.” But he added that, in the name of protecting taxpayer dollars, the government would help troubled companies make “tough decisions based on realistic assumptions.”

In other words: “Right, I agree with you that I should keep my hands off private companies. Left, I agree with you that I have to set things right for the unions.” Both sides have been told that the president is with them.

This strategy can work only for so long. Sooner or later President Obama has to make a decision (even if it is a passive ‘just let it happen’) and one side will be disappointed. As long as you only have to talk and make people believe that you are going to do what they will approve of, it is easy to have high approval ratings. It is much harder to have large majorities applaud specific policies. That’s just how it is: people have differing opinions and even a charismatic president can’t make everyone agree with his point of view. Some want a “truth commission” on the interrogation of terrorists, some don’t. Once Obama has taken his stand on the issue people on either side of the argument won’t like it.

Looking at the short history of decisions Monsieur Obama has made, I would say that he has proven himself to be just the far-left creature those who paid attention have found him to be even during the presidential campaign. (And in case you wondered, his stand on state secrets and even his plans in Iraq and Afghanistan are consistent with this assessment: when they’re in charge the left loves the power of the state.) So if the French Cowboy had to make a wild guess, I’d say that it’s going to be right-of-centre folks who will be disappointed in the coming 1,361 days, not so much the left.

Now, given Monsieur Obama’s far-left worldview, the policy issues on his table, and the fact that Americans are, on average, moderates, if not centre-right, there are two possibilities for future events to look like. Either the president’s approval ratings will plummet or he will move to the centre politically. There is simply no way for him to stay popular talking like a moderate (in the sense that he straddles every issue as described above) while simultaneously acting like the president of ‘MoveOn.gov’. As Obama’s favourite predecessor has said: “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”

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