Obama and the day Santa Claus died

We knew it had to happen, but we might have hoped it would not happen quite so soon. Barack Obama, the vessel into which so many progressives have poured our own dreams of virtue, is gone. Obama the politician, the real Obama, the one who was actually always there, stands before us now, unencumbered by our illusions.

He’s still the hope of a generation: just not as great or pure a hope as we might have wanted.

I’m disappointed, of course, by Senator Obama’s decision to support the so-called FISA compromise (more accurately described as the FISA craven surrender), but I can’t say that I’m that surprised. This is the Obama of The Audacity of Hope, as opposed to the Obama of Dreams from my Father: the Obama with his eyes well fixed on the prize.

As I said a little over a year ago, in response to reading The Audacity of Hope:

I had an ulterior motive for wanting to read Obama’s book.  It wasn’t the fact that many reviewers have said, very unlike most books by politicians, this one is beautifully written (and it is).  No, I tore into The Audacity of Hope not so much in search of a good read, but in search of the real Barack Obama.

I want him to be as good as he looks.  I want him to be the inspirational leader we need to take us into tomorrow (hell, to catch up with today, for that matter).  But the truth is I don’t know him very well.  Beyond the pretty face and the pretty words much of the man remains a gaping mystery.  So I went looking for him.

But I don’t think I found him in his book.  What I found, instead, is a beautiful, but also very carefully crafted, persona: I found the person Obama wants us to believe he is.  As to whether he really is that person though, this book gives me not a clue.

Why do I say this?  There’s just something far too convenient in where he draws the lines for his deeply felt beliefs.  He thinks (correctly) that the death penalty doesn’t deter crime and is dangerously flawed . . . yet (there are an awful lot of yets with Obama) he still thinks it’s appropriate for society to execute the really, really bad murderers as opposed, I guess, to the only sort of bad murderers.  Being the unquestionably brilliant man he is, Obama must know this is a distinction without meaning, and utterly beyond definition.

But given the public’s view on capital punishment, it is a convenient one to draw.  This convenience of belief recurs often, troublingly so.

And no, of course, this makes him no worse than any other politician.  But you see, I was hoping for something better than no worse.

There is also an unmistakable element of intellectual dishonesty in how Obama tries to paint his self-portrait as the sensible man in the middle — as the one reasonable soul in an ocean of partisan fanatics.  He often commits the sin of false equivalency.  Yes, conservatives are bad about this, he will say, but then he will always quickly add that liberals are equally bad about that.  But the truth, of course, is that usually they aren’t.  How could they be?  As of the time he wrote the book, liberalism had been all but politically powerless for over a decade.

I’m far from giving Obama a thumbs down.  I’m still very intrigued — still very hopeful.

But I’m not sold.  Not yet. 

I eventually settled on supporting Obama, of course, and it’s a decision I don’t regret. But I did it with my eyes open. I believe he has it in him to be a great president, perhaps even a transformative one, but he’s a politician not a savior. 

He’s a politician who today sold out the Bill of Rights — if to only a limited degree — for a few votes.

That’s a tough pill to swallow, although swallow it we must and will. That’s the thing about democracy: all the fancy words notwithstanding, in the end things usually come down, at least in some sense, to a contest between what’s ugly and what’s uglier. And the choice between the two can make all the difference in the world.

Santa Claus is dead! Long live the politician!

10 Responses to “Obama and the day Santa Claus died”

  1. Chuck Says:

    Told ya so!

  2. Larkrise Says:

    Being a confirmed pessimist about politicians, I will support Obama, but am not surprised he is behaving in ways that are self-serving. That is what politicians do. The majority of human beings will do what is in their self-interests first and will benefit them the most. They will also take the path of least resistance. I imagine this is part of a genetic survival strategy. Nevertheless, we have these big brains that are supposed to allow us to make altruistic, ethical decisions, in spite of our baser urges and desires. Oops! Doesnt always work, does it?! Feet of clay are especially prevalent in politicians. It seems to go with the type. Those who will sacrifice, or go against herd, or stand up and be counted for their beliefs are few and far between. That is why we see them as very special people. Most of you wont remember the Brothers Four. They were popular folksingers back in the early Sixties. They had a song called: “Long Ago and Far Away.” Here was one of the verses: “To preach of peace and brotherhood, Oh what might be the cost, A man He did it long ago, And they hung him on a cross…..” It takes exceptional courage to be a visionary, to be ahead of your time, to suffer for your beliefs. Sad to say, most politicians are more opportunistic than courageous. It would have been a miracle if Obama had been the man we dreamers wanted him to be. Let us continue to hope that he can measure up to the dream, at least in part. Life is all about compromises, when one is being realistic. Compared to George W. Bush or John McCain, Obama hasnt sold out nearly as often. I guess that is the best we can do at this moment in time. If the United States of America is to survive, we simply cannot have another Right-Wing ideologue as President. Should Obama win; and he must; he may mature as a leader and a man. It is a heavy responsibility. Being intelligent is necessary. Being wise comes with experience. If he can learn from experience and failure, the way Bush has been unable to do, he will become a great leader. If not, he will be another run-of-the-mill politician, who flattered himself.

  3. alwayshope Says:

    I’m with ya , Steve. I still have that silly idealist in me, living on crumbs and oft repeated prayers.
    The other me has lower expectations and a wariness of all promises made by politicians. All of our policies have become based in fear and that fear prevents us from doing the important things.
    We debate the occupation of Iraq and the “war on terror” but never mention the permanent bases we’re building nor the corruption and incompetence of the contractors we’re throwing our money away on. We talk about the floods and cyclones without the mention of global warming. We talk about our economy without talking about our debt to China. There are so many elephants in the room, there’s no way to move without stepping in a big pile of something stinky. Tip-toeing around it doesn’t do anything to clean it up but that’s what we do. We have become a cowed and willfully ignorant society of consumers who think a bumper sticker and a flag pin makes them a patriot. We kick the can and side step the crap and talk, talk, talk. When it’s time to stand up and housebreak those inconsiderate, ill-mannered beasts we shrink away or merely attempt to put a diaper on the beast so we don’t have to look at the product of their fantasies. I’m sick of the Democrats and our congress and their dung-infested dens. They are cowards and our founding fathers would be ashamed at their timid response to vital issues. Every department of of our government has been neglected, beaten into submission or rendered irrelevent. It sits in the bathtub waiting for someone to turn on the faucet. Which brings me back to my greatest fear: what if the dems take over the congress and the white house and nothing changes?

  4. alwayshope Says:

    My posts are lightening quick today!?

    I was wondering…..Remember hizzoner who used to post here frequently?
    He has blog and I’ve enjoyed talking with him there for several months but now he hasn’t posted since April nor answered any comments I have sent inquiring about him. Do you know if he’s okay? You know how I worry.

    From Steve: Sorry, but I don’t know anything. Hopefully he’ll check in.

  5. RJHall Says:

    “But my core position has never changed. It’s been consistent if you look all the way through.”

  6. alwayshope Says:

    Oh, I get it, the posts appear immediately while I’m logged in but aren’t seen until moderated, makes good sense to me, larkrise would agree that you need to weed out the pusilaneous polecats.

  7. richl Says:

    Just an idle observation here.

    bushco has brought this country closer together than it has been in years. If Obama can change it from a negative togetherness to a positive we’ll be sitting pretty.

  8. juliinjax Says:

    Had to stop and eat my words. As I was ranting about the weaselly Steny Hoyer’s capitulation on the House FISA “compromise” legislation, I logged in and read it here first, that Obama had also capitulated on Telecom immunity in the Senate version. WTF? Amnesty, for all who committed criminal acts while under the evil spell of BushCo? I suppose it is the Christian thing to do.

    I am disappointed. I am worried about the trend toward the Right (wrong) now that the general election campaign is on. I guess like all of us here at the Cafe, I was HOPING for a clean break from the past way of doing political business. His halo is a bit tilted and tarnished, but magnitudes better than McInsane of the two faces.

  9. alwayshope Says:

    Nancy Pelosi and Nancy Hoyer enter the house.

    “Good morning Speaker Nancy.”
    “Oh, Good morning to you Nancy.”
    “Today is capitulation day, right?
    “Yes, but let’s call Nancy at the Senate and make sure he too will cave in to the decider!”
    “I’m sure he will, but let’s also make sure Nancy and Michelle are on board.”
    “And what about the progressives in our party and the public?”
    “No worries. The polls show that the average Nancy doesn’t care if their government spies on them and the progressives will have to trust Nancy.
    What else are they going to do? Vote for McNancy?

    The two laugh quietly as they walk past Dennis Kucinich.
    Madam Speaker mutters under her breath, “He may be a smart guy, but he’s no Nancy!”

  10. Chuck Says:

    Wonderful hope!

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