The President’s ability to rise above the messiness of politics has, especially in the past few weeks, received much notice. Obama’s supporters, whose disenchantment grows by the day, are finally facing the possibility that the President’s aloofness is not yet another mark of his fine, capacious intellect, but rather of its absolute ordinariness. George Bush, for all his faults, never tried to “rise” above politics. To rise above politics in a democracy is not to participate in it.
While I’m not especially perturbed by Obama’s absence, I wish he would occasionally—like the Greek gods used to do—visit earth and mingle amongst his humbler colleagues. He might, during one of these visitations, have a prolonged conversation with Paul Ryan, who has enumerated in precise detail all of the programs that must go. Of course, he would probably get mad at Mr. Ryan for aquainting him with so much ugliness, just as French nobles got mad at anyone who brought news of the outside world to the doorstep of Versailles. I’m not implying that Obama is as dense as the nobles who attended on Louis XIV, but unlike Mr. Ryan and other serious Republicans, he still resolutely refuses to admit the seriousness of our fiscal situation.
I may, in a few days, find myself retracting that statement, but I doubt the President’s deficit reduction plan will be nearly—to use the current jargon—bold enough. Already, the President’s senior advisor, David Plouffe, has issued qualifiers, saying Obama will go after the debt with a scalpel, not, as the UK is, with a machete. Does he not recognize that the time for luxuriating over which programs can be cut is long since over? We know that the President’s plan will not go nearly as far as Ryan’s, and indeed will probably increase spending in such areas as education. Mr. Plouffe says that the administration will take a “balanced approach,” so that we can “win the future.” I’ll translate for you: Obama intends to do nothing.