Much else has been forgiven, or blithely ignored, but for many this was the last straw.
Obama's failure to mount even a mild defense of the social contract during the fake debt ceiling crisis has caused many to ask if the man ever really wanted to be president, or was he simply delivering exactly what was expected.
Before we get to the matter of his intent, let's state the obvious, that, of course, Obama wanted it. Like Sauron in search of the One Ring, Obama bent all his will toward the presidency. His rise to prominence could not have been better scripted -- early years as a community activist, seven years in the Illinois state senate, and two years as a US Senator set the stage for his presidential bid. Along the way, he crafted a compelling narrative which culminated in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic Convention. He became the rising star of the Democratic Party on the basis of his style and oratory and message of hope.
More interesting than whether he wanted the presidency, is what he wanted to do with it when he got it. And candidate Obama was quite clear about what he would do:
- "We need a President who sees government not as a tool to enrich well-connected friends and high-priced lobbyists, but as the defender of fairness and opportunity for every American;
- We cannot settle for a second Gilded Age in America. And yet we find ourselves once more in the midst of a new economy where more wealth is in danger of falling into fewer hands; where the average CEO now earns more in one day than an average worker earns in an entire year;
- It's time we had a President who tells the drug companies and the oil companies and the insurance industry that while they get a seat at the table in Washington, they don't get to buy every chair;
- I know that in every campaign, politicians make promises about cleaning up Washington. So it's easy to become cynical. I know that for me, reform isn't just the rhetoric of a campaign; it's been a cause of my career;
- As a candidate for President, I've tried to lead by example, turning down all contributions from federal lobbyists and the political action committees that the special interests use to pass out campaign money;
- We will return government to the people by bringing government to the people -- by making it open and transparent so that anyone can see that our business is the people's business;
- It's time to renew a people's politics in this country -- to ensure that the hopes and concerns of average Americans speak louder in Washington than the hallway whispers of high-priced lobbyists;
- Early in his presidency, Teddy Roosevelt gave a famous speech before farmers and factory workers that laid out his vision of what government at its best should be. He said, "The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life, that man is the best representative...whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class or interest, but to represent all...by working for our common country." It's time to get to work once more for our common country. It's time we had a politics that reflected that commitment."
These remarks, from a 2007 campaign speech called Taking our Government Back, are consistent with his repeated themes of hope and change; they are also completely at odds with the present-day reality of his administration. Of all the statements above -- and all should now make Obama wince in shame -- the last is particularly disheartening. At no point since his election has Obama "laid out his vision of what government at its best should be", much less has he defended it. The "audacity of hope", the "fierce urgency of now", "Yes, We Can" and "Change We Can Believe In" -- these phrases have long-since been sacrificed on the alter of expediency. Worse still, they have become gag lines, joining other fan-favorites like "read my lips". Or, perhaps Matt Taibbi got it right when he asked, following the debt ceiling capitulation,
"Is it possible that by 'surrendering' at the 11th hour
and signing off on a deal that presages deep cuts in spending