How quickly the meteoric prince has fallen to earth, with a thud. The splashy campaigner has morphed into a cross between Neville Chamberlain, England's Nazi appeaser, and George Armstrong Custer, rushing to get ambushed at the Little Big Horn. Few recall Chamberlain, whose compromises to belligerent Hitler spurred, rather than deflected war -" not that I am offering any absurd Nazi parallels. And yet, appeasing bullies from the get-go is curious strategy for a newcomer once rich with political capital.
Everyone knows Custer, the forerunner George (to our W.), who thought the world of himself, presumed invincibility, ignored intelligence, and was wiped out by indigenous guerilla-warriors, latter day insurgents. Certainly, no comparisons ripple forth: our Big Little W. had better PR, nailed a $7 million book advance, and triumphs today, in Dick Cheney's welcome absence, as America's top career liar. In contrast, the mighty Custer died having served his country with a brilliant, military career, was literate and educated, even showed courage of sorts when cornered at his Last Stand. W.'s idea of heroism is torturing untried suspects while sending other people's children to die in brutal wars that kill millions of civilians.
'Age of Rage' Demands Enemies
Back to Obama, whom you can't fault for mimicking a bevy of corporate-friendly White House precursors, successfully passing high-sounding legislation that leaves entrenched systems intact, broken or otherwise. Old news, but mysteries endure: how can a bright-enough president repeatedly miss the key ingredient for greatness, even popularity? How can his entire staff dismiss the two irrefutable lessons from a dimwitted predecessor: 1) never diss your base in your first term (goodbye, re-election); and 2) never forget legacies are rarely about what you do, even say, but how aggressively you tag your generation's most pernicious enemy?
Today, in the Age of Rage, politics 101 demands re-electable leaders understand that: 1) establishing formidable enemies trumps making (or not making) friends; and 2) since bad-enough evil-doers don't appear on schedule, you must invent them, inflate their menace, and show populist anger, notably by busting budgets, even inviting national bankruptcy.
Smirking W. gets this, thus his unapologetic, transparent lies: many historians will overlook his dismal showing by selling his epochal role -- searching out, defining, and facing down the era's great nemesis -- terrorism. Forget few top terrorists were fought or dispatched in absurd wars: W.'s historic gift to the west is declaring unilateral, pre-emptive war against the most ill-defined, undefeatable, and indefatigable of enemies.
Bush's masterwork dramatizes what ails Obama Democrats -" triumph depends not only on personal qualities ("character," per Sarah Palin) but the demonic nature of your declared enemy and the ferocity of your fight, theatrical or otherwise. Bush-Cheney-Rove should be recognized for achieving a virtual miracle -- elevating obscure, cave-dwelling, stateless murderers alongside Hitler or Stalin or Satan. What Obama desperately needs, but won't, or can't, establish is a dire enemy worth his salt, menacing enough to retouch his tarnished rhetoric. What memorable hero survives without a fitting nemesis -- did David not slam Goliath, Lincoln the Rebellion, and FDR both Germany and Japan?
Foreign-born Fits the Bull, or Bill