Shelby Steele: Barack The Good

The big government liberalism that Mr. Obama uses to make himself history-making also alienates him in the center-right America of today.

Shelby Steele
The Wall Street Journal
3/31/2010

It has to be acknowledged that, in his battle for health-care reform, President Obama has shown real presidential mettle. He did what it took to win his way. He put every ounce of his political capital on the line, and he never blinked. For all the wrongheadedness of this reform—and the ugly backroom dealing that finally carried the day—the president himself will now enjoy a new respect at home and abroad. He will be less dismissible.

But if the old bowing and boyish president is receding, a new and more ominous president is emerging. And it is now apparent that Mr. Obama wants to be—above all else—a profoundly transformative president. He has spoken admiringly of the way Ronald Reagan changed the “trajectory” of history, and clearly he would like to launch a trajectory of his own.

But Reagan came into office as a very well-defined man with an unequivocal sense of direction. Agree with him or not, you knew what kind of society he wanted. Mr. Obama, despite his new resolve, remains rather undefined—a president happy to have others write his “transformative” legislation…

…The old fashioned, big government liberalism that Mr. Obama uses to make himself history-making also alienates him in the center-right America of today. It makes him the most divisive president in memory—a president who elicits narcissistic identification on the one hand and an enraged tea party movement on the other. His health-care victory has renewed his narcissistic charge for the moment, but if he continues to be a 1965 liberal it will become more and more impossible for Americans to see themselves in him…

Read the entire article at The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Steele, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is the author most recently of “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win” (Free Press, 2007).

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