The Conversation

Problem solvers vs. system builders

Jonah Goldberg has an interesting post at National Review about the two faces Barack Obama presents to the public: "There is the man who claims to be a non-ideological problem-solver, keen on working with anybody to fix things. And there is 'The One': the partisan, left-leaning progressive redeemer."

Obama critics have long marveled at his ability to flip from the bitterly divisive hyper-partisan who tosses chunks of bloody meat to the left-wing faithful, casually demonizing his opponents as subversives (or, on issues like gun control, outright monsters)... into the bridge building reach-across-the-aisle seeker of good ideas that the media loves to swoon over.  Naturally, every politician would love to be able to do this, but only Democrats are allowed to.  Bill Clinton still gets all sorts of undeserved praise for his alleged "centrism" - he's the father of welfare reform, don't you know! - but he was also a pioneer in modern dark art of personal destruction.  

Conversely, George Bush was supposedly a hard-nosed partisan, even though he took an unfortunate number of concrete steps toward incorporating Democrats and their agenda into his policies.  He was letting Ted Kennedy write some of those policies.  Try to imagine Barack Obama graciously putting Rand Paul in charge of reforming the IRS and NSA.

Some of the dichotomy between Obama's two faces can be resolved by remembering that to the President and his personality cult, expunging those evil conservative insurgents from policy discussions is "non-ideological."  There is no ideology but theirs, and it takes whatever shape the Great Leader assigns at the current moment.  That's why they don't mind Barack Obama 2007 savaging the policies Barack Obama 2013 embraced with gusto and multiplied a hundredfold.  The left-wing redeemer is quite willing to "reach across the aisle" and work with any Republican seeking left-wing redemption.  That's not a contradiction to him - it's the definition of "bipartisanship."

The other dichotomy to remember about Obama is the difference between problem-solving and system building.  His rhetoric talks about practical solutions to immediate problems, but like all other socialists, he couldn't care less what actually happens once he's built the enduring systems he's truly interested in.  It doesn't matter that ObamaCare is a failure, because power has been accumulated into a system that will grind on forever, just like every other failed liberal program.  "Success" came at the moment Obama signed the bill.  

That's a common rhetorical trick with the Left.  A problem is "solved" by creating a government program that purports to address it.  The actual performance of the program is irrelevant.  It doesn't matter that we had more poverty after a trillion-dollar War on Poverty.  It won't matter that health care is worse and more expensive after ObamaCare.  Measuring the practical effectiveness of these programs, and suggesting the elimination of failures, is considered tantamount to hatred of whoever they were supposed to help.  The process is the solution.


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