The Banality of Obama


Jonathan Martin seems to have penned the political thumbsucker of the day, wondering how Barack Obama is getting away with his outlandish progressive policies:

A Democratic president thrills a French audience by telling it that America has been “arrogant.” He brushes aside 50 years of anti-communist orthodoxy by relaxing restrictions against Fidel Castro’s Cuba. He directs his attorney general to ease a crackdown on medical marijuana and even plays host to the Grateful Dead in the Oval Office.

Several times a month in his young presidency, Barack Obama has done things that cause conservatives to bray, using the phrase once invoked by Bob Dole, “Where’s the outrage?!”

I don’t find this all that surprising. Easing up on America’s Cold War approach to Cuba is a pretty obvious and intuitive response to the end of the Cold War. The Clinton administration chose to avoid taking any political risks on this front and then George W. Bush decided to intensify the old approach. That was actually a great deal odder than Obama easing off a bit. After all, why would the United States be in a period of intensifying hostility to Cuba? That’s how this looks to me more or less down the line. There never was a political taboo on shaking hands with left-wing third world politicians—the right-wing just decided to act as if there was one, and that Obama had violated it.

Obama really has laid out an ambitious substantive domestic policy agenda. But the right-wing doesn’t seem especially interested in engaging with it. Instead, they’re freaking out about basically non-existent cultural issues. Like remember when we were talking about Obama’s secret, but also totally made up, plan to replace the dollar with a new global currency?

As Ed Kilgore says, the real question here is about the impact of the constant stream of fake outrage on the credibility of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and their loyal followers on the Hill.