By Alan Caruba
For all the joking about Sen. Barack Obama thinking of himself as “the Messiah” or even, as Minister Farrakhan of the Black Muslim movement declared, being the Messiah, the fact of the matter is that he is just a man.
Granted, he may be one of the most politically ambitious men to have attained high office, but a year after he has been elected President—and I suspect that will be the outcome of the election—people will be asking why he has not turned back the tide of the Recession, ended the job losses, dealt with deflation, responded more forcefully to our enemies, et cetera.
Much like Jimmy Carter was swept into office in response to the public’s anger against the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration, it will not be until Sen. Obama has been in office a year or so that voters (and those who didn’t bother to vote) are likely to discover that his “solutions” for the vast economic problems the nation will encounter are no better and likely much worse than they anticipated.
A year into his term, Sen. Obama will not be able to lay all the blame on President Bush and the eight years of Republican profligacy. He will “own” the nation’s troubles and if he and Congress are not seen as solving them, he will be harshly judged. Jimmy Carter lasted one term and set the stage for the remarkable Reagan era. The Democrat Congress that came into power two years ago has accomplished nothing.
The fact is that presidents are as much at the mercy of events beyond their control as everyone else. No one was expecting much from George W. Bush in his first year in office. They were just satisfied that he was not Bill Clinton. Indeed, Clinton had benefited from a 1994 takeover of Congress by the Republicans. Many of the programs and successes he would later claim for himself were the result of that new Congress.
George W. Bush, however, was transformed on September 11, 2001 from merely the fortunate son of a former president to a war-time president and, though people tend to forget, Americans were eager to strike back at their enemy, al Qaeda, and happy to finish off Saddam Hussein, given that Bush 41 had failed to do the job.
If Obama is seen to be weak domestically and foolish with his foreign policy, the script for the midterm elections that will come two years into Sen. Obama’s first term has already been written. The initial euphoria will have disappeared by then.
Presumably the Republican Party will have been sobered by its defeats and will have restructured itself to some degree by then. If, however, it remains solely the anti-abortion party, the military intervention party, and deficit spending party, it will not see power again for a long time.
Likewise, if the Democrats do raise taxes on everyone and engage in welfare state behavior, a lot of Americans will decide that John McCain was right when he warned against a president who wanted to “redistribute the wealth.”
It’s one thing to draw enormous crowds while running for office, but those same crowds have been known to turn up in Washington, D.C. when things go terribly wrong. They march against what they see as policy failures and they are angry.
As Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” He also said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."