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The Obama Delusion, Explained

Making excuses for the president.

Sep 10, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 48 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
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For all his apparent dispassion and clinical detachment, Fallows remains an Obama Delusionist at heart. He still insists on the president’s eloquence, “his ability to inspire and motivate people en masse.” In support of this increasingly implausible view, he mentions only two speeches, as Delusionists always do: Obama’s speech in 2008 about his crazy pastor, and his touching address after the Tucson shootings last year. He ignores, meanwhile, the hundreds of phlegmatic utterances Obama has delivered routinely since, including big production numbers like his State of the Union addresses and his nationally televised pep talks. His wandering responses in press conferences also go unmentioned. Still Fallows insists: “As an explainer of ideas through rhetoric, Obama has few recent peers.” This is true, in a way. Obama gave more than a hundred speeches to promote his health care bill and watched its popularity steadily fall; the more he talked the less persuasive he became. Not many inspirational orators could make such a claim. 

Democrats will be pleased to find notes of hope in The Obama Presidency, Explained. Lately, Fallows writes, “after three years of seeming to shy from ‘partisan’ rhetoric,” Obama has shown reassuring signs of Truman-like shamelessness. “Give ’Em Hell Barry” has made recess appointments, changed government policy through the kind of executive order that horrified Democrats during the Bush administration, and linked Republicans to the Tea Party as it “spins the Republican party off to the extreme.” (Like so many commentators, Fallows has seen the Republican party spinning off to the extreme since the Nixon administration.) If Obama can maintain this newfound persona into November, Fallows believes, he can win. The rising-above-partisanship thing is no longer operative.

In his interview with Coates, at the book’s end, having offered what I’m sure he believes is an unblinkered view of the president and his failings, Fallows makes clear that all the arguments in the foregoing pages are, finally, not particularly germane to the question at hand: Should Obama be reelected?

“I’m going to vote for him,” Fallows says, “because: One, I prefer Democratic to Republican economic policy. .  .  . Two, I prefer Democratic foreign policy to Republican foreign policy. .  .  . Three, I prefer Democratic to Republican judicial/social policy.”

Notice that the particulars of the Obama presidency have vanished altogether. It’s a bit of a letdown for a reader who’s been patient enough to slog through his e-book. James Fallows will vote for President Obama because Obama is a Democrat and so is he. 

Well, why didn’t he just say so in the first place? Why do Democrats always make things so complicated?

Andrew Ferguson is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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