Sunday, June 28, 2009

Noonan: Obama's Not Succeeding

Peggy Noona in the Wall Street Journal with serious, serious second thoughts about Obama:
Mr. Obama's White House is, at the moment, like most new White Houses. Every administration wants to do great things. Or, rather, it wants greatness. It wants to break through on some great issue or issues and claim to be, as they used to say, consequential. There's a busy hum of action. It can cause a blur. Everyone who works for a nation gets carried away. . . .
A friend says that what's missing is an adult and responsible sense of limits, that we need to remember—we need to be reminded by our leaders—that it's not un-American to see limits. It's adult to see limits, it's right and realistic.
Are we beginning the journey back to anything like fiscal health? Who thinks the answer is yes? There's a pervasive sense that still, nine months into the crash, "we live in castles built on sand." We're not building on anything secure. Instead, and more and more, we have a series of presidential actions that seem less like proposals than non sequiturs. A new health-care program that Congress itself says will cost a trillion dollars over 10 years? A new energy program that will cost however many hundreds of billions in however many years? Running General Motors, and discussing where its plants should be, and what the interiors of the cars should look like, and shouldn't the little cup holder be bigger to account for Starbucks-sized coffee? Wait, what if it's a venti latte? One imagines the conversation in the car czar's office: "You know, I've always wanted to see a mauve car because mauve is my favorite color, I mean to the extent it's a color."
There is a persistent sense of extraneous effort, of ambitions too big and yet too small, too off point, too base-pleading, too ideological, too unaware of the imperatives. And there is the depressing psychological effect of seeing government grow so much, so big, so fast. This encourages a sense that things are out of control and cannot be made better.
In terms of our security, we face challenges all over the world, from state and nonstate actors. Today a headline popped up on my screen: North Korea has threatened to attack us. A mordant response: Get in line, buddy. The administration, which has been appropriately modest in its face toward the world, should be more modest internally, and seek a new and serious bipartisan consensus on our defense system, our security, our civil defense, our safety. This of course is an impossible dream, but it was impossible back in the fractious '50s to reach a workable consensus on a strategy toward the Soviets. And yet we did it. Do we have anything like a bipartisan strategy for our age? Not nearly. We're split in two, in three. We'll wish someday we did. It is amazing we don't even talk about this.

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