Watching the hooting and hollering about Obama’s Iran deal, I’m reminded of something I thought I noticed about this administration from the start. It is two things actually, but both related. The first thing is Obama seems to work from a checklist of action items. An item on the list is lined out after a law is passed, an executive order is issued or, in some cases, he gives a speech about. Once it is marked as completed, he is done with it. It becomes old news.
That does not sound odd until you think about how the world works. A problem is identified then a solution is proposed. The solution is applied and it is a process to make sure the solution is working and the problem has been addressed. In a business, management does not write a memo and consider the matter closed. They follow up to make sure their policies are being implemented successfully.
In politics, an administration will judge itself and be judged by the success of its policies. If they make a deal with another country, they don’t throw it down the memory hole once the deal is signed. They keep talking about it and bringing it up if it is successful. If it is a failure then they spend time claiming to have fixed it. With Obama, once the law is passed or the order given, they have a press conference and forget about it. If someone brings it up later, we hear that the administration is not willing to “re-litigate” the matter.
That’s a strange tick, but what’s even odder is what’s on the list. I’ve written before about the Progressive timeline. Instead of viewing time as a linear thing, they see events on an emotional timeline. Events with great significance are close while those with lower emotional pull are further away. The Civil Rights Movement was yesterday, while their total control of American cities may as well have never happened it was so long ago.
With that in mind, Obama’s to-do list reads like a laundry list of slights and wounds to the liberal narrative. The deal with Iran and the deal with Cuba came out of nowhere. No American cared about either issue. The political class had no interest in Cuba and only cared about Iran in so far as whether Israel was going to nuke them. Out of the blue Obama does a deal with Cuba and then makes a comically bad deal with Iran, just to get a deal.
To Progressives, both Cuba and Iran have emotional resonance, because they are black marks on the narrative. Kennedy lost Cuba to the Soviets and was embarrassed by the Bay of Pigs. Therefore, finishing the job and bringing Cuba back into the fold was on Obama’s list. Similarly, Iran was Carter’s great failure. Progressives have always believed it is why the evil Ron Reagan became president. Proving once and for all that making a deal with Iran was the right policy, therefore, became an agenda item for Obama.
Early in the Obama administration, the big thing was resetting relations with Russia. It was always a strange thing as no one could quite explain what it meant. They had a big ceremony with the Russian ambassador and gave him a red button for some reason. In the minds of the Obama people it was “fixing” the Reagan legacy. To Progressives, the “belligerence” of the Reagan years was a big black mark on the narrative. Obama fixed it by giving Putin big red reset button.
That circles back to the first point. Fixing relations between two counties is a process. You have the breakthrough and then build on it over time to find common interests on which both sides can benefit by cooperating. For Team Obama, they ticked it off the list after the presser and then forgot all about it. The fact that relations with Russia are worse now than in the Cold War is irrelevant. All that matters is they ticked “reset relations with Russia” off their list and they forget about it.
The big one, of course, is health care. Obama spent all his good will with the public pushing through a bill that was nothing like he ran on as a candidate. In fact, it was pretty much what he said would never work when Hillary Clinton proposed it as a candidate. That’s not what mattered. What mattered was fixing the mistake of 1993 when Clinton failed to get health care done. Team Obama ticked it off the list and popped the champagne. All of the complaints and challenges ever since have been met with “we’re not re-litigating the issue.”
I suspect much of this is due to the fact that this is one of the least talented administrations in a long time. There’s not a lot of talent. Their best people are technocrats from the academy who see the world as a series of exams. Take the test, get a good score and move onto the next semester. That’s a strange aspect of the new meritocracy. They tend to think like college kids filling up their transcripts with grades, rather than as adults solving problems.
I also wonder if there’s not something else at work. Progressives have won all the big battles and most of the small ones. They have run out of bogeyman to rally the faithful. Forty years ago they could get the blacks so angry they burned down major cities. Today they can only rip up a few blocks in nowhere-ville and burn a few Confederate flags. There’s simply no one else left to fight that’s worth fighting so they going back and tidying up the past to fix the narrative.