Obama’s To Do List

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.

10 thoughts on “Obama’s To Do List

  1. Pingback: Monday morning links - Maggie's Farm

  2. That’s a very good insight. I posted on Belmont Club a couple of years ago that the administration’s executive orders web page was almost empty. It either had not been updated in months or all of the exec orders the admin was always threatening to issue were simply not being signed. Another data point in support of your hypothesis. The page now seems to be up to date.

  3. I have not seen this interpretation of Obama’s actions before. Intriguing. Basically a focus on Reagan and an attempt to obliterate every facet and achievement of Reagan’s tenure as President. It actually fits with the various elements of Obama’s policies, and meshes with the Progressives’ opinion that Reagan is the embodiment of all evil in this country.

    Note that Obama, early on, singled out the “transformational” element of Reagan’s presidency as something to be noted. Reagan was ultimately the champion of white, suburban, middle class, married-with-children America. He helped reestablish an economy that would provide many good middle class jobs, and he reinvigorated the U.S. Military. He demonstrated a skill at taking provocative and aggressive international negotiating positions to beat down our enemies and lift up our allies.

    Now turn each of Reagan’s accomplishments on its head. Beat down white, middle class, suburban, traditional families with a wife, a husband, and children. Destroy middle class jobs with international trade treaties and unfettered illegal immigration. Spit on the military, reward our enemies, and insult our allies.

    It goes on and on. Reagan indirectly lifted up the idea of a Christian-based nation. Obama lifts up Islam and basically pisses all over our Judeo-Christian culture every chance he gets. I could go on and on with examples.

    It is assumed these days, that Obama has some sort of psychological tic that explains why he acts in the ways he does. After all these years, you, Zman, have hit on the thing that actually makes sense of all the specific actions this man takes, large and small, and places them in a context that makes them both understandable and predictable, and in a specific sort of way rather than a general one.

    • It’s a simple explanation that accounts for so much, but, for most, it’s difficult to come to grips with the idea that someone that powerful can be so petty.

      • I think this explanation of Obama’s motives and actions is brilliant; it explains why we see the lightning but never hear the thunder.

        I live on the North Shore of metropolitan Chicago and frequently do business in the city. It’s one big can of progressive concentrate. The lib-lefties I meet with behave exactly the same way as Obama when it comes to politics; after the victory parade you get high and forget about it. No follow up, no interest in examining the results.

        Zman, you are a very perceptive individual. The left is a state of mind, and that’s all. Because that’s all that matters to them. It’s about them. Everything is just all about them.

        I agree with the previous poster; it is hard to believe that their motives are so small, so squalid. But they are. Believe me.

  4. I would think Obama believes that history will look at his “achievements” while he is office and praise him for doing so much in the face of such terrible opposition. Naturally, it goes without saying the present media circus will praise him whatever he does, and so perhaps he thinks that the leader writers of the major ‘newspapers’ and media commentators are destined to be historians. I mean, no historian has even done anything but look at old pages of newspapers. right?

    Or of course, he doesn’t care about anything but having good time with destroying as much as he can while he can. Who cares about the future when only now matters?

    • Obama reminds me of South Asians I’ve met. Indian tend to be sequential thinkers and very narrow. Give them step by step driving instructions and they will follow them to the letter, even if they drive off a cliff. There’s an inability to see the bigger picture at work that is inscrutable to the Western mind.

      That’s what I see with Obama. getting a deal with Iran is on his list. The deal itself and what it means in a broader context is of no interest. He is just focused on ticking the item off the list. That’s why he reacted as he did when a reporter pointed out that he left four Americans rotting in a Persian jail. That was probably the first time he even noticed it.

      Obama is our first foreign ruler. Therefore he has little respect for American customs and traditions. At some level I do think he holds those things in contempt.

    • “…no historian has even done anything but look at old pages of newspapers. right?” In recent years, a couple of them who are on TV a lot have lifted others’ recounts of history and called it their own. And they’re still on TV a lot.

  5. Very insightful. This is exactly it. It is a checklist of slights. It is indicative of a fragile, narcissistic psyche. It is also indicative of someone trying to win an argument, not actually accomplish anything. Obama is a playing a game, and it’s Eric Berne’s I Got You Now You Son of a Bitch.

    I felt after the Reagan years that pretty much any honest person would have left the Democratic Party. All the smart people said how awful he was, and he was both very popular and events proved him correct. That was the insult they couldn’t tolerate, and never have been able to tolerate. Those who remained liberal have spent 25 years rewriting history. The rest of us moved right.

    To liberals, governing (or ruling) is a birthright. They are the smart people. They know what they are doing. Conservatives need to get out of the way. If conservatives are proven correct, too, that just can’t be.

    Part of the problem was the Great Society not only didn’t work, it destroyed communities. The liberals blinked during the Cold War, with Carter ridiculing “the inordinate fear of communism.” Jimmy Carter was supposed to be a brilliant president. He was a failure.

    So you rewrite history.

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