Obama Enthusiasm Overload

While I’ve been a bit of a curmudgeon about the seemingly unending Obama inaugural festivities, I’m a piker compared to Tom Smith.

When the Princess of Wales died I remember thinking it was terribly sad and I thought her funeral was strangely appropriate, but I also wondered if the world had lost its mind. Politics and the Irrational go only too well together and I just tend to distrust the combination. And with the exception of Reagan the enthusiasm is almost always misplaced. JFK was a dreadful man who cheated on his wife, preferred the company of mobsters, bungled his Presidency and almost, almost destroyed the world between the Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis. The whole clan of the Kennedys are a piece of work, Irish mob through and through. I mean seriously not decent folks; your daughter could very well end up dead sort of people. And we are supposed to get teary eyed over them? LBJ was a freak. Bush II was a decent man though thick as a post. His father was probably smarter but prone to make bad decisions. Clinton was a thoroughly rotten apple. Carter was an embarrassment. Nixon’s issues had issues. You have to go back to Eisenhower to find somebody who was a good leader and somebody whom you could trust to take you mother to dinner. I guess all I’m trying to say is that great enthusiasm over Leaders is something I think the intelligent person can do without.

While I wouldn’t go quite so far as that, I, too, am generally dubious of public pageantry.   The late George Carlin’s admonition that “symbols are for the symbol-minded” is one I’ve taken to heart, so much so that I find the playing of the national anthem at sporting events and the playing of “God Bless the USA” anywhere mildly creepy.

I do, however, understand the value of these massive public events.   The Ronald Reagan funeral pageantry was genuinely moving and the various spectacles in the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks helped heal the country.   And, while I didn’t vote for Barack Obama, the country needs a reboot and a symbolic break with the last eight years.

We are, however, in for a great disappointment.   While I find some aspects of Obama’s personality grating, he nonetheless strikes me as a genuinely decent human being.  And, while his lack of experience concerns me, he’s generally done a fantastic job of assembling a governing team.   Still, he’s just a man and almost every president — and that includes the sainted Ronald Reagan — fails to live up to the hopes they inspired in the campaign.

Photo from Getty Images

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Leisureguy says:

    It’s certainly true that living up to hopes is almost impossible, whether it’s a presidency or a marriage. But the good feelings at the start are important, I think, and much of the celebration seems to be tacitly a celebration of the departure of George Bush, for reasons too numerous to mention. I was interested to see this site that will track performance on promises for Obama.

  2. Franklin says:

    A positive outlook has been shown to do people a lot of good, at least in terms of health. While I mostly agree with James’ analysis, I think I’ll just relax and observe the sense of (almost) unity while the President-elect enjoys what will probably be the highest approval rating he’ll ever see again.

  3. James M. says:

    Unfortunately people are looking for a savior and with unobtainable expectations I might add. He has a lot expected of him and I think everyone will be greatly disappointed. He seems to be a very decent guy with heartfelt sincerity but in the end he is only a man that inherited a lot of problems which in no way conceivable be rectified in 4 years. I wish him luck because, even though I didn’t vote for him, he is my President and I need him to succeed for mine and my country’s sake.

  4. just me says:

    I am tired of the hoopla, but then I don’t blame Obama for that-I think it is a product of the 24 hour new cycle.

    I think the media has been overly adoring of Obama, and I am curious to see how long this adoration lasts once Obama owns it all come noon tomorrow.

  5. od says:

    Its curious Tom Smith leaves Reagan out of his criticism (though he was a pretty good president, like any political leader he made many mistakes) – seems he’s subject to the same hero worship as those he criticizes, just with different heroes. They’re all just human, and they all have their faults. Obama worship is over the top, but so is the worship of every previous president, including those he mentioned but also Reagan, Eisenhower, FDR and all the way back to Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington.

    He kind of weakens his argument with his inconsistency.

  6. Staring In Disbelief says:

    Why in the world do you find the playing of the National Anthem at a sporting event “mildly creepy”?

  7. Triumph says:

    Why in the world do you find the playing of the National Anthem at a sporting event “mildly creepy”?

    I find it to be a great opportunity. Its the best time hit the beer stand–no lines. Let all those lapel-pin wearing saps belt it out Rosanne-style. I’m stocking up on cold ones!

  8. James Joyner says:

    Why in the world do you find the playing of the National Anthem at a sporting event “mildly creepy”?

    Because, outside the Olympics and similar competitions, it’s just out of place. Hell, some of our baseball and hockey teams are comprised primarily of non-Americans.

  9. Moonage says:

    Whew, even politifact (sp?) is pushing Obama. They are giving him credit for legislation he had nothing to do with. They even admit it. Given the mountain of expectations ( they list 500 or so promises ), he’s going to have issues. I mean, the Stoners are already dissing him because he hasn’t made legalizing pot his #1 priority. With so many promises, even if he tries to keep them all, people will probably be disgruntled over who gets their promises ( read “hopes” )the quickest. And, as you note, he is only a man among many in DC. He may have the bully puplit, but he doesn’t have a single vote in either House. Of those 500 promises, the majority of legislators may not go along with them all. What will he, they, do then?

  10. Leisureguy says:

    Obama is just one man, but he’s the leader of what looks like an awfully good administration team. And so far Congress looks as though it strongly supports him.

    I don’t quite understand the remark about Polifact giving Obama credit for legislation he had nothing to do with—they show only 2 promises kept (so far):

    No. 13: Require taxpayers to report more detail on capital gains taxes

    No. 503: Appoint at least one Republican to the cabinet

    I assume your problem is with No. 13—but, as they say, it was a promise that Obama made, and that the Democratic Congress passed, and that Bush signed. So the promise is fulfilled.

  11. Moonage says:

    assume your problem is with No. 13—but, as they say, it was a promise that Obama made, and that the Democratic Congress passed, and that Bush signed. So the promise is fulfilled.

    With support like that, he can’t lose huh? I didn’t say it was a “problem”, I said they were pushing him. By pushing him, as with most media, they are putting unrealistic expectations on him via giving him credit for something he had nothing to do with. He said he was going to solve the BCS issue as well. The President nor Congress has anything to do with the BCS. If the BCS decides to go to a playoff system, which the entire country has been demanding since that farce was created, I guess he’ll get credit for that as well. However, if they don’t, is anyone going to blame Obama? I mean, he has nothing to do with it. Right? Will everyone just forget all about the promise? With the double-standard and hypocrisy media and others have shown for Obama, my point has been when people start realizing they are not going to get everything they expected right now, ie the stoners, it could get a lot uglier than it ever needed to be if the media et al had not made him out to be some messiah. I just think the media especially needs to tone down their idol worship of the guy so that he has a chance to do what any mortal can do in a very difficult and often uncooperative environment.

  12. Leisureguy says:

    I couldn’t find in the list an Obama promise regarding BCS. Could you provide the number?

    Yes, he probably won’t be able to keep all his promises, and I’m sure Polifact will point out those (in the list) that he didn’t keep.

    As you pointed out in your original post, Polifact did not credit Obama for No. 13—they made it clear that it was fulfilled back in October. Still, what should they do? He did in fact make the promise, and it did in fact happen. Which of the categories would you have chosen for No. 13? The choices:

    * Promise Kept
    * Compromise
    * Promise Broken
    * Stalled
    * In the Works
    * No Action

  13. The pageantry is fine. Just don’t have all the celebs show up in big SUVs and call it “green.”

  14. Drew says:

    “While I find some aspects of Obama’s personality grating, he nonetheless strikes me as a genuinely decent human being.”

    Who would argue? But we elected the leader of the free world, not a bar buddy.

    “And, while his lack of experience concerns me, he’s generally done a fantastic job of assembling a governing team.”

    Fantastic? Good, perhaps, tax cheats and foreign policy neophytes aside. But that experience gap is huge.

    “Still, he’s just a man and almost every president — and that includes the sainted Ronald Reagan — fails to live up to the hopes they inspired in the campaign.”

    Absolutely, and why some of us deplore the constant slobbering over politicians, and govt, as the solution to our ills.

    Politics seems a creepy form of sport. Except the score actually matters……

  15. tom p says:

    Why in the world do you find the playing of the National Anthem at a sporting event “mildly creepy”?

    Because, outside the Olympics and similar competitions, it’s just out of place.

    OK James, I have you pegged for the commie-pinko-jihadist you really are now. I mean, what are the last 2 words of the National Anthem?????

    “PLAY BALL!”

    (I have to say I am with you on the hockey thing tho… Never heard the words, “Play Puck!” yet…

  16. tom p says:

    On the slightly more serious side… As one who gave Obama money and volunteered for him as well… I have checked out of all the hoopla… It is just a little over the top (heavy on the sarcasm).

    Still, I do intend to listen to him take the oath of office tomorrow (a moment of history) and listen to his inaugural speech (his rhetorical skills are undeniable).

    As to the whole “hope and change” thing… he has so far proven himself to be just exactly what I thought he was… a pragmatic centrist with a leftward tilt. Is he, in the future, going to p*ss me off?

    Of course. Does that mean I can not enjoy the moment tomorrow? Not hardly. After all, we could have had just another old white guy stuttering thru another green “is that change we can beleive in” speech with a sick sycophantic grin on his face.

  17. steve s says:

    Will Obama piss me off in the future? Undoubtedly. Will I complain about him over the next 4 years? Almost certainly. Am I relieved to have a president who is intellectually curious, pragmatic, and an expert on the Constitution? Incredibly.