The President went to the House Republicans’ conference and proclaimed: “I am not an ideologue.”
Just like Richard Nixon: “I am not a crook.” Or Bill Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman.” Or any number of other politicians’ emphatic pronouncements of what they were not when in fact they were, or were not doing when, of course, they were doing. Those of John Edwards could fill this column every week for the year.
An ideologue is someone who is uncompromising and dogmatic in commitment to a philosophical position. To use terminology once associated with communism, a true believer. Such a person is often dangerous to himself and to those around him, so there’s good reason for Obama to deny he is one. He’s attempting to deny what has already been established as fact; he is dangerous – to all of us, to members of his own political party and to himself.
Whether Obama believes he is an ideologue or not is immaterial. If you like, give him the benefit of the doubt. Assume he’s not lying, just misstating facts in evidence. What interested me about his pronouncement was the paucity of people in the media challenging him on it. After all, when someone finds it necessary to publicly and forcefully deny something, history and experience tell us there’s usually more to it than meets the ear.
The fact obvious to many, but maybe not to the president, is that he is a prisoner of his ideology. It prohibits him from productively interfering with the unemployment crisis, because anything and everything he might do must be compatible with government growth and government spending as solution, rather than getting government out of the way. When he says anyone with better ideas about health care reform should bring them to him, he is either lying or fooling himself, because he can’t consider any ideas incompatible with the premise of more government control and centralized authority. Even if he is sincere, and sincerely deluded, in inviting better ideas, he can’t consider them.
After the message sent by Massachusetts but before the state of the union address, there was considerable speculation in the media about Obama tacking or even pivoting from far left to moderate middle or even right of center, just as Bill Clinton did after having his initial agenda soundly rejected. But such speculation was silly.
The difference between the two Presidents is what Obama is denying. Clinton was not imprisoned by ideology at all. He was a pragmatist. He wanted to be president and, as we know now, to indulge certain appetites. He was very willing to move about as needed and he signed, for example, welfare-to-work reform. Were Obama to suggest such a thing we can safely assume his buddies at Acorn would set themselves on fire. I don’t expect to see anything but lip service from Obama on anything in any way contrary to his stated intent to “fundamentally transform America.” I don’t think his ideology will permit any real movement.
This is, ironically, good news. The prison in which he has placed himself is so small and so confining, he is doomed to atrophy. As members of his own party come to grips with the reality of a presidency doomed to failure and a president destined for humiliation, they will distance themselves as best they can. This has already begun. He will be more and more isolated, more and more alone. The public, already waking up to the untenable costs – economic and human costs - of implementing his ideological agenda, will soon desert him personally as well, leaving him without political capital to spend or influence to wield.
Thanks to the fact that Obama is very much the ideologue he claims not to be, the destruction he might have caused will be less than we feared, and more temporary than we imagined.