But now the president's talk of lost ambition and ruined imagination ends the debate that Sullivan attempted to join. The president keeps providing those whom Sullivan criticizes with more evidence of his bleak view of the American future, and the left is helpless to defend him when the president simply insists on telling it the way he sees it.
"What's especially remarkable about this hackery," wrote Sullivan a year ago "is that these conservative authors don't just egregiously misrepresent the president's actual position. It's that all of them actually cite, as evidence, an out of context line from the very speech that proves their analysis is wrong."
"You can call this truthiness if you like," he concluded." Better, the Dish believes, to call it what it is. A deliberate campaign of misinformation. A Big Lie."
The trouble for Sullivan's argument is the evidence. The president went abroad early in his presidency, and the result was what is widely known, correctly, as "the apology tour."
"President Barack Obama has finished the second leg of his international confession tour," Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal on April 23, 2009. "In less than 100 days, he has apologized on three continents for what he views as the sins of America and his predecessors."
Mr. Obama told the French (the French!) that America "has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" toward Europe. In Prague, he said America has "a moral responsibility to act" on arms control because only the U.S. had "used a nuclear weapon." In London, he said that decisions about the world financial system were no longer made by "just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy" -- as if that were a bad thing. And in Latin America, he said the U.S. had not "pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors" because we "failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas."
After the first apology tour came the "Greek exceptionalism" moment, and after that his Mumbai confession and now his San Francisco sigh. The apologies merged with the dire assessments and have evolved into explicit pessimism.
"We have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge..."
This is not the man to lead an American renaissance, any more than Jimmy Carter could be expected to rise above his personal sense of malaise which he projected on to the country thirty years ago.