Jonah Goldberg

In 1964, Barry Goldwater gave an uncompromisingly conservative and liberty-loving speech to the Republican Convention. A reporter in the audience couldn't believe his ears. "My God! He's going to run as Barry Goldwater!"

I had a similar reaction to President Obama's State of the Union address.

For all the talk of how he needed to "pivot" to the center, the Obama we saw was the same Obama who ran for president and the same Obama we've seen over the last year. His White House is so deep in their own bunker, they could sustain a Dresden-style carpet bombing without even hearing the dishware rattle. For instance, leading social scientists with the most sophisticated statistical tools concluded that Scott Brown's election was like a slap in the face with a wet, semi-frozen flounder. Yet the White House's response is to claim that a vote for Brown, who promised to derail ObamaCare, was really a vote for ... ObamaCare.

But it's not just that Obama has dug in or "doubled down" on his unpopular agenda that reminded me of the Goldwater story. It's the fact that Obama is running as Obama.

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Since taking office, Obama has continued to see the presidency as the perfect perch from which to campaign for a job he already has. The solution to every problem the White House runs into is "more Obama." Much of this stems from Obama's own arrogance. When people disagree with his health-care proposals, it is because they don't really understand them or because they are misdirecting their anger at him. When Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., warned the president that the 2010 midterms were shaping up to be a replay of the 1994 Republican tsunami, Obama reportedly told him that there was one important difference between then and now: "Me."

In his State of the Union, the president waxed eloquent about the baleful climate of what is commonly called "permanent campaign" mind-set in Washington. This was an interesting line of attack from a man who has never disbanded his campaign operation "Organizing for America" and who responded to the Scott Brown election by bringing his campaign manager into the White House.

"Doubling down" is a popular phrase in Washington these days to describe Obama's insistence to stick to his guns -- on health care, cap-and-trade and incontinent "stimulus" spending. But doubling down is the wrong term. In blackjack, you can only double down once. What Obama is doing is letting it ride. The self-proclaimed pragmatist refuses to adjust a bet he made long before the financial crisis or his presidency even began.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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