And what of the notorious Van Jones, the one-time White House aide exposed by Glenn Beck as a true radical with a stormy Stalinist past? Actually, Mr. Jones’ laughably amorphous job (“Special Advisor for Green Jobs”) hardly amounted to a decisive position in government, and he held that exalted post for less than six months before being forced to resign. Meanwhile, the president has also broken decisively with dubious and fanatical former pals from Chicago days (including, most notably Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright), who haven’t been welcomed to the White House and have spoken out harshly against Obama.
Following the administration’s extension of Bush tax cuts, efforts to rebuild relations with the business community, the veto of a key anti-Israel resolution at the UN, and hints of compromise with Republican efforts to slash spending, portraying Obama as a wild-eyed, rage-filled America-hating radical not only seems implausible but strategically ill-advised—inadvertently helping the Democrats defend themselves from their greatest vulnerability in 2012.
Other than the sour state of the economy, the most conspicuous failure of the Obama team involves its abject failure to deliver hope-and-change—to usher in the promised fresh tone and new politics in Washington. Examination of the actual record proves that the administration practices business as usual, with all its corruption and horribly wasteful spending, not systemic transformation of any kind. In order to defeat the president in his drive for re-election, Republicans need not convince the public that he’s driven the country toward Soviet-style tyranny (or in any other novel direction); it’s enough for conservatives to show that he’s recycled the stale, dysfunctional approaches of Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson and the free-spending, irresponsible Democratic governors who recently led a dozen states to the edge of bankruptcy.
Over the last two years, conservative anger at perceived arrogance and incompetence by this administration has produced a “kitchen sink” approach to White House criticism, with opponents simultaneously blasting the president as exceptional in his radicalism, and conventional and predictable in his attachment to liberal nostrums of the past. It makes little sense to try to have it both ways, when it’s both easier and more accurate to aim at the administration’s indisputably disappointing performance in delivering “change you can believe in,” and its reflexive recycling of familiar, fatuous big government agendas that deserve the same decisive rejection they received in 1980, ’84, ‘94 –and 2010.