The word “narrative” is one of those effete terms that’s become very trendy in some colleges and newsrooms. It basically refers to a story with a point of view. It’s also an all-purpose excuse. If someone is caught making up history, he simply says that he’s developed “an alternative narrative.” Problem solved. There was a European journalist who was caught stretching things a bit in a report from Iraq. She reacted by promptly sending a new dispatch and called it “My Truth.” Not “The Truth,” but “My Truth.” Facts? Hey, it’s an “alternative narrative.”
So now, and you’ve probably noticed it, we have a new narrative coming from the White House. The New Truth is upon us. Don’t question it, please, for each of us is entitled to “my truth,” including the president of the United States, whose “truths” are getting more bizarre by the hour.
The new truth is that Obama isn’t the directionless failure that most Americans think, and even some of his allies concede. Nor is he the perfect, godlike dreamer who came into office, unspoiled by vulgar experience or imperialist capitalism’s hard knocks.
No, the new narrative holds that Mr. Obama is a successful, impressive, accomplished, practical, get-it-done guy who’s getting it done, big time. Hey, the man’s practically Abe Lincoln and FDR on steroids.
Look, say the new narrators, at the list: The stimulus package; “saving” General Motors; the bailouts; health-care reform; financial reform. Why, we haven’t had such progress since the early thirties. And who’s doin’ it for us? It’s the community organizer himself, Barack Obama. Give him a hand.
The fact is, of course, that the heart of that narrative is true. The president has made a long list of changes, and he’s gotten through some pretty sweeping legislation. The health bill alone came in at more than 2,000 pages. Trees gladly died so we can live.
But now for the bad news: It’s pretty clear that most Americans don’t want the very things the president has pushed, and for which he’s taking bows. And it’s far from clear that what the president has gotten through will actually improve the country. So, we have a remarkable contradiction: Here is a president elected with solid numbers, with a House and Senate at his back, slamming through huge proposals made possible by his popularity at election time…and he is increasingly disliked and rejected.
Lesson: Success is defined by the American people, not by the political class. And there appears to be quite a difference in definition between the Obama White House and the average citizen. The split originated, I believe, in the con job that was the Obama 2008 campaign. We were sold a moderate, practical, feet-on-the-ground guy who felt our pain and had the aspirin to cure it. We got a university-based leftist who slams things through to make our little, non-Ivy-League lives a bit better, even when we tell him, in poll after poll, that we’d like another menu.
So the new narrative coming from the White House, and embraced by Mr. Obama’s friends in the press, will fail. And once again we are reminded of the religious invocation: “Protect me O Lord from those who would protect me.”
It’s probable that those around Mr. Obama are hurt that anyone can think of a man with so many legislative successes to his name as a failure. After all, all that legislation is immensely popular among those who want to “make a difference.” But those around the president often miss the first rule of governance in a democracy: You’ve got to get our permission first.
Permission has not been granted. New narrative needed.
From URGENT AGENDA (www.urgentagenda.com)
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