Back on Feb. 4, a whole two weeks into the Obama presidency, Victor Davis Hanson at the National Review was already proclaiming it a disaster:
“We are quite literally after two weeks teetering on an Obama implosion—and with no Dick Morris to bail him out—brought on by messianic delusions of grandeur, hubris, and a strange naivete that soaring rhetoric and a multiracial profile can add requisite cover to good old-fashioned Chicago politicking … Obama is becoming laughable and laying the groundwork for the greatest conservative populist reaction since the Reagan Revolution,” Hanson wrote.
Two weeks. A whole two weeks into a presidency, and it was already over. The idea that such a premature verdict could be rendered by a historian, someone supposedly trained to take the long view of events, made it even more ridiculous, a classic case of personal hatred overriding analysis.
And Hanson made it quite clear he wasn’t kidding:
“This is quite serious. I can’t recall a similarly disastrous start in a half-century (far worse than Bill Clinton’s initial slips). Obama immediately must lower the hope-and-change rhetoric, ignore Reid/Pelosi, drop the therapy, and accept the tragic view that the world abroad is not misunderstood but quite dangerous. And he must listen on foreign policy to his National Security Advisor, Billary, and the Secretary of Defense. If he doesn’t quit the messianic style and perpetual campaign mode, and begin humbly governing, then he will devolve into Carterism—angry that the once-fawning press betrayed him while we the people, due to our American malaise, are to blame.”
In today’s Washington Post, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch make their own foray into Hansonism, again comparing Obama to the man who has come to symbolize feckless Democrats:
“Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike.
According to a July 13 CBS News poll, the once-unassailable president’s approval rating now stands at 57 percent, down 11 points from April. Half of Americans think the recession will last an additional two years or more, 52 percent think Obama is trying to “accomplish too much,” and 57 percent think the country is on the “wrong track.”
Again, that’s ridiculous. I’m not going to sit here and proclaim Obama’s presidency a success. It’s also much too early for that. Six months in, he has been largely successful in implementing his policies — the idea that he is entering “a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike” just doesn’t reflect reality. However, it’s far too early to know how those policies will play out, which is how history and the American people will judge him.
For example, I expect that in the next couple of months, Obama will succeed in pushing a dramatic makeover of the U.S. health-care system through Congress. Politically, that will be a victory. But history’s verdict on the wisdom of that reform must wait awhile.
At a comparable point in his presidency — late July and early August of 2001, with the trauma of Sept. 11 still looming in the future — George W. Bush’s approval rating stood at 50 percent, considerably lower than Obama’s today. But I doubt that fact was being cited eight years ago as evidence that Bush’s presidency had already run aground. If so, it was foolishness. It was Hansonism before the phenomenon gained the name.