The Closet Moderate: Mr. Yes

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mr. Yes

Many of my friends on the right have been describing our current President's tenure as the second Carter administration. That's a bit unfair; while disorganized and pusillanimous at times, Obama will need years to get close to Carter's record of failure. The President he most resembles, to my mind, is Warren Harding.


Newspaper and television reporters usually compare a sitting President to one more famous (FDR, Lincoln) or more recent (Reagan, Carter) than Harding. And the issues of the early 1920's certainly differ from those of our own year. But in his attitude toward campaigning and governance, President Obama mirrors our 29th President more than any other.

Harding was an attractive, affable, and above all agreeable Senator. His achievements in office were few, but he was inoffensive enough that the party elites thought he was the man who could take back the White House. His campaign was bland, but positive. He said he would be different than his predecessor, but exactly how was unclear. Fortunately for Harding, specifics were not necessary; the country was sick of Wilson and his foreign war, and Harding swept to office in the biggest landslide ever for a non-incumbent President.

More than anything, though, it is Obama's agreeable nature that marks him as Harding's true heir. Harding told the people what they wanted to hear. His father's description of him is the classic estimate of his character: "If you were a girl, Warren, you’d be in the family way all the time. You can’t say no.” Indeed, it was Harding's inability to say no to his friends that led to the many financial scandals that plagued his administration, most notably the Teapot Dome scandal. Obama's acquiescence in the mono-partisan antics of his friends in Congress have already taken the bloom off the rose of his hopey new politics. His trip to Europe was one long apology for everything the United States has ever done that upset Europe and the Middle East.

Obama told us in his campaign for office that he would tell people some tough things, things they don't want to hear. The only people getting bad news so far have been Republicans who didn't like him anyway. I've heard a little tough talk about teachers' unions, but he seems content to let his pals in the Congress kill off charter schools in D.C. Maybe I'm wrong -- the guy has only been President for three months -- but so far, he seems to be letting the hogs get to the trough far too easily. At any rate, I hope the comparison is wrong on some points, and that Obama serves out his term in perfect health, because Joe Biden isn't fit to hold Calvin Coolidge's bowler.


Harold Lasswell said...

I hope you're wrong Cal, but the warning is thought-provoking. Obama's been pretty agreeable to date. Not to the GOP and not to pirates (a link?), but in general he's saving political capital at every opportunity. My guess is that's strategy more than personality, though. Getting anything done on energy, health care, defense spending, etc. is going take friends and the President seems intent on getting some of those items done.

Statler said...

Stunning political analysis, sir. I applaud you.

Silent Cal said...

Analysis of this sort are all pretty bad, but quite common among the news media and other bloggards. If you don't care for this one, I'm sure you can find another easily enough that compares Obama to Churchill or Bush to Nero.

Statler said...

While all of these comparisons are sort of sad (Obama as Lincoln/FDR included) I'd like you to cite something more than his affability to make your case. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if there are a number of Nan-Brittons-in-training out there.

Silent Cal said...

Harding was also clean and articulate.