One of the great things about American politics is its capacity for punishing hubris.
For the ancient Greeks, hubris didn't merely describe god-like arrogance. It was a crime, usually defined as taking too much pleasure in the humiliation of your foes. In its modern usage it usually means the pride that comes before the fall.
In the wake of
Since the election, a slew of political reporters and analysts -- never mind the self-declared Obama boosters -- have argued that Obama will, must or should crush his enemies (and by enemies, I mean the Republicans). Slate's
"Obama's only remaining option," Dickerson continued, "is to pulverize. Whether he succeeds in passing legislation or not, given his ambitions, his goal should be to delegitimize his opponents."
Many conservative observers agreed.
That strategy worked for Obama, so, he figures, why quit now? His second inaugural address was a frilly campaign stump speech, dividing fools and devils (Republicans) from the wise and the sainted (Democrats).
His State of the Union address, already fading from the mind's eye like the afterglow of a flashbulb, showed that Obama remains committed to his hammer-and-tongs style. His ludicrous claims that massive new expansions of government won't add a "single dime" to the deficit -- technically true, since they would add trillions of dimes to the deficit -- alone made it clear that he's still in campaign mode.
Obama and many in his chorus remain convinced that, after that momentary hiccup known as the 2010 midterm elections, America is finally on a glide path to the new progressive era they'd long been promised.
This is where the two meanings of hubris come together. Liberals panting after the transformative Obama presidency are only seeing what they want to see. The
Look closely at Obama's State of the Union address, and you see not a progressive colossus poised to conquer all in his path, but a mostly spent force, desperately trying to figure out how to get anything done at all. His main policy ambition was to keep from getting the blame for his own idea: the sequester.
But the emotional heart of the State of the Union comprised three issues: immigration reform, climate change and gun control. Well, as Senate Democrats have made clear, the only way immigration reform passes is if Obama stays out of the process entirely.
On gun control, all Obama is asking for is a vote. He's not even asking for passage of a largely ludicrous assault weapons ban. Why? Because gun control is a wedge dividing Democrats, not Republicans.
So is climate change. Liberal donors want Obama to kill the Keystone pipeline (which Obama failed to mention) and push a green agenda. The union and blue-collar base want good jobs and cheap gas. Indeed, while climate change and gun control may be imperatives for the editors of the
The remainder of Obama's agenda was fairly pathetic boilerplate. Hike the minimum wage! Redesign America's schools! Manufacturing hubs! Make-work programs!
This is supposed to be liberalism reborn? Lame ideas cribbed from a playbook with 60 years of dust on it? Slogans hatched by pols who needed a few more nouns to round out Obama's sentences? Legislative initiatives that will cost Democrats seats in 2014 and beyond?
Obama's State of the Union had the lowest ratings in 13 years for a reason -- and it's not that America is excited for a new golden age of liberalism. The momentum Obama feels is the pull of gravity, as he starts his fall.
Read the latest political news.
- Gilded Class Warriors
- 'Assassination Memo' a First Step in Setting New Warfare Parameters
- The Double Threats
- Rush to the Defense? Not So Fast
- Why Annihilate the GOP?
- A New GOP, or Just A Cosmetic Touchup?
- Government Spending That Isn't Smart
- Obama's Second Coming
- Operation Hubris
- Can the GOP Escape Its Bubble
- Leave Liberal Hollywood to the Liberals
- Can GOP's Local Success Translate to Federal Level?
- United States Shouldn't Create Underclass of Immigrants
- Rubio vs an Invisible Obama
- Marco Rubio's Problem Wasn't the Water
- Rubio and the GOP's Thirst for Leadership
- The GOP's Civil War Stumbles On
- Two Cheers for Republican Rebranding
- Obama's Blunt Challenge to Congress
- Conservative Business Leaders Should Widen Their Scope
- Calling Out Bugnut Idiocy
- No Easy Answers for Gun Woes
- A Time to Resist
- Recycling Old and Failed Ideas
- Obama: An Energized Lame Duck
- Obama's Place in History Already Assured
- Obama's License to Kill by Drone
- Drone Double Standard
- Torture Helped Get bin Laden?
- Let Us Prey
- A Message to Obama, Served Cold
- Government Should Not Define 'Church'
- Where The Buck Still Stops
- Republicans Make Nice, But Are Their Hearts True?
- Incoherent Immigration Reform
- The Eye Doctor and the 'I' Pol
- 60 Minutes' Missed Opportunity
- Obama and Rubio: A Study in Contrasts
- State of the Union, At Home and Abroad
- The Minimum Wage and The Meaning of a Decent Society
- The Hoax of Austerity Economics
- Diplomacy: Lying Politely
- United States and Israel Push The Boundaries of International Law
- Pentagon Keyboard Jockeys Can Now Out-Decorate Combat Heroes
- One Day The World Will Thank Bush For Shaking Up The Arab Region
- Has Obama Kept His Open-Government Pledge?
- State of the Union Allows Presidents to Outline Agenda
- State of the Union Address Likely to Focus on Domestic Issues
- Obama Again Offers to Negotiate Big Deficit Deal
- Immigration Reform Plan is a Farce
- The GOP Crack-up and Obama's Unraveling of the Republican Coalition
- GOP: Rest in Peace?
- A Time to Build
- Obama's Challenge
- Obama's Debt-Ceiling Strategy Could Put The Squeeze on GOP
- Obama's Battle Hymn of the Republic
- Why I'm Singing the Inauguration Blues
- Obama's Inaugural Address Not Progressive Enough
- Taking Joe Biden Seriously
Operation Hubris | Politics
(c) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc