[A]nother trauma, more subtle but nonetheless powerful, is an unfinished feeling, an inchoate sense that something that was supposed to happen didn’t happen and now the moment has passed, leaving us suspended in that state of nerve-wracking peace and quiet known as anticlimax. When we elected a black president by a landslide we expected to be rewarded with some kind of new dawn, an instant golden age that would render us at peace with ourselves and as one with the world overnight. It was the American pursuit of quick ’n’ easy applied to epiphanies, and we bet the farm on it. . .
A funny thing happened on the day [Obama] was plucked out of this glorious sinecure and thrust into the real job. The whole world expected his inaugural address to put Cicero to shame, but instead the Silver Tongue gave it a lick and a promise, delivering what amounted to a civic luncheon speech. Then came the State of the Union That Wasn’t, so weighted down by bureaucratic droning, list-making, and example-giving that he sounded as uninspired as the anonymous clerks who used to read the State of the Union to Congress back in the old days. After a campaign season throbbing with O Tempora and O Mores, all we got was a lousy T-shirt with a picture of O Bama advertising Oratory for Dummies.
People felt betrayed without fully understanding why. His media claques were quick to make excuses for him (he had chosen, in his wisdom, to cut to the chase; he was so confident that he felt no need to repeat himself; etc.) but the spate of teleprompter jokes that soon made the rounds sounds like a dismayed bride being as pleasant and cheerful as possible while exclaiming over the ruins.
The ex-president-elect also demolished another one of his own images: the cool, efficient, No-Drama Obama. He might not have put Cicero to shame in his inaugural but the confusion he generated with his impetuous cabinet picks has so shamed the annexation of Schleswig-Holstein that it will never be able to show its face in a history book again.
It was the running of the commerce secretaries hosted by Pamplona. The comic-opera figure in the whole who-struck-John is Tom Daschle, who was in and out so fast that the revolving door almost knocked him down. Certain to be the most memorable figure, however, is Timothy Geithner, the Treasury Secretary with a Plan, or the Plan without a Treasury Secretary, we won’t know until they put an asterisk beside his name like Roger Maris and he becomes honored and disdained at one and the same time.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Florence King in the April 20th National Review on dead tree (subscription only; at 45):