LEST we forget to state the obvious, let us begin by stating the obvious: this is Ross Douthat, current moistener of the John Tierney Chair of "Conservative" Sinecuristics at the Times; a man whose career mission--making religiofascism, Christian Division, sound dishwasher safe to people who were inclined to give it a pass anyway--was augmented, briefly, when he saw Wither "Conservatism", Inc. as a strong buy; a man whose present position of prominence leads us to conclude that Kathleen Parker was busy; Ross Fucking Douthat is lecturing Barack Obama about accepting something he didn't deserve.
(Memo to David Shipley: The boy needs a mentor even worse than he needs a personal stylist. Could you maybe give him some suggestions? Maybe assign a topic once in a while? This thing is So Last Friday that Dowd's already written about it, which means the zeitgeist has moved on and the only people still hollerin' are the Right, the crypto-Right, and Adult Idolaters of Geriatric Men in Dresses who're still pissed off that John Paul #2 never got one. If Mr. Bad Teenage Beard on the Cusp of Middle Age can't distinguish between last week's Bozo Kazoo Ensemble and actual ongoing issues, at least move him off Mondays, where he not only competes with Krugman, but regularly opens the week with preternaturally colorless takes on what the blogosphere would have talked to death a week ago, assuming the blogosphere consisted of himself, Rod Dreher, MoDo, and that professional Christian who was on Everybody Loves Raymond back in the Forties.)
This was Barack Obama’s chance.
Here was an opportunity to cut himself free, in a stroke, from the baggage that’s weighed his presidency down — the implausible expectations, the utopian dreams, the messianic hoo-ha.
Here was a place to draw a clean line between himself and all the overzealous Obamaphiles, at home and abroad, who poured their post-Christian, post-Marxist yearnings into the vessel of his 2008 campaign.
Here was a chance to establish himself, definitively, as an American president — too self-confident to accept an unearned accolade, and too instinctively democratic to go along with European humbug.
Now, a lot of things come to mind here, and not all of them involve homicide. First, and most obvious, the question of your alibi for the period when George W. Bush was being hailed as the New Churchill and a Carrier-landin' Fighter Jock. Are we really supposed to believe that, had the Nobel committee given Bush II the 2001 Peace Prize for his foolproof plan to end global terra and free the enslaved women of Islam your cohort would have objected? Second, where are these overzealous Obamaphiles, anyway? I'd like to know why they couldn't be bothered to show up and drone out all the Town Hall bleaters this past summer. Obama had adoring throngs during the campaign. So did Reagan. So did Bush II. Fer chrissakes, so did Nixon. A lot of his was based on how badly your party had fucked things up. For someone who was busy at the time cashing royalty checks for your plan to reform the party you sure seem to be having a lot of difficulty getting over it. Some of it is what campaigns do, and, again, if those'd been Dick Cheney or Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani crowds it would have been a validation of their policies, not evidence of a Messiah complex. And don't look at me; I complained loud and long about it, and urged 'em to fire whomever was responsible for those chanting bleachersful of Thorazined monastics. For that matter, I urged a boycott of the Blackeyed Peas, but that was really because Fergie sucks donkeys.
In other words, if you've got a problem with the interminable war over product placement that is the modern Presidential election--and, fuck it, every other election from Dog Catcher on up any more--then take it up with the people responsible. And while you're there, admit that your only real problem with it is that your side loses from time to time. Kee-rist, Ross, whose candidate was pilloried last time because he'd supported cosmetic reforms to the campaign finance laws?
And look, th' fuck is the problem with you guys learning practical lessons? One minute you're intent on sham-reforming the "Conservative" movement, like some Baby Brooks (Oh, if only the Party would toss out all those racists and rednecks and anyone else I'm uncomfortable snogging in public it'd be on the road to permanent majority!); as soon as you sense the tiniest political advantage you're back in the tenth row of the mob, next to the guy with the "Grow A Brian, Post-Marxists!" sandwich board. I mean, where exactly do you think this is going to get you? Do you really imagine that your party is in control of its loudest, most hate-filled elements? That they're going to sit politely while you nominate Romney, or Mitch Daniels, and schedule Sarah Palin's Convention speech for 6 AM Tuesday?
He didn’t take it. Instead, he took the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yeah, because by turning it down he'd have earned your eternal admiration. Just like involving the Republican caucus in the Stimulus and Health Care reform negotiations, and hosting that pro-life symposium at the White House did.
People have argued that you can’t turn down a Nobel. Please. Of course you can. Obama is a gifted rhetorician with world-class speechwriters. All he would have needed was a simple, graceful statement emphasizing the impossibility of accepting such an honor during his first year in office, with America’s armed forces still deep in two unfinished wars.
Shit. Both were finished a long time ago. It's just inconvenient for some people to admit it.
Incidentally, we're 165 words into this week's prattling--you have a full week to come up with these, Ross--and you've already exhausted your Idea, which is a term I use just to show Christian charity isn't confined to Christians.
And I come this far, Ross (and no farther), just for a couple personal reflections. Back in December of 2000, I remember waiting for Supreme Court designee George W. Bush to acknowledge that he'd lost the popular vote, and in many people's minds stolen the hinkiest US Presidential election since the invention of the telephone. Just to acknowledge that many of his fellow citizens, including a majority of those who had bothered going to the polls, did not want him as President. It's a standard feature of victory speeches from landslide winners, but the best we got from Bush that night was a smirky Tough Shit. Which I will admit, while not was I was hoping for was at least an accurate preview of his Presidency.
And less than a year later I remember arguing that Bush should announce he would refuse to seek a second term, in order to run a truly non-partisan campaign against Trans-Global Chaos, or whatever it was. Of course I knew it would never happen; of course it wasn't long before we knew (and by "knew" I mean "had our apodictic certainty confirmed by independent observation") that the administration, its pals like Giuliani, and the rest of its party intended to wring every last ounce of partisan advantage out of The Day That Changed Everything.
I had no illusions; I'd have settled for a speech, however mangled, that acknowledged the complexity of the situation, and the overwhelming odds that what he was proposing was a generations-long occupation or four halfway around the world, but I didn't expect that, either. And the point is that this is what we got from your man during the two greatest Presidential crises of the quarter-century, and during a pair of incompetently-managed, PR-directed military actions which he, and you, tried to peddle as a Battle for Civilization Herself. So th' fuck gives you the right to demand anything, let alone adherence to your phony ethical demands, in such a small beer as this?