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    And the world can look so sad/Only you make me feel good

    I’m really getting sick of hearing how shocked and back-stabbed people feel by President Obama’s betrayals. Now do you understand why we crabby, cynical libertarians keep telling you it’s not a good idea to put implicit trust in politicians, even if they really, really sound like they mean it this time?

    Matt Welch of Reason has a good piece on the subject in the New York Post. I do think he’s wrong about one thing, though:

    When finding themselves on the opposing side of the president’s policy, his former admirers on the left are discovering something that the right has known for a while now: Obama will look you in the eye and lie. When the president said last week that “every health care economist out there” agrees that the reform package includes “whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve,” it wasn’t just free marketeers who cried foul.

    “You know it is a lie,” thundered health care writer Jon Walker at the popular progressive Web site FireDogLake. “The PhRMA lobbyists you cut the secret deal they know it is a lie, health care reform experts know it is a lie, and the American people should know it is a lie.”

    For those of us who don’t necessarily take their policy cues from Ralph Nader or FireDogLake, it’s tempting to just sit back and laugh at the festival of left-on-left recriminations. These guys are like Elin Nordegren with a golf club, swinging away at yet another betrayal.

    But let’s also give some credit where it’s due. Conservatives didn’t get around to hating on George W. Bush until after he’d safely been elected to a second term. There were no tea parties in the streets 14 months ago, when the 43rd president rushed through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, on the heels of an eight-year spending and regulatory binge (including vast new medical entitlements) the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Lyndon Johnson. No one eats their own like the Democratic Party. No one does blind loyalty like the Republicans.

    Conservative public figures didn’t start whaling away consistently at Bush until after 2004, no; but it’s useful to remember that they never idolized him to begin with, either. In 2000, Bush was already a compromise candidate. “Not Al Gore” was one of his strongest assets as a politician. Conservatives liked his druggie-rich-kid-finds-God-and-keeps-love-of-good-woman redemption story, they liked the Bush clan’s GOP loyalty, and they liked his stance on gun rights. Many of them approved of government-funded faith-based initiatives. But it was obvious from both his record as Texas governor and his presidential-campaign platform that he wasn’t the man to limit government spending.

    After 9/11, conservatives felt duty-bound to rally around a president who robustly defended America and American interests. There was less debate on the right over, say, the PATRIOT Act than many of us would have liked. Still, I remember quite a bit of criticism for the prescription-drug benefit and, once its provisions were known, for No Child Left Behind. Perhaps those complaints lacked the white-hot fury of betrayal we’re seeing from the left now, but a good reason for that is that the right had known all along that Bush was going to be a mixed bag.

    It’s that part that I just do not understand about current reactions to Obama. People expected him to be a different kind of politician who delivered on his promises. Fine. It’s good to be optimistic. But it’s frightening to encounter so many adults, free to run about loose on the streets, who seem not to have considered it within the realm of possibility that a politician, once in office, might turn his back on supporters, waffle, do 180s, and talk a lot of self-serving nonsense—and who therefore have not steeled themselves to deal with it now that it’s happening. I hate to choose this time of year to sound uncharitable, but I’m finding them hard to sympathize with. Obama gave good speeches that made his supporters feel good about themselves and their own motivations. He had no record of successful policy-making. Now we all get to share in the fun of being whipsawed repeatedly as his administration figures out that it can’t just roll into Washington and change the way politics is done. (Or maybe what it’s discovering is that now that it is the executive branch, it kind of likes that way politics is done.)

    And, of course, it’s not just the executive branch. As things are shaping up, we’re likely to end up with lots of lovely, top-flight health care at reduced costs for everyone! President Obama says of the looming vote on the current health care bill (a gallingly apt word, that), “With today’s developments, it now appears that the American people will have the vote they deserve,” and in many cases, I can’t help thinking he’s right.

    Added after deciding anew that my personal health plan must include several fingers of Scotch while reading the political news: Eric has posted more extensively on the turkey of a health-care bill we’re apparently getting. Best line:

    Maybe they’re planning on passing it first, then writing it later.

    It’s hard to see why they shouldn’t. The prevailing idea seems to be that it’s more important for Washington to ACT NOW! than to get all bogged down with explaining to the electorate what it’s, like, actually going to do and stuff, anyway. Considering how dumb we all are, as evidenced by the pointlessness of having these things open to review in plenty of time before they’re voted on, these people are presumably thanking their lucky stars we were perspicacious enough to see the necessity of electing them.

    Are you ready to jump?

    Added on 21 December: This morning while I was in my last ten minutes of dreaming about limited government (well, and Clive Owen without a shirt on, but he’s off topic), the Unreligious Right was posting about this beaut, also in the New York Post. It starts with the sentence, “I am a baby boomer, which is to say my life has coincided with turbulent and awesome times,” and actually manages to get worse from there. UNRR picks out the, er, choicest bits and draws this conclusion:

    How do you oppose “big government theocrats,” government takeover of health care, the UN and crazy internationalism and vote for Barack Obama?

    If you wonder how we managed to get stuck with Obama as president, look no further than Michael Goodwin, the author of the article I am referencing.

    Again, the most insufferable part—to me, I mean, since I can’t speak for UNRR or anyone else—is the strident tone, with its blend of you-have-no-idea-the-suffering-he’s-causing-me woundedness and I-only-wanted-what’s-best-for-everyone self-righteousness. Bonus points to Michael Godwin for jacking up the egotism by bringing in the Baby-Boomer identity-crisis routine.

    (Thanks to Eric for the link.)

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