Late last week one Matt Bai, “National Political Columnist” for Yahoo Politics, produced a bubbly piece entitled “Obama Rediscovers Audacity.” Of course, the “audacity” of Bai’s title was the same made famous in Obama’s pre-election book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006).
I won’t lie: I had forgotten the complete title, chiefly the part about the “American Dream”. But whether reclaimed, recycled, or redacted, I’m all for restoring it. Madison, Jefferson, and any number of subsequent political thinkers in our country’s tradition insisted that the American Dream has something to do with liberty and the good life free men might pursue unhampered by kings, ministers, tax collectors, and assorted hirelings. It’s a dream well worth realizing. Anyone who wants to “reclaim” it can count me in.
But, again, I’d forgotten the whole title. Should I be blamed for the lapse of memory? Because if I recall the words of the man who was elected president two years after his book attained bestseller status, this clarion call underwent a change.
By 2008 “the One,” to borrow the label a giddy Oprah attached to the new president, announced his modified intention “to fundamentally transform America,” which is not exactly what he declared in 2006. But for a man who was all about “Hope and Change,” it was only natural that he should . . . change.
Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In Obama’s case, the sameness was the leftism and the change was in the American Dream that got stripped from the shop window once the customers had bought the goods. Fundamental change? Oh, yes, regarding some very fundamental things. In 2015 even definitions clear enough in 2008 are not the same: marriage, enemies, terrorism — they don’t mean what they used to. And if most of the country was dreaming of such changes in 2008, they were strangely silent about it, but then so was candidate Obama.
That said, the general idea of the “audacity of hope” was that in an age —pre-2008, you understand — of desperate cynicism, we needed a gargantuan dose of optimism, even chutzpah, to find the silver lining around the darkest of modern clouds, chiefly those hovering above the United States. The only man with the requisite skills for the task was Mr. Audacity-of-Hope-and-Change himself.
But, as I noted above, the difference between the dream and the reality has grown into a chasm. The bitter fruit of audacity has been that the country hasn’t fallen as completely in love with its president as it once appeared it might.
Obamacare hasn’t been the godsend it was purported to be, and racial relations have been, shall we say, tense. The president, once riding the crest of 60-plus percent approval ratings, has seen them drop into the 40s where, for the most part, they have stayed.
But as we were reminded in 2006, there’s always hope. Indeed, to slightly rephrase Mr. Bai’s title, Obama has rediscovered hope, too. Obamacare has survived a challenge in the Supreme Court; same-sex marriage, which candidate Obama once declared contrary to his dearest beliefs, is now the law of the land, an emblem “the One’s” fundamental transformation.
To top it all off, world peace is right around the corner — that is, in the Middle East — because the Iranians also know something about the audacity of hope.
What do I hope? I hope the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism won’t blow Israel off the face of the earth; that another ISIS-inspired terrorist won’t shoot four more marines; that Iran won’t pull Iraq further under its influence; that Russia won’t become the chief international player in the Middle East; that the president will stop declaring alien, Islamic holidays worthy of national celebration. That’s just the beginning of my “hope” list; I haven’t touched on domestic matters.
Hope is a pretty expansive virtue; for Obama it looks to a future that can be modified according to political necessity. He told reporters not too long ago that if Iran gets the bomb, it will have his name written on it. That’s mighty big of him, but I fully expect that when, and I do mean when, Iran starts the countdown, our own bomb, the O-bomb, will manage to blame it on Republicans for not sending enough aid to impoverished Iranians.
That ought to be audacious enough for anybody. And while we’re on that subject, if Mr. Bai will expend the effort it takes to open a dictionary, he might be wonderfully enlightened. Cambridge Dictionaries Online (dictionary.cambridge.org) includes the following definition: “Audacity: unusually strong and esp. rude confidence in yourself.” To that, the lexicographer adds by way of example: “Our mayor has the audacity to claim credit for improvements he had nothing to do with.”
Not so our president and his changes; he can rightly claim the credit for them. As for the rest of us, we’re still waiting for the improvements.