What if Barack Obama is not, as conservatives think, the recrudescence of Stalinism, or, as liberals shout, the messiah?
What if Obama is simply a mediocrity?
It actually makes a lot of sense. Everything under Obama’s presidency has been mediocre. The economy refuses to recover, yet also doesn’t completely collapse into the black hole of a Great Depression. Obama’s books can’t touch the brilliance of the autobiography of Ulysses S. Grant, but they are also not as bad as Bill Clinton’s oeuvre. And the One’s speeches were never the rhetorical Rosetta Stones that the media made them out to be; lines like “hope and change” and “this was never about me, it was about you” are not Olympian inspirations, but lukewarm pablum. Even Obama’s totalitarianism is half-baked. Where Nixon had “the plumbers” — true badasses like G. Gordon Liddy — Obama sends into battle the frumpy and completely meh David Axelrod. Even Obama’s dancing is middling. It’s not Gene Kelly, nor is it Elaine’s famous convulsions on “Seinfeld.”
If Obama truly is nothing more than a mediocrity, it leaves liberals in a box. After all, the left has invested a lot in the idea that Obama is more than a bland human being, that he possesses a kind of divinity and can inculcate approved others with his grace and virtue. For Obama to be mediocre would mean that liberals are attempting to infuse themselves with the One’s divine current, but are getting Bud Light instead. Therefore, they have to pump Obama up, like a mother cheering on her second-string son when he’s called in for his three minutes at the end of the JV basketball game.
“PRESIDENT OBAMA SAYS HOLD IT RIGHT THERE TO REPUBLICANS,” Al Sharpton blasts on MSNBC, immediately following Obama giving a milquetoast statement about the need to raise taxes. Chris Matthews acts as if his very life depends on Obama’s numinousness; the fact that Obama may go down in history not as JFK but as James Buchanan, Gerald Ford or Herbert Hoover would mean that the president is a regular human being, and that would rob Matthews of some of his received moral authority. But as the Obama years hobble on and on, not quite a depression and not quite a recovery, with Justin Timberlake’s new single kind of half-liked, and Jay Leno doing his semi-funny material, and Obama’s policies only half-understood and uninspiring, it gets harder and harder to avoid: this is a mediocre era, with a mediocre president with a mediocre mind and a mediocre plan. Meh.
In fact, if anything Obama may resemble Gerald Ford more than any other president. Like Ford, Obama follows a fiscally disastrous and controversial president, yet largely continues that president’s military and spending policies. Like Ford, Obama seems like a placeholder between the liberalism of the past and the financial reckoning to come, when a president with genuine courage and charisma — Reagan — will have to set the ship straight.
Of course, there is the possibility that America can’t produce another Reagan — that the country in the 21st century has become as mediocre as its president. After all, we are talking about the place where Justin Bieber sells millions of records and “Two and a Half Men” has been airing for over a decade. When Ford was president the top show was “All in the Family,” which reads like Shakespeare today.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.