Obama’s Year Zero
By the Editors of National Review Online
It is no accident that “hitting the reset button” has become one of the regnant clichés of the early weeks of the Obama administration. The president has spent the last 100 days acting as though he has the power to make the world anew: to turn enemies into allies by the power of his personal charm and his self-presentation as a break with the sordid past; to re-create the automotive industry, the energy sector, and the economy in general along lines he considers more fruitful and pleasing; to ignore any vestiges of conservatism still present in the populace; to dismiss any criticism as the grunting of dinosaurs. It is Year Zero of a pallid revolution.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York recently expressed the key political assumption of the governing Democrats with a frankness that he might not have ventured before the election: The era in which traditional values, a strong foreign policy, and skepticism about overgovernment were winning issues is over. If that assumption is correct, then Obama will move from triumph to triumph.
If it is incorrect, however, Obama’s hubris will prove his undoing. He has given the conservative portions of the country a new energy and a new unity. His apology tour and his preening over “torture” have worried hawks. He has signaled his aggressive intent toward social conservatives by opening the door to human cloning, naming a pro-abortion extremist as his secretary of health and human services, and rescinding rules to protect the conscience rights of pro-life health-care workers. He has healed divisions among economic conservatives by proposing to raise both taxes and spending.
The president is still personally popular, and that popularity may persist for some time. Even people who have misgivings about his program are rooting for him to succeed, both because of the recession and his race. But some of his top legislative initiatives are in trouble. Card-check is dead in its present form, and cap-and-trade is on life support. There is no evidence that Obama’s popularity is transferring to congressional Democrats.
We cannot say whether the conservative resurgence for which we hope will come to pass. If it does, President Obama will deserve much of the credit.
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