Noemie Emery: Failure is success for Obama fans 

Cognitive dissonance has struck the political classes concerning President Obama, who was hailed 18 months ago as the new President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but now looks like somebody else. To Jonathan Alter, he's still FDR, only better: being two for two (or four for four) on his major initiatives.

"You've got a ... record that's already historic," he says. He has escaped the fate of being a do-nothing failure like President Carter, and become a do-everything figure, like President Lyndon B. Johnson, yet Johnson's behavior brought Carter's results.

Politico says he is flirting with failure: His numbers are dropping, independents are fleeing, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who knows one when he sees it, says the country is in a "malaise." The New York Times calls it a "paradox;" Politico calls it a "mystery," as "by most conventional measures, he is clearly succeeding;" Michael Tomasky thinks it incongruous that he has turned into "a president of accomplishment whose party faces a wipe-out" this fall.

But the problem is that his successes were things few people wanted to happen: He is failing because he has been succeeding; at passing measures that voters don't want.

Obama has built up his line of "successes" by picking out issues not high on the public's agenda, and handling them in a manner that most of the people dislike. After the crash of 2008, voters were eager for economic expansion, while Obama reverted to his pre-crash agenda, on the grounds that the crisis was too good to waste.

He passed a $787 stimulus package, when the public was distraught over deficit spending. He wasted a year over health care, for which no one had clamored, producing a 2,000-plus-page enigma that had to be passed by bribes, threats, and buy-offs, which no one had read.

Before the bill passed, voters in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts slapped Democrats hard in the off-year elections in an effort to stop it. Since the bill passed, it has grown still more unpopular, and unpleasant surprises appear every day.

Meanwhile, the stimulus bill is now seen as a failure and a great waste of money. Only 13 percent of the public thinks it helped them at all.

This is the record the liberals think is historic, and compare to that of their saint, FDR. Alter says Obama really is FDR, and we're too dim to know it; others say FDR too had his problems, and Obama's are no worse than his.

True enough: We all know that 18 months into office, FDR had lost a third of his backers, polled consistently in the mid-to-low-40s, lost three big statewide elections, and had majorities itching to undo his main gains.

But FDR was the old-fashioned sort, who built support for his bills before passing them. Passing them first and then selling them later would no doubt have boggled his mind.

Before health care passed, the press said the Democrats had to win in order to prove they could govern, but it's uncertain if voters think that this is what "governing" means.

Sixteen years ago, Bill and Hillary Clinton failed to pass health care, and lost 54 House seats and both houses of Congress. Obama passed it, and may face a loss of a similar magnitude.

If this is success, then nothing fails like it. They said Obama would be a game changer, and so he is proving. He is breaking new grounds in the annals of leadership. He is creating a new way to fail.

Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."

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