Barack Obama swept into office on a tide of giddy enthusiasm. His “Hope and Change” was a pledge to reverse Bush era policies, including socialism for the rich, adventurism in the Middle East, and attacks on civil liberties. He announced his intention to serve as a transformational leader, invoking Abraham Lincoln, FDR and Ronald Reagan as role models. Despite the frigid temperatures, people poured into Washington, DC to hear his inauguration speech, wanting to be part of a remarkable passage.
It wasn’t simply that Obama was the first black president, but also that the economic devastation of the financial crisis opened up a historic opportunity to remake the social contract, to punish the reckless and greedy, no matter how lofty, and to build new foundations and safeguards for ordinary citizens. Obama, with his youthful vigor, his technocratic command of policy details, his “no drama” steadiness, his mastery of oratory, seemed uniquely suited to this time of need. His personal history of repeatedly breaking new ground fed optimism that he could do so for the nation as a whole.
Those times of heady promise are now a cruel memory. Again and again, Obama has shown his true colors. It isn’t simply that Obama lied. Politicians lie. But there are norms for political lying. The depth and dependability of Obama’s misrepresentations constitute a difference in kind.