Saturday, November 28, 2009

Obama, the New Rehoboam?

Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, "How do you advise me to answer this people?" And they said to him, "If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever." But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, "What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, 'Lighten the yoke that your father put on us'? And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, "Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,' thus shall you say to them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's thigh. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.'"
I KINGS 12:6-11
Peggy Noonan, in her usual Saturday Wall Street Journal column, has some things to say about what people are saying about the new president that brought this quote to mind. I'd call Noonan a moderate, although she did work for Ronald Reagan and was a speechwriter in the first Bush presidency. Nevertheless, she has a more even hand than many conservative pundits these days.

In her column she makes two points, or rather points to two moderate-to-Democratic sources of concern for the way the administration is carrying on. The first is domestic: she quotes journalist Elizabeth Drew:

...[w]hile the president was in Asia last week, "a critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man."... They once held "an unromantically high opinion of Obama,"...but now they are concluding that the president isn't "the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought."
MY thought on this is: "On what basis did they come to their initial conclusions?" which has been my question from the time Obama arose out of the obscurity of the Illinois state senate. It seems that supporters from the beginning have ascribed to the man whatever their own hopes and aspirations are. The movie BEING THERE is a comical but close approximation of what I think went on. If they are now coming to different conclusions, then it is not Obama that is to blame, but their own delusions of who this man is. Bottom line: we are still finding out.

Noonan then turns to another source, Leslie Gelb, writing in the Daily Beast. This centers on the Asian trip, and The Bow. Noonan, quoting Gelb:
...the president's Asia trip suggested "a disturbing amateurishness in managing America's power." The president's Afghanistan review has been "inexcusably clumsy," Mideast negotiations have been "fumbling." ...He added that rather than bowing to emperors--Mr. Obama "seems to do this stuff spontaneously and inexplicably"--he should begin to bow to "the voices of experience" in Washington.

When longtime political observers start calling for wise men, a president is in trouble.
Noonan's last comment is interesting, and is what made me think of the ancient king Rehoboam, the son of Solomon who took over the troubled kingdom at the death of his father. The fork in the road for the new king had to do with what advice he would abide by. History tells us that he took the wrong fork in the road, piling more financial woes on a people who had already been scoured by the cost of building Solomon's temple, and, according to the prophecy of Ahijah, ultimately losing 83% of his kingdom to the former servant Jeroboam. And here we have, perhaps, a parallel figure in Obama, replacing the "whips" of the past administrations with the "scorpions" of vastly expanded federal spending, the likes of which we may never get out from under.

Noonan, again quoting Drew:
She sco[u]red "the Chicago crowd" which she characterized as "a distressingly insular and small-minded West Wing team." The White House, Ms. Drew says, needs adult supervision--"an older, wiser head, someone with a bit more detachment."
A few weeks ago after church, I stood next to a man I didn't quite know except I knew he fervently opposed Obama. To my delight and surprise, what he said was, "I find myself praying for this president more than any president we've ever had."

As Noonan writes, "Mr Obama is in a hard place."
We might start, or having started, continue, praying for the man.

UPDATE : It seems Der Spiegel has gotten on the BashObama bandwagon as well.

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