Wanting Obama to Succeed and to Fail

by Benjamin Domenech on 8:02 am January 29, 2009

I want Barack Obama to succeed. And I want him to fail. That’s the truth – and I don’t see any conflict in it.

Rush Limbaugh started a firestorm when he did what he normally does: voicing the hopes of a solid portion of conservative Americans. Despite the fact that they called it the We Are One event, out of 131 million people voting, 61.5 million people voted for someone else for President. They didn’t all start loving this guy the minute he got into office – and if the blogosphere is any indication, most of the people who stopped loving him since November have done so from the left, not the right.

Limbaugh’s explanations and defenses since that point speak to those 61.5 million [antecedent was unclear in the original]. This is what you do if you are an ideologue or a partisan: you want Barack Obama to be the next Jimmy Carter because you want your party or your ideology to win the next time you have a chance to run your ideas or your candidates against him.

There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s called politics. When Keith Olbermann or Jon Stewart attack Limbaugh for his statement, I have to ask: was there any point over the last eight years where either wanted President Bush to be a success? When they didn’t want him to fail at anything?

Stewart might be honest about it – I suspect Olbermann would start talking about Edward R. Murrow before gazing longingly into a mirror, speaking no words but jutting his jaw in different directions to see which light fit it best – but these are men who’ve made scads of money and expanded their profile significantly by relentlessly attacking a man twice elected President, and more than occasionally playing to the Bushitler horde. Some of these attacks were justified, some weren’t – but they were attacks nonetheless, and they were attacks that made a mark.

Last night, Olbermann praised Rep. Mike Pence for distancing himself from Limbaugh’s remarks. But even Pence’s statement glides past the fact that it’s possible to want President Obama to succeed and to fail, and to hope both things as a patriot, an American, and a conservative.

As a Commander in Chief, it is our duty to want Barack Obama to succeed, in every respect. Wanting President Obama to succeed in keeping America safe, especially in light of the closing of Gitmo and the SDI shutdown, is a regular prayer for many Americans who did not vote for him. We should want President Obama to succeed in foreign policy and intelligence policy, in many of the ways President Clinton failed, because we want an America that is secure and stops its enemies from attacking before they do. We should want President Obama’s military policies to succeed because we want our sons and fathers, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters home safe.

These are all areas where I want President Obama to succeed – because even though I did not vote for him, he is my President. Perhaps unlike Limbaugh (though I can’t say for sure), I don’t want President Obama to exit office with the success rate of another Jimmy Carter. I think America can only take one of History’s Greatest Monsters.

This is what it means to put country before party.

Yet in other areas, I genuinely want President Obama to fail, and I have no qualms in saying so. I want him to fail in his attempts to remake the country in a redistributionist image. I want him to fail in the nationalization of banks and the socialization of health policy. If he chooses to nominate an extremely activist justice to the Supreme Court, I want that nomination to fail.

I particularly want him to fail in one area: the imposition of the most pro-abortion package of laws to ever have a realistic chance of passage, which would eliminate the conscience exemption for doctors opposed to abortion. Candidate Obama promised to make this fundamental attack on religious liberty his first act as President – if it becomes a reality, the nation’s Catholic hospital system, which overwhelmingly serves the poorest communities, will shut down. It would be a devastating decision for the country, made only to serve the passions of the most extreme left on the evenly divided issue of abortion, and it would almost certainly mark the end of his legitimate consideration as any figure of political unity. I hope President Obama does not make the decision to pursue it – but if he does, I hope it is a policy failure on par with Hillarycare.

Signing yourself over completely to the support of one politician is never a good idea. A healthy dose of pragmatism and cynicism keeps idolatry at bay.

Writing on this subject reminded me of an email exchange I had on election night with a Democratic friend of mine. In part, it read as follows – italics mine.

Obama deserved this. A well deserved victory.

Thanks. They ran the campaign they needed to run in order to win… it feels good to be a Democrat and actually enjoy Election night. Fascinating.

I remember standing next to you when you yelled in exasperation at Kerry on the TV in 04, “Throw a frickin baseball already!” This guy throws heat. He’ll be a very tough foe for at least the next four years and likely eight.

Don’t think foe, think partner… he’s your only hope in the Democratic Party for anyone who will play with the GOP. Take it now, or things only get worse for everyone.

Policy partner, political foe…can’t it be both?

It can be both… but few people are capable of both (present company excluded, of course).

Last night the House Republicans laid down their own opinion, presenting a unified front against the massive spending package that makes up Obama’s initial stimulus package. While not all of them would agree, I am sure many of them would tell you that despite their vote, they want the package to succeed in its intent – they want America’s economy to start running again, they want people to get jobs, and they want things to stabilize and improve for the country. And if Obama gets the credit for it, so be it. But they also clearly believe spending millions of dollars on pet projects, with relatively few even scheduled for this year, is the wrong way to go about it.

Hoping that a President succeeds where his success determines whether Americans live or die, where our nation’s standing in the world is at stake, and where there are enormous affairs of the world weighed in the balance is our duty. Hoping that a President succeeds at placing a wrongheaded policy into place that you believe could negatively effect not just your own life but the lives of countless others is fundamentally silly – and dissenting from it is an exercise of freedom, not an act of treachery.

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