Fouad Ajami writes When the Obama Magic Died in the Wall Street Journal, 11/15/13.
The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama’s policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts—a year, an era—the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. He glides through crises, he knits together groups of varied, often clashing, interests. Always there is that magical moment, and its beauty, as a reference point.
America holds presidential elections, we know. But Mr. Obama took his victory as a plebiscite on his reading of the American social contract. A president who constantly reminded his critics that he had won at the ballot box was bound to deepen the opposition of his critics.
A leader who set out to remake the health-care system in the country, a sixth of the national economy, on a razor-thin majority with no support whatsoever from the opposition party, misunderstood the nature of democratic politics. An election victory is the beginning of things, not the culmination. With Air Force One and the other prerogatives of office come the need for compromise, and for the disputations of democracy. A president who sought consensus would have never left his agenda on Capitol Hill in the hands of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
Arrogance has met incompetence and it isn’t pretty. Without the experience in economics, politics, organizations, or just about any functional area, he was a candidate with ideas but no wisdom. Absolutely bereft of humility be believed he could wish things to happen. And the followers, more concerned with the demonization of Bush, discounted the essential ingredients for a leader. Those who questioned him were further demonized. not unlike the critics of other regimes who rose on the power of charisma. We should question how a compliant media was unable or unwilling to ask the basic questions that now seem obvious.