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Opinion: Columnists

Noemie Emery: Obama's schools of hard knocks

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Opinion,Noemie Emery,Columnists,Barack Obama

"It is not easy being Obama," said E.J. Dionne recently, a dubious statement if ever there was one, and one that seems rather untrue. Being Obama is sometimes too easy, with the Dionnes of the world ready and eager to make his excuses.

It's making excuses that's hard, and listening to them can be even harder, and at times a mind-bending experience. As Dionne proclaims, he's "an anti-ideological leader in an ideological age, a middle-of-the-road liberal skeptical of the demands placed on a movement leader" who wants only to ask us to "reason together."

But a case can be made that he's an ideologue in a country that's pragmatic and centrist, but which he has helped make more partisan and much more polarized; that he's a skilled demagogue who likes to rally his base against his (and its) enemies; and is ready to bend rules and even to break them in cases when push comes to shove.

Popular himself (he looks like a moderate), he becomes less so when he tries to sell his agenda, which is either a battle or a flop. His green agenda -- Solyndra, etc. -- has been both a flop and a huge waste of money, while the Keystone pipeline, which would have helped solve many problems, is under assault by his base.

Under battle and flop (or flop in the making) we can put health care reform, which Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., described as a "train wreck," and which was a battle each step of the way.

There is no confusion at all about what Obama believes in, as Dionne has suggested. He believes in the state, and is eager to see it expand exponentially. His rise was not "accompanied by" a "hardening" of opinion among Republicans.

Obama caused it. He made it happen, first with stimulus spending and then with Obamacare, which most of the country opposed from the beginning and continues to fight to this day.

How do you create an enraged opposition? Start with a plan whose effects people fear, pay no heed to their fears and forebodings; ignore protests and pleadings, and drops in the polls; ignore Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts; then, when you can't win on the rules anymore, twist them, and win on the force of a loophole that subverts the intent of the law.

Then send Nancy Pelosi across the Capitol grounds, with the Congressional Black Caucus replaying the bridge scene at Selma, and have them say Tea Party members hurled ugly names at them, which no one else seemed to have heard.

Is this how a rational, middle-of-the-road, non-ideological president tries to seek and find common ground with the opposite party? If it doesn't work, it's the Tea Party's fault.

Others are eager to write off Obama's miscalculations as owing to somebody else. To the New Republic, the IRS scandals are the fault of "the conservative plan to starve government," the budget cuts having made the IRS staffers so overworked and exhausted that they accidentally axed all the Tea Party requests for tax-exempt status -- the most innocent sort of mistake.

The same thing goes with Obamacare, where it never occurred to the Democrats that some Republican governors would refuse to help with exchanges or that implementation would cost another $5 billion to 10 billion, which the House wouldn't want to supply.

Who could dream pushing a bad and unpopular bill could cause so much trouble? Not Obama, for whom things have been much too easy. Which is why they are now sometimes hard.

Washington 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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