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Moment that mattered: Obama admits to taking a “shellacking” PJ O’Rourke

“I guess it was sweet seeing Obama being ‘shellacked’. But I’m uncomfortable with these wild swings of public opinion – from being a hundred percent behind George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War to being a hundred percent against him and from being infatuated with Obama to being horribly disappointed and disillusioned with him. These things don’t strike me as being normal – if a person did this you’d have them on lithium. It’s damn neurotic.

I’m no big fan of Obama and certainly not of the Congress that he had. I’m glad to see him chastised and half the Congress turned over but I still worry about these swings. To me the underlying message is that people are out there thinking that politicians can fix things and fix them quickly and I don’t believe that. For a change, what if they did a midterm and no-one showed up? What if people just said ‘to hell with it’?

In some ways I think the Tea Party movement and its effect on these midterms is very healthy. Yes, some of the people are a bit flaky. But they are being their own Sarkozys – at a grassroots, populist level in America, people are saying the same thing that the political elites in Europe are saying, that we need to roll back the scope and the cost of the state. The basic thrust of the Tea Party movement is really just the same thing that European political leaders are saying but a bit more folksy and clumsy.

Midterms are not a perfect bellwether: they’re like a much larger set of by-elections. They do tell which way the wind is blowing but there are two years where the wind can blow the other way. Clinton had this happen in 1994 – the question is whether Obama is as clever, as flexible and of course as amoral as Clinton. Obama may stick to his guns out of principle, stubbornness or arrogance but if he doesn’t ‘triangulate’ as the stupid saying goes, if he doesn’t modify his position in accordance with the mood of the nation then he could be in trouble. We don’t generally like to throw a president out, we like to give them two terms, but it does happen. Although a Sarah Palin run would get Obama reelected. That would work.”


PJ O’Rourke is the author of ‘Don’t Vote! It Just Encourages The Bastards’ (Grove Press)

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