Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

A New Era Dawns

Today at noon, Barack Obama will take the oath of office. He ushers in what is unquestionably a new era in American politics. For many, he instills a new sense of hope. For others, that optimism is tempered to varying degrees by concern over the policies he will implement.

As a conservative American, I believe we all should give the new president the benefit of the doubt and wait to see what actions he takes. On the campaign trail, Obama gave mixed signals about how he would govern. Much of the time he sounded a conciliatory, unifying note. At others, however, he signaled support for sharply liberal positions.

Throughout the transition, the more moderate Obama appears to have largely dominated. Most of his significant nominations thus far have been highly qualified, mainstream individuals. His rhetoric about the stimulus/economic recovery package has sought to reach out to members of both parties.

Not surprisingly, Obama’s biggest challenge will likely be the United States Congress. However, this isn’t a case of having to deal with Republicans — one gets the sense he could handle that pretty well, given his approach thus far. Congressional Democrats may well create the thorniest obstacles to Obama’s good intentions.

Already, some Democrats have begun to object to Obama’s nominations as too tame and complained that the $1 trillion price tag of the stimulus plan is not enough — and that no tax cuts should be included in it at all. From a procedural standpoint, Democratic leadership has flexed its muscle and shut out Republicans from deliberations in the House. This won’t resonate with the American people as it is purely inside baseball, but it taints the atmosphere in a way that is bound to spill over into public discourse.

The pressure from outside liberal groups may be even more intense. The news media has carried a variety of stories about activitists seeking to press Obama to act with vengeance against the Bush Administration and its policies. Rather than giving Obama a chance to govern before they launch their broadsides, they seek to convince the new administration to pursue criminal prosecutions for prior executive decisions and want instant and dramatic policy changes before the new team even hits the ground comfortably.

None of this is to say that my fellow conservatives will be easy to deal with. Indeed, many already seek to condemn the new president’s policies, before any are even implemented. There are those who are convinced he will fail and will do everything in their power to accelerate that outcome.

And, of course, there are countless Obama supporters whose boundless optimism would have him annointed for sainthood before his signature hits any official document. The wave of support enjoyed by the new President is almost unprecedented in the breadth of its intensity. One need only look at the vast crowds gathering on the Mall in Washington at 6 AM this morning to understand that.

I would encourage everyone to step back and take a deep breath. Barack Obama may yet prove to be a great president. Or he could end up being viewe as a Carter-esque failure. On this — not even the first full day — of the Obama Administration, we simply don’t know.

Love him or hate him, every American should sit back and give Obama a chance to govern. Only after he has had a chance to govern should we begin to draw conclusions about the success or failure of his policies.

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  1. Chip,
    Unlike some of the articles I have read from the Left, yours is measured and polite. I have broken my promise about abstaining from all forms of media today when I saw your tweet about the article.
    As a Washingtonian since 1987, I, like yourself will give soon-to-be-President Obama the benefit of the doubt. It’s good politics to run to the left or the right in the primaries, give them red meat, and then govern from the center. Kudos to Mr. Obama.
    As I laid out in a somewhat heated discussion with a liberal family member last night, however, I view the deification of Mr. Obama as premature and based partially on “hope,” but more on what Ann Coulter calls “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” Reject all things Bush. Reject all things Republican. Glory in the defeat of the Republicans. Dance on their graves.
    I give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt because, by all accounts, the Bush Administration has been gracious and forthcoming during the transition. Upon meeting with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, for example, President-elect Obama appeared to back off somewhat from his promised to “close down Guantanamo” on Day 1. Good for him. He was provided with what was likely sobering intelligence and decided not to pursue a knee-jerk reaction.
    It’s hard to tell if today is more of a celebration that we are electing our first black President 40 years after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated who represents a symbol of hope, or giving a big “screw you” to the people who have run this country for the last eight years. It fear that it is both.
    Thanks for the article. Signing off from All Media today. I deeply respect our country’s nonviolent constitutional transition of power, but will wait for Mr. Obama to actually do something as President before carving a place on Mount Rushmore.

  2. You’ve provided a thoughtful perspective, Chip, and I appreciate it.
    I think it’s important to note that the outgoing administration is far from being “conservative” in any real sense of the word.
    Government spending has ballooned under Bush. His reckless disregard for deficits hasn’t been conservative. His expansionist foreign policy has been far from conservative. And he hasn’t been a conservative when it comes to the the environment (at least in the Teddy Roosevelt style of conservatism).
    Goldwater conservatism meant not mixing religion and politics, and Bush hasn’t done that either. On the contrary, he has exploited religion whenever it’s been politically expedient.
    As an independent, I think many of the tenants of conservatism are good ones. The problem with Bush is that he talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk.

  3. Great post Chip.
    I’d have to agree with Mark that a lot of the hope for Obama comes from a distain for Bush. I’d also agree with Tim that Bush wasn’t really conservative.
    Bush has put the republican party in a bad place. A party once based on empowering states, smaller government and fiscal reponsiblity has become a party of the religious right in many people’s eyes.
    In all honesty, I wasn’t that excited about Obama until he had resistance from other democrats and liberals. Like Chip, I hope that we see a continuation of the moderate Obama. While some have already accused him of flip-flopping, I appreciate a leader that can analyze the situation recognize when his plans may not be ideal.
    Whether or not you think it’s the fault of the Bush administration, this country has seen better days. 4 years of moderate government may not solve all of our problems, but it will hopefully reduce the polarization in our government. While Obama is no panacea for all of America’s problems, his choices so far have shown that he is making an effort to put aside party-based BS and get the job done.

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